How Do Dogs Get Heartworms?


Quick Answer

According to WebMD, the only way for a dog to get heartworms is through the bite of an infected mosquito. Until the larvae mature, there is no way to determine whether or not a mosquito is infected, which leads WebMD to emphasize the importance of heartworm disease prevention. Heartworm disease prevention takes the form of periodic administration of injections, pills or topical ointments.

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Full Answer

WebMD warns pet owners that as of 2014, heartworm disease has spread to all 50 states of the United States, but it is especially dangerous in areas where mosquitoes are prevalent. Mosquitoes can survive even in dry desert areas due to irrigation and building. Larvae take up to seven months to mature, at which point they spread to the heart, lungs and blood vessels of the host to reproduce. Adult worms can live up to seven years.

WebMD notes that heartworms cannot be passed between dogs. In order for the parasite to spread from a mosquito to a dog, it must undergo an incubation period while residing in the mosquito.

WebMD encourages potential pet owners not to let a diagnosis of heartworm disease prevent them from adopting a dog. Although heartworm disease is not difficult to treat, consisting of two to three injections that kill the adult heartworms, many shelters cannot afford the treatment for their animals. As a result heartworm disease is very common among shelter dogs.

Heartworm disease can lead to serious, often fatal, respiratory and circulatory problems, and it is not uncommon for one dog to have several hundred worms at a time, each of which can live for between five and seven years.

Heartworms occurs in all 50 states, and it is impossible to tell if a mosquito is carrying them. The only way to stop a dog from getting them is through preventative medication.

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