How Heartworm Disease Works (part 1)

How Heartworm Disease Works (part 1)
June 1, 2024 Minh Ngo
In News
As the weather warms up, our pets are not the only ones eager to get outside. Mosquitos—the most dangerous creatures on earth—are ready to multiply and cause misery. Responsible for Malaria, Dengue Fever, West Nile Virus, Zika Virus, and more, these tiny pests also transmit heartworm disease to our beloved dogs and cats.

How Heartworm Disease Works

When a mosquito bites an infected animal, it picks up microscopic baby worms called microfilariae. These tiny worms mature inside the mosquito and are then transmitted to another dog or cat when the mosquito bites again. The microfilariae grow and migrate through the animal’s body, eventually reaching the heart and lungs as adults.
In dogs, adult heartworms breed and multiply. A dog may have very few clinical signs until their heart begins to fail, leading to progressive respiratory distress and coughing. Cats, on the other hand, do not show the same signs of heartworm disease as dogs. Instead, they may experience sudden death or severe respiratory distress.

Prevention is Key

Protecting your pets from heartworm disease is crucial. Heartworm preventatives like Iverhart and Heartgard are relatively affordable and require a veterinary prescription. Before starting preventatives, it’s wise to have your dog tested for heartworm, as these medications can cause an abrupt death of large numbers of circulating microfilariae and potentially life-threatening respiratory reactions.
Indoor pets aren’t safe from mosquitos either, as there is no such thing as an outdoor-only mosquito. It only takes one bite to transmit the disease!

Effective Heartworm Prevention Strategies for Your Pets

Since heartworm disease can be challenging to diagnose and treat, it is crucial to focus on prevention.

Heartworm Prevention for Dogs

  1. Regular check-ups: Schedule annual vet appointments to ensure your dog’s overall health and address any potential concerns.
  2. Heartworm tests: Have your dog tested annually for heartworm before using preventatives.
  3. Year-round preventatives: Administer monthly, prescription-only preventatives like Iverhart and Heartgard to protect your dog from infection.

Heartworm Prevention for Cats

  1. Vet visits: Regularly take your cat to the vet for check-ups and necessary vaccinations.
  2. Preventative medications: Use topical medications like Advantage Multi, Revolution, or Bravecto Plus to protect your cat from heartworm disease.
  3. Monitor respiratory symptoms: Be vigilant about any breathing difficulties or sudden respiratory distress in your cat and seek immediate veterinary attention if needed.
With proper preventative measures and attentive care, you can help protect your beloved pets from the devastating effects of heartworm disease. For more information, visit