Heartworm Prevention

Protect your dogs and cats from heartworm disease!

Taking your pet to the vet every 12 months to get 12 months of heartworm protection is essential to your pet’s health. Here are some commonly asked questions about heartworm infections in pets answered by Dr. Keil at Mountain View Veterinary Clinic in Tucson, AZ.


What is heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is a parasitic infection that can affect dogs, cats, and ferrets. It’s caused by a worm called Dirofilaria immitis that is spread by mosquito bites.

Adult heartworms look a lot like strands of cooked spaghetti. Male heartworms can reach a length of 4 to 6 inches and female heartworms can grow to be as much as a foot long. They cause severe damage to the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. A dog’s body can host from two to 250 heartworms. Cats and ferrets have a metabolism that is less compatible to heartworms and may have only one or two.

Are heartworms contagious?

Your pets can’t catch heartworms just by being near another infected animal. The only way heartworms spread is by their larvae being transferred through a mosquito bite from one animal to the next. Only mosquitoes living in a temperature of 80°F for at least two weeks are capable of incubating the heartworms to the stage where they can infect a new host.

Male and female heartworms mate and hatch their eggs inside a dog’s body. The baby heartworms can last as long as two years inside the dog’s bloodstream, waiting to be transferred to a mosquito.

How does a veterinarian test for heartworm disease?

About five months after a dog has been bitten by a mosquito carrying heartworms, its immune system can generate antibodies that can be detected with a blood test.

Can cats really get heartworm disease?

Cats can be infected with heartworms through mosquito bites. Cats are not as susceptible to this condition as dogs, but both indoor and outdoor cats can get heartworms.

Cats don’t get as many heartworms as dogs, but because they have smaller bodies, the damage to their health can be just as severe. Heartworms in cats are harder to detect with a blood test than they are in dogs, so regular heartworm treatment for your cat is even more important.

It isn’t just dogs and cats that can get heartworm disease. Ferrets can, too, as well as coyotes, wolves, foxes, bears, seals, sea lions, and in very rare cases, people.

When should I take my pet to the vet to get tested for heartworm disease?

Every pet needs to get tested for heartworms every year. You should also bring in your pet to the animal hospital for heartworm testing if you have switched heartworm medications, if you forgot to give your pet a dose of their heartworm medication, or if you recently moved to the Tucson, AZ area, especially if you are coming from states along the Mississippi River or the Gulf Coast.

Take your pet to your vet at Mountain View Animal Center at least once a year!

An annual trip to the veterinarian can help your pet avoid heartbreaking, preventable diseases. Request an appointment online or call us to make an appointment today at 520-744-7456. The offices of our animal hospital are located at Mountain View Veterinary Clinic, 9725 N Thornydale Rd Ste 101, Tucson, AZ 85742.