How Heartworm Preventatives Work

Heartworm prevention, routine immunizations, and wellness checks are crucial to maintaining your pet’s health and freedom from illness. Keeping your four-legged buddy on heartworm prevention throughout the year is essential since heartworm illness has been identified in every state in the United States and mosquitoes are active year-round.


The heartworm life cycle

Although these parasites favor canine hosts, heartworms can infect any mammal. Microfilariae, or heartworm larvae (L1), are ingested from the blood vessels when a mosquito bites an infected animal. The larvae are stimulated to molt to the L2 stage by the mosquito’s gastric fluids, then travel to the mosquito’s salivary glands and molt into infectious L3 larvae. The L3 larvae swam under the pet’s subcutaneous tissue to feed when the mosquito was feeding. The larvae go through two stages of molting over time, moving toward the pet’s heart until they eventually reach the main pulmonary artery, where they mature and reproduce.


How heartworm prevention works

Inside the pet, the mosquito goes through multiple larval stages, but only two larval stages are susceptible to heartworm prevention. Once heartworm larvae reach juvenile or adult stages, preventives can no longer kill them, and they need treatment with an arsenic-containing drug, which is costly and harsh. 

Giving your pet a monthly dose of a topical liquid or oral chewable heartworm preventive can successfully kill off the heartworm larvae before they mature into a more resilient life stage. Monthly prophylaxis that prevents the life cycle from progressing and harming your pet is essential since immature larvae can molt into the adult stage in as little as 51 days. Every six or twelve months, patients can also receive injections with a gradual release technique that guarantees heartworm larvae are eliminated before they molt. Although heartworm prevention does not stop mosquitoes from attacking your pet or stop the spread of heartworm larvae, it does stop the potentially fatal heartworm disease.

In honor of National Heartworm Awareness Month, investigate heartworm preventive options for your pet. Give our team a call to discuss the heartworm preventive that will best keep your four-legged pal safe from disease.

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