-by Tania Sigurdson, PVHS Education Chair

Spring has sprung and it is time to be thinking about protecting your pets against heartworm.  As a pet owner myself of both cats and dogs, heartworm is one of those worries that we sometimes underestimate the risk and impact of on our furry loved ones.  In order to understand the risk, we need to unpack what heartworm really is and how it puts our pets at risk.

So, what is heartworm? It is literally what it says it is…worms!!  It is worms that transfer to our cats and dogs from other infected cats and dogs through mosquito bites.  Once infected, the worms live and grow inside our pets’ hearts, lungs and blood vessels.  Interesting fact?  Heartworms present differently in dogs and cats and so does the treatment.

On the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website, they state that “inside a dog, a heartworm’s lifespan is 5 to 7 years.  Adult heartworms look like strands of cooked spaghetti, with males reaching about 4 to 6 inches in length and females reaching about 10 to 12 inches in length.  The number of worms living inside an infected dog is called the worm burden.  The average worm burden in dogs is 15 worms, but that number can range from 1 to 250 worms.”

Prevention is the best approach for our dogs but in the case where they do become infected with heartworm, early intervention is the best hope for reducing the long term effects of heartworm on your dog.

We, in Southern Manitoba, know that a wet spring often results in more mosquitoes.  Based on our current weather, mosquitoes are likely and as such, it would be a great idea to contact your vet and ask about heartworm prevention options for your cats and dogs.




Last modified: October 7, 2023