What is Heartworm?
"Heartworm" is the common name for Dirofilaria immitis, is a parasitic roundworm that is spread from host to host through the bites of mosquitoes. The primary host is usually a dog but heartworms have become more common in cats and are also known to occur in other animals, such as ferrets, wolves, coyotes, foxes and, very rarely, humans.

The term "heartworm" might lead you to believe the worms infest the heart, but adult worms are often found in the pulmonary arterial system, too. Lung damage and congestive heart failure may result. The damages caused by heartworms can lead to serious health complications and death. Heartworm prevention is a matter of life and death.

Heartworm is transmitted through mosquito bites and just one mosquito bite is all it takes to infect an unprotected dog. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes year-round and are found in dogs that live indoors and outdoors. Female heartworms will lay their eggs in the dog's bloodstream. Once the heartworm larvae spreads it takes about six to seven months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms, who then lay more eggs in the dog's bloodstream. 

The symptoms of heartworm depend on the severity of the infection. A preliminary infection could present as an occasional cough. A Class 2 infection could include the occasional cough and fatigue after moderate activity. A class 3 infection presents as a sickly appearance, persistent cough, and fatigue after mild activity. Class 4 heartworm infection is also called caval syndrome and is when blood is physically blocked from the heart because of heartworms. Most dogs with this severity of heartworms do not survive.

Although Cimarron Animal Hospital recommends heartworm vaccination as part of our preventative pet wellness treatments, it is very important that pet owners ALWAYS have their animals tested for heartworms before starting a preventive regimen. This is because giving a preventive to a heartworm-positive animal can cause further complications.

Schedule your pet's appointment for an exam and preventative medicine today.

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