Heartworm is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms that live in the heart, and blood vessels that supply blood to the lungs of infected animals.
Pets can contract heartworm disease from mosquitoes that are infected with heartworm parasites. When an infected mosquito bites an uninfected dog, it injects the immature worms into the tissue of the animal through its saliva.
Once injected, the immature worms develop, migrating to the lungs and potentially the heart, where they mature into adults and begin to reproduce. These worms can grow to a length of 15-30 centimetres, and in severe cases a dog may be infested with hundreds of worms. Mature worms produce thousands of larvae that can then be spread to other dogs or cats by mosquitoes.
The infestation can result in damage to the heart, lungs and liver. The pet may die as a result of severe damage to the internal organs.
Heartworm is a disease that poses a serious threat to pets in Canada and the United States, and especially to dogs. The good news is that it can be easily prevented through regular testing and the use of preventive medication.