What Happens in the Heart
As soon as the microfilaria is injected into your pet's bloodstream, the microscopic worms move through the bloodstream. During this time, the blood and the worms go through your pet’s blood vessels and pulmonary vessels in the lungs. The pulmonary vessels in the heart actually protect the worms, making it easier for the worm to grow. The worm grows to several inches and becomes an adult, making it capable of breeding with other heartworms. As the worms breed, they create
The worm is then protected by the pulmonary vessels and the heart, growing up to several inches long. Once the worm becomes an adult, it can breed with other heartworms and produce more microfilaria. If a mosquito bites an infected animal, it draws in more of the microfilaria and infects additional animals when it bites them.
Putting Your Pet at Risk
All dogs and cats are at risk of developing heartworm disease. The eastern and southern areas of the United States, however, have the highest concentration of infection. Heartworm disease is also more common along the Mississippi River, the Ohio River, and the Midwestern river valley.
Outdoor pets are also at a greater risk of getting heartworms. Just because an animal is indoors, however, it doesn’t guarantee the pet’s safety. Even pets that never go outdoors can get heartworms. For this reason, all pets need to be protected from the disease.
How Heartworms Affect Your Pet
Heartworms damage your pet's blood cells and vessel walls when they infest its heart. This can cause clotting, scarring, and narrowing of the blood vessels. In addition, your pet’s heart is forced to pump faster, and its blood pressure goes up. Over time, this leads to heart failure. The more worms in your pet’s heart, the faster this happens. The worms can also live in other areas of your pet’s body for anywhere from three to five years as they gradually destroy your pet’s heart.
Recognizing Heartworms in Your Pet
Seeing your veterinarian regularly and getting the appropriate tests completed will allow you to determine if your pet has heartworms. The earlier you catch heartworm in your pet, the better your chances of getting rid of the worms before they cause long-term damage. Pets with advanced heartworm disease may frequently cough because the worms get into their air passages. As the pet coughs up the worms, it looks as if it is throwing up the worms. But, they are actually coming out of the pet’s lungs. Your pet may also get tired easily, lose weight, have a decrease in appetite, experience abdominal swelling, faint, and have blood clots.
How to Prevent Heartworms
Many different medications can be used to help prevent heartworms. Medications such as Dimmitrol can be given every day, while Heartgard only needs to be given monthly. The best way to protect your pet is to give it heartworm medication throughout the entire year, no matter what type of climate you live in or in what area of the country you reside. A checkup with a veterinarian is necessary before you start your pet on heartworm medication, since giving your pet heartworm medication if it has heartworms can be deadly.