How Mosquitoes Can Not Only Harm Humans but Can Cause Heartworms in Your Pet

A yellow dog with his paws on the counter and his tongue out

Mosquitoes usually bite humans and transmit harmful diseases such as dengue and malaria into their system. These parasitic insects also do the same for your pets. According to the Frontiers in Physiology journal, culicid mosquitoes can bite pets and transmit the heartworm parasite into their bloodstream. If you want to know more about this vector-borne disease, here are some of the facts.

Heartworm Life Cycle

Parasitologists of the American Heartworm Society explain that the heartworm’s life cycle in pets is simple.

When a viable mosquito bites an infected pet, it also ingests the heartworm larvae. The carrier mosquito then bites a healthy cat or dog, transferring the heartworm larvae. The larvae develop into adults in just four to five months in dogs and four to six months in cats. They stay in the tissue at this stage.

In dogs, it takes about five to seven years for the mature adult heartworm to produce infective microfilariae. In cats, the heartworm reaches this stage in just two to three years. Once the heartworms reach maturity in your dog’s blood and heart, your pet needs extensive treatment. In cats, heartworm treatment is still unavailable. Vet specialists say that prevention is still effective while the larvae are still in your pet’s tissue.

Heartworm Symptoms in Dogs

Below are the signs and symptoms of heartworm in dogs:

  • Class 1. Your dog may only have an occasional cough or may not exhibit symptoms at all.
  • Class 2. Persistent cough, weight loss, and lethargy are the signs that should tell you that your dog might have heartworms already. Take note if your dog has a dry cough or loses interest while performing even light physical activities. Weight loss happens because of your dog’s lack of energy in even eating or drinking.
  • Class 3. Mature heartworms reside in your dog’s lungs and blood. At this stage, your dog will have bulging ribs and difficulty of breathing because fluid accumulates in the lungs as heartworms thrive.
  • Class 4. During this phase, your dog’s lungs will have abnormal sounds, a heart murmur, and an enlarged liver. At this stage, an infected dog exhibits the caval syndrome, in which the heartworm has already started to block the heart. This symptom is usually fatal even if the dog gets surgery.

Heartworm Symptoms in Cats

The Parasites & Vectors journal states that heartworm infection in cats is usually overlooked by cat owners and veterinarians. The signs and symptoms of this disease are subtle in felines. Common symptoms are weight loss, coughing, lack of appetite, recurrent vomiting, and asthma-like episodes. An infected cat may also experience seizures, fainting, difficulty in walking, or even fluid collection in the abdomen. Sadly, the first sign that triggers a checkup is when the cat collapses suddenly. Most of the time, the cat dies unexpectedly.

Prevention and early detection of heartworm in your pets are important in warding off this life-threatening disease. At Sherlock Bones Animal Hospital, we are always ready to help detect and treat pet heartworm early. Please call us at 317-428-2530 if you want to set an appointment or ask any questions about heartworm. You are also welcome to visit our clinic in Carmel, Indiana, for a one-on-one consultation.