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Heartworm Disease

Heartworm Disease


Does your dog have Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm disease is the result of a microscopic organism Dirofilaria immitis, which is a parasite also known as a heartworm. This disease is transmitted to dogs through bites of mosquitos that carry infected larvae. Heartworm disease in dogs is very serious, and can cause severe lung damage, organ damage, heart failure, as well as death. While this effects dogs, it can also effect cats and ferrets.

In 1856, a pet owner discovered canine heartworms on the Southeast coast of the United States. Almost 20 years later, in 1875, came the first documented cause in South America of heartworm disease in dogs. It was not until 1952, that this disease was first documented D. immitis in the United States.

The origins of heart worm disease is unclear, although there is evidence of this disease having occurred for many centuries.  In 1586, Chez Jean Wolfe found the organism D. immitis parasite in a horse heart, and was the first to depict it.

Recent Statistics About Heartworm Disease

The American Heartworm Society (AHS) collects new data every three years on heartworm testing. Their statistics from 2013 show that the majority of cases occurred in the South-Southeast part of the United States. Approximately 100% of dogs with exposure to heartworm larvae develop the disease. On average, heartworms found in dogs can grow to be longer that 26 cm.

How is Heartworm Disease Important to the Health of Dogs

Heartworm disease in dogs is deadly. If left untreated, an infected dog can live for 5 to 7 years. Preventative measure and early detection can allow owners to take steps to return their dogs to a healthy state.

Precaution in Dog Owners

You should test any mosquito exposed dogs for heartworms. Prevention is much more effective and inexpensive than treating a case of heartworms. Heart worms are often not detectable until the worms reach their adult stage.  When it becomes detectable, dogs may begin to become lethargic, develop a cough, lose of appetite, and/or difficulty breathing. Exhaustion after moderate exercise may be another sign of heartworm in dogs.


(The image above is a derivative of srqpix,; CC BY-SA.)

Heartworm in Your Puppy