Why Heartworms are Just as Nasty as They Sound
Mosquitoes are a nuisance, a pest, an itchy pain in the rear end, but did you know they’re also a vector? Which means (for those of you who dropped Intro to Biology) they carry diseases and parasites. And they just happen to carry one of the most malevolent and villainous parasites of all, the Heartworm.
What They Do
The combination of the words “heart” and “worm” already sounds like a big red wormy flag. And for good cause. These are extremely deadly parasites, and what’s even worse is that they’re after our precious pets. When a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, it’s immediately pumped full of these long devils’ larva. The worms waste no time and infiltrate the heart, lungs, and other organs. Maturing for about six months, they can grow up to 16 inches and a dog can have as many as 250 worms at a time. Cue cold shiver and nausea.
Symptoms include, but are not limited to: Loss in appetite, lethargy, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, fainting, and even death. It’s an awful organism, literally sucking the life out of its innocent host.
Who’s At Risk
Heartworms can have a variety of favored hosts including everything from coyotes to sea lions. But it is highly common for heartworms to leech off of domestic house pets. Meaning, both Sir Barks-A-Lot and Chairman Meow are at risk. Dogs are more susceptible to heartworm infection, while cats are an atypical host. This doesn’t mean your kitties are in the clear — if the larvae invade the pulmonary arteries, it can cause a vascular disease that is far more severe than what you’d find in a dog.
Though rare, even humans have been affected. Disturbingly, when a heartworm finds a human host it doesn’t go for the heart, it goes for the eyes. In the great words of Randy Jackson, “That’s gonna be a no for me dawg.”
What to Do About It
The only way for the parasite to find a new host is through a mosquito. It is not contagious and it isn’t foodborne. It’s just the result of an extremely pesky pest who spreads their larva love every time it lands on a new host. So, for heartworm prevention, pest control is key. Heartworms usually populate in warmer climates, therefore if you live near a body of water or somewhere hot, you should definitely seek help from a pest control professional.
Otherwise, speak to your vet, get your pets checked out, and get some preventative medicine. Because not only does heartworm removal surgery cost up to $1,200, it puts your pets at serious risk. And although taking precautionary measures isn’t always convenient, pets are family, and nobody wants to see their furry family members get sick.