Heartworm Life Cycle

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.

Protection Your Dog Will Flip For

Southern California weather can promote the life cycle of many biting insects regardless of the time of year. Insects such as fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes are not just a nuisance. They can cause harmful diseases such as heartworm, Lyme disease, Erlichiosis, Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anemia, Cat Scratch fever, and tapeworm infection. Parasites can also transfer some of these diseases to people. We recommend year-round parasite protection for all pets including ones who live mostly or exclusively indoors since vectors can find their way or be tracked into the home.

We carefully select only the safest and most effective preventative medications for your pet. Heartgard Plus is a chewable treat administered once a month to protect dogs from heartworm disease. It also prevents hookworm and roundworm infection which can both be transferred to people. Nexgard is also a chewable treat for dogs and it is administered once a month to kill fleas and ticks. Nexgard works fast and stays effective all month long. Receive a FREE Kong Gyro toy when you purchase any box of Nexgard or Heartgard while supplies last. Your dog will flip for this interactive, treat-dispensing toy and you can rest assured that vector protection is taken care of! Please contact us for more details.

 

Home is Where the Heartworm is?

Mosquitoes transmit life-threatening heartworm disease to dogs and cats. They are generally known to carry a variety of serious diseases but which mosquito species are prevalent in our community and what does this mean for the safety of our pets? Ventura County is typically home to 15 common species of mosquitoes. Of these, the species Aedes sierrensis, or Western Treehole Mosquito, is known to carry heartworm disease. These mosquitoes reside in water-filled tree holes or containers and are highly adaptable to varying weather and feeding conditions. Los Angeles County is also home to the Western Treehole Mosquito in addition to the heartworm-carrying Aedes notoscriptus species. Also known as the Australian Backyard Mosquito, this species thrives in water-filled containers in urban environments.

What does this mean for the dogs and cats in our community? They are threatened. Heartworms can grow up to 10-12 inches long and cause severe complications. In dogs, they typically live in the right side of the heart and vessels of the lungs. Our hospital has managed and treated multiple cases of heartworm disease. Last year, we treated a German Shepherd named Sam after finding heartworms in his pulmonary artery. Heartworm treatment is lengthy and Sam's severe activity restriction over the course of two and a half months was very difficult on him and his owner. We are pleased to report that Sam is currently happy, healthy, and receiving a veterinary-guaranteed monthly heartworm prevention. Click here to read more about Sam's story.

Heartworm disease is complicated. Prevention is simple. We recommend a once monthly heartworm preventative for all dogs and cats regardless of their lifestyle. The average cost for heartworm prevention is less than $9 per month. A thriving, safe community is priceless. Protect your pet now. Home is not where heartworm disease is... if we prevent it.

Find out more about mosquitoes and mosquito-related diseases in our community from the Ventura County Environmental Health Division. Learn more about mosquitoes in Los Angeles County from the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District.