Let’s Discuss the Importance of Heartworm Prevention

To ensure your pet remains healthy and free from disease, it is important to include heartworm prevention as part of their regular vaccinations and wellness exams. Given that heartworm disease is present in every U.S. state and mosquitoes are active all year-round, it is crucial to keep your pet on heartworm prevention medication throughout the year.


The heartworm life cycle

Heartworms can infect any mammal, but they especially prefer dogs. Mosquitoes carry the parasite’s larvae, called microfilariae or heartworm larvae (L1), from an infected animal’s blood vessels. When the mosquito bites, the larvae transform into L2 stage due to its gastric juices. Later it migrates to the mosquito’s salivary glands and transforms into infective L3 larvae. As the mosquito bites, it deposits L3 larvae under the skin of the pet. These larvae then go through two molting stages and gradually move toward the pet’s heart. Finally, they reach the main pulmonary artery, where they mature and mate.


How heartworm prevention works

The mosquito that is inside the pet goes through various stages of development, but only two of those stages can be prevented from developing into heartworms. Once the heartworms reach their juvenile or adult stage, heartworm prevention measures become ineffective, and a costly and harsh treatment involving an arsenic-containing drug is necessary.

It is important to give your pet a monthly heartworm preventive, either in the form of an oral chewable or a topical liquid. This kills the heartworm larvae before they become more developed and harmful. Since immature larvae can become adults in just 51 days, it is crucial to use monthly prevention to stop the life cycle from progressing and harming your pet. Injections with a slow release mechanism that ensures heartworm larvae are killed before they molt can also be administered every 6 or 12 months. While heartworm prevention does not prevent mosquitoes from biting your pet, or heartworm larvae transmission, it ultimately prevents life-threatening heartworm disease. 

To observe National Heartworm Awareness Month, we suggest researching heartworm prevention methods for your pet. To determine the most effective heartworm prevention treatment for your furry friend, please contact our team for a discussion.