The heartworm life cycle begins when a mosquito bites an infected animal and ingests tiny heartworm larvae along with the animal's blood. Coyotes, wolves, foxes, and ferrets can also develop heartworm disease in addition to dogs and cats. Next, the larvae develop into an infective stage inside the mosquito. When a heartworm disease-carrying mosquito bites your pet, it transmits the larvae that develop for approximately two months in your pet's tissue. Afterwards, developing and mature adult heartworms can be found in the bloodstream, heart, and lungs. They can also produce tiny heartworm larvae that is released into the blood and is picked up by mosquitoes who repeat the process again.

Heartworm disease is serious and potentially fatal in pets. Worms can grow up to a foot long and live in your pet's heart and lungs. Signs of heartworm infection includes coughing, difficulty breathing, and lethargy.  Some pets may not show signs of the disease. Treatment of heartworm disease is difficult. In cats, there is no approved treatment. Prevention is easy. We recommend a once monthly heartworm preventative medication for dogs and cats regardless of their lifestyle. For more information about disease-carrying mosquitoes in Ventura and Los Angeles County, click here. To read about one of our patient's journey through heartworm treatment, click here.