How Are Heartworms Transmitted?

Heartworm DiseaseHeartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. The adult female heartworm lives in the infected host and produces baby heartworms called microfilariae which circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, it picks up the microfilariae which develop into larvae within 10 to 14 days.  Then, when the infected mosquito bites a dog or another susceptible animal, these mature larvae enter the new host through the bite wound. In six months they will mature into the adult heartworm and the whole process starts again. The adult heartworm will live five to seven years in dogs and two to three years in cats.

Why Should I Give Heartworm Prevention Year Round?

Mosquitoes become active when temperatures go above 50 degrees. In Alabama, it is not consistently cold enough to guarantee that mosquitoes won’t be active in the winter. Even in colder northern states, year round heartworm prevention is recommended. Mosquitoes are constantly adapting to colder temperatures, and different species are active at different times of the year.

What If I Miss A Dose?

If you miss giving one or more doses of heartworm prevention it is recommended to give the next dose as soon as you remember, and to continue giving every 30 days. Because it takes six months for the larvae to mature into adults, and a heartworm test can only detect the adult female, you will need to check a heartworm test six months from the missed dose.

If you are constantly forgetting to give monthly heartworm prevention, one option to consider is the remind me program through our online store. You can sign up to have a single dose automatically shipped to you at  the same time every month, and never forget your pet’s heartworm prevention again!

Do I Need To Give Heartworm Prevention If My Pet Doesn’t Go Outside?

All pets should be on heartworm prevention, whether they go outside or are strictly indoors. Mosquitoes can hitch a ride into your home on your clothes or through an open door or window. Rather than take the risk and hope your pet is never exposed, the best option is heartworm prevention. 

Heartworm Prevalence Map

What Are The Signs Of Heartworm Disease?

Signs of heartworm disease include chronic cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after activity, decreased appetite and and weight loss. Heart failure and cardiovascular collapse can occur as the disease progresses.

My Dog Is On Heartworm Prevention Year Round, Why Do I Need To Test?

No product is 100% effective, and yearly testing ensures that if there was a failure in the medication the your dog will be treated. Continuing to give the heartworm prevention will kill any larvae, but has no effect on adult heartworms.

What If My Pet Contracts Heartworms Even After Being On A Preventative?

No product is 100% effective. However, most heartworm prevention comes with a manufacturer’s guarantee, and they will reimburse you for some or all of the cost of treatment as long as there is proof that you have purchased it from a licensed veterinarian.

Are There Options Other Than Monthly Heartworm Prevention?

Yes! Whitesburg Animal Hospital carries an injectable form of heartworm prevention called Proheart 6, which protects against heartworms for 6 months. As with any heartworm prevention, a negative heartworm test is required before it can be administered.