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Heartworms, a silent and deadly killer

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the United States.

A dog may appear healthy on the outside, but on the inside, heartworms may be living, thriving, and slowly killing your pet.

How is it spread?

It all starts with the mosquito which plays an essential role in the heartworm life cycle. When a mosquito bites and takes a blood meal from an infected animal, it picks up baby heartworm larvae, which develop and mature into “infective stage” larvae over a period of 10 to 14 days. When the infected mosquito bites another dog, or cat, the infective larvae are deposited onto the surface of the animal's skin and enter the new host through the mosquito’s bite wound. Once infected, it takes approximately 6 months for the larvae to develop into mature adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and up to 2 or 3 years in cats. If untreated, their numbers can increase, and dogs have been known to harbor several hundred worms in their bodies. Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs, and arteries, and can affect the dog’s health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone.

For this reason, year-round heartworm prevention and an annual heartworm blood test by a veterinarian are by far the best option, and treatment—when needed—should be administered as early in the course of the disease as possible.

Know the signs!

Dogs that are 7 months of age and older should be tested for heartworms before starting heartworm prevention. Talk to your veterinarian about testing, prevention, and treatment. To learn more about heartworm visit

Dogs, cats, and ferrets are all at risk!

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