by: Lauren Divet
Whether you live in Dunlap, Mossville, Edelstein, Peoria, Henry, Lacon, or anywhere around/between, heartworms are a problem in Peoria and surrounding counties. Being on the Illinois River, mosquitoes are an ever present threat to our pets. Here is a tidbit about the lifecycle of a heartworm.
Heartworm disease is caused by the growth of worms in the heart that are transmitted to dogs from infected mosquitoes. Although heartworms can live up to 7 years in an infected pet, they often show no visible symptoms. There are four main stages of growth in the heartworm life cycle, the microfilariae, larvae, juvenile worm and adult.
The first stage is the Microfilariae, which are microscopic larva that live in the pet’s bloodstream for 2 weeks until they form into larvae.
The second stage is the larvae. This stage involves two steps. The first step is where the infected larva is passed from the mosquito’s mouth to the pets’ skin which then burrows into the pets’ tissue and moves through the tissue for several weeks.
The third stage is the Juvenile Worm stage. About two months after being infected, these worms grow to be anywhere from 1 to 3 centimeters in length. From here they move from the pets’ tissue into the heart and lungs. This can happen just 70 days after infection.
The final stage of growth is the Adult stage. The juvenile worm matures to the adult stage in the pulmonary artery or any other artery that moves blood from the heart to the lungs. Many times the artery will get clogged with living and dead worms and can lead to many health issues including infection, clogging of the arteries, and various heart malfunctions. If untreated long enough heartworms can lead to death.
It is recommended to have pets tested once a year for heartworm disease. Many veterinary clinics offer superior heartworm prevention in either a topical or chewable form. Pets’ should be on heartworm protection monthly year round to help prevent them from getting heartworms.