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How Do Dogs Get Heartworms?

How Do Dogs Get Heartworms?

Heartworms are a very serious parasite in dogs.  It often leads to death – unless you take the proper precautions. Annual testing ensures that dogs are healthy from the threat of heartworms.   Without testing and medication, your dog will have little protection against heartworms. But the question remains, how do dogs get heartworms?

Many factors affect whether or not your dog has a high risk for devleloping heartworms as well. Remember, heartworms are present in animals in every single state in the US; as well as in countries overseas.  Therefore, risk factors and variations in climate; and wildlife carriers affect the rates of heartworm disease each year.

This means that you should test your dog for heartworms annually, and give your pet a heartworm preventative medicine every single year.

What are Heartworms?

Heartworms are literally foot-long worms that live in your dog’s heart, lungs, and blood vessels. They lead to lung disease, heart failure, and organ damages. In many situations, heartworms grow inside a pet, mature into adults, continue to mate, and eventually kill your dog. In the course of it’s lifetime, just a couple heartworms can lead to hundreds.

Many experts consider dogs a natural host for heartworms. Untreated heartworms cause lasting damage, greatly affecting the lifetime of your pet. For these reasons, it’s always better to prevent the problem rather than allow them to take host in your dog from the beginning.

Where Do Heartworms Come From, and What Are their Signs and Symptoms?

Heartworms rarely show symptoms in dogs. Even further, stray and neglected animals can carry heartworms. Coyotes, wolves, foxes, and even mosquitos are carriers of the disease. Over the course of their lives, the wind can carry these infested mosquitos great distances.  Even natural disasters can lead to the spread of heartworms.  For example, Hurricane Katrina led to the transportation of over 250,000 pets, many of which were infected by heartworms.

Over the course of time, heartworm disease leads to a persistent cough, as well as reluctance to exercise. Further disease interaction leads to a loss of weight, as well as swollen body mass due to fluid in the abdomen. Eventually, your dog will have labored breathing and require prompt removal of heartworm blockages.  So, how do dogs get heartworms?

How Do Dogs Get Heartworms?

In every situation, mosquitos play a big role in the spreading of heartworms. Adult heartworms start in infected dogs, and throughout their lifecycles, they produce microscopic baby worms. These baby worms circulate in the bloodstream of a mosquito, taking blood meals from animals, maturing in a period up to two weeks.

When a heartworm infected mosquito bites a dog, larvae are put into the animals skin, literally entering your dog through the mosquito bite wound. After this happens, within 6 months, the worm has grown large enough to become an adult heartworm. Heartworms live up to 5-7 years, leading to increasing amounts of heartworms in your pet.

Why Should Dog Owners Worry About Heartworms?

Heartworms is a very serious disease for dogs. When pets receive heatworm testing and the proper medicine, the risk of developing heartworms is vey small. Because of this, it’s essential to take the time to ensure that pets get the care that they need. Heartworms are nearly impossible to detect, without special heartworm tests, until it’s too late.

Veterinarians can take a blood sample from your dog to quickly and effectively determine wheter or not there are heartworms present.  If your pet tests positive, the issue can be dealt with immediately.  This will give your dog the best chance for survival.

All dogs should always recieve testing for heartworm disease. Puppies under the age of 7 months can even be tested and medicated for heartworms.  This is even if it is the first heartworm test. Consult your veterinarian and start your dog on their monthly preventative. Afterwords, test your dog 6 months later. Retesting for heartworms can take place after 7 months of age.


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

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