Heartworms are passed from dog to dog by mosquitoes. Here’s the process:
- A mosquito bites an infected dog and young heartworms enter from the dog’s blood into the mosquito. The larvae then develop into infective larvae.
- The infected mosquito bites an uninfected dog and the larvae are deposited into the dog’s blood.
- Over the next six months, the larvae grow and travel through the dog’s blood until they end their journey in the dog’s heart as adults.
- Once in the dog’s heart, heartworms can grow up to 14 inches and survive for 5-7 years.
Some dogs do not show any signs of heartworm disease until it is very advanced, whereas others show signs early on. If not detected and controlled with proper treatment, heartworm can lead to congestive heart failure and death.
Symptoms to look for:
- Difficulty breathing
- Tires easily
- Weight loss
- Rough hair coat
If you suspect your dog has heartworm disease, a trip to your veterinarian is in order. Since clinical signs can mimic those of other diseases, your vet can verify the presence of heartworms with a blood test and/or a chest x-ray.
It is much better to prevent heartworm than to treat it, as there is some risk involved in treating your dog for heartworms. However, serious complications are much less likely in dogs in which the disease is detected early. Visit your veterinarian to discuss preventative and/or treatment options.
West Nile Virus
Mosquitoes pick up the virus from infected birds and transmit it to your dog. West Nile Virus is not transmitted directly from pet to person, person to pet, pet to pet or person to person. Although cases of West Nile Virus in dogs have been reported, it is rare that an infected dog develops the disease.