Heartworm live in the arteries and hearts of infected animals. They release larvae into their hosts’ bloodstream. When a mosquito feeds on the infected animal the larvae present in the blood are swallowed by the mosquito. These larvae are then passed via their saliva to the next animal they feed from, for example your dog or cat.
Once the larvae enter your pet, they will develop and migrate over several months to their heart. In severe cases they may clog up the right side of the heart. Dogs in particular are affected and signs can take months to develop depending on the severity of the infection.
Symptoms may include:
- excessive panting
- weight loss
- difficulty breathing
- being easily tired following exercise
- heart failure
- death if left untreated
As a mosquito is required for the lifecycle to be completed dogs and cats in this country are at little risk of contracting heartworm.
Mosquitos easily spread heartworm and you should consider this risk when thinking of travelling with your pet. You should always protect your pet against heartworm when travelling abroad. As heartworm infection can be fatal please consult your veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse before travelling with your pet as there are products available to help prevent heartworm.
Cinque Ports Vets run FREE Travel Clinics to help you plan the appropriate disease prevention measures and also check your pet’s microchip is still active. Remember to prepare well in advance as some parasite prevention products need to be applied well before any possible exposure to parasites. Please contact your local branch for an appointment.
To check which parasites your pet may be exposed to, log on to www.esccapuk.org.uk and under the ‘Travelling Pets’ section you will find European parasite distribution maps. These maps are designed to help inform you of the parasitic threats present in different countries.