Heartworms are transmitted by the bite of a mosquito and the microfilaria (immature heartworms) enter the bloodstream. Over a period of 4-6 months, they develop into adult heartworms that are capable of producing their own "offspring" (microfilaria).
Once the adult heartworms have occupied the heart, the patient can develop numerous secondary problems as a result of the disrupted bloodflow caused by the worms. These include but are not limited to the following:
- Damaged pulmonary arteries and aneurysms
- Heart failure
- Secondary immune mediated disease
- Caval syndrome (interruption of the return of
blood to the heart)
Luckily, heartworm disease is treatable, but more importantly, is peventable. Here in the south, where heartworm disease is endemic, heartworm prevention is crucial. And it's not just for our canine friends, click here to learn about the 7 Deadly Truths about heartworm disease in cats, courtesy of the American Heartworm Society.