The Significance of Preventing Heartworm Disease

To keep your pet in good health and protect them from disease, it’s important to prioritize heartworm prevention in addition to regular vaccinations and wellness exams. Since every U.S. state has reported cases of heartworm disease, and mosquitoes remain active even during winter, it’s crucial to maintain year-round heartworm prevention for your furry companion.


The heartworm life cycle

Although heartworms can infect any mammal, they primarily thrive in canine hosts. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, it ingests heartworm larvae (L1) called microfilariae from the blood vessels. The mosquito’s gastric juices trigger the larvae to molt to the L2 stage, and then they move to the mosquito’s salivary glands and molt again into L3 larvae which can cause infection. Mosquitoes can transmit L3 larvae to pets when they feed. These larvae then migrate under the pet’s skin and eventually make their way to the heart and main pulmonary artery, where they mature and breed.


How heartworm prevention works

The mosquito that is inside the pet undergoes several larval stages. However, only two of these stages can be prevented from developing into heartworms. If the larvae reach the juvenile or adult stages, preventives will no longer be effective, and treatment with an expensive and severe arsenic-containing drug will be necessary.

To protect your pet from heartworms, give them a monthly preventive treatment – either an oral chew or a topical liquid. This will kill any larvae before they mature into a more dangerous stage. Since larvae can become adults in just 51 days, it’s important to use monthly prevention to interrupt their life cycle and keep your pet safe. Slow-release injections that kill heartworm larvae before they molt are available, and they can be given every 6 or 12 months. It’s important to note that heartworm prevention does not stop mosquitoes from biting pets or transmitting heartworm larvae, but it does prevent the development of life-threatening heartworm disease.

To observe National Heartworm Awareness Month, look into the various heartworm preventive options available for your pet. Please contact our team to discuss which preventive measure would be best to protect your furry friend from the disease.