Canine Heartworm Disease

As a canine rescue group, SECR has become all too familiar with the high canine heartworm infection rates in the US.  We know the faces of those infected all too well, because, all too often, we become caregivers for rescued dogs with Canine Heartworm Disease and have to watch them go through the treatments to rid their bodies of the disease.

Heartworm is a parasite that, literally, lives in the heart of man’s best friend and is spread through mosquitos bites.  Heartworm disease exists in all 50 states, but is most prevelant where mosquitos thrive in the warm, moist environments of southern and southeastern US.  Although heartworms can live in other mammals, their preferred hosts are dogs, foxes, coyotes, and wolfs.

We urge all dog owners to learn about Canine Heartworm Disease and talk to their veterinarian about annual testing and the best preventative to keep their dog safe from infection at home and while traveling.

Below are some fast facts about heartworms from the American Heartworm Society website.

Canine Heartworm Disease:

“Canine heartworm disease develops when a dog is bitten by a mosquito carrying the microscopic larvae of a parasite called Dirofilania immitis. As a mosquito feeds, these microscopic larvae infect and begin their migration into the dog’s bloodstream, where they grow into adult worms.”

About Dogs & Heartworms:

  • An estimated 1 million dogs have heartworm disease in the US.
  • Domestic dogs and wild canids are the normal definitive host for heartworms.
  • A dog can habor more than 100 heartworms.
  • Heartworm infections in dogs may take 7 months to show up in testing.
  • Symptoms of heartworm disease may not show until several years after infection.

About Heartworms:

  • Heartworms migrate to the right side of the heart and vessels of the lungs and take up residence there.
  • Adult female can grow to 10-12 inches long.
  • They can live for 5-7 years.
  • Mature heartworms produce offspring in the dog.
  • Heartworms can cause damage to the heart, lungs and arteries.

About Mosquitos & Heartworms:

  • The bite of a mosquito carries the microscopic heartworm larvae from an infected dog to an uninfected dogs.
  • There are 22 different species of mosquitos that can spread heartworms.
  • Mosquitos thrive in warm humid environments and areas with standing water.
  • Mosquitos are most active at dusk and dawn.
  • Mosquitos can travel up to 3 miles