One of the main diseases transmitted by mosquito bites to watch out for in our pets is heartworm disease.
Heartworm is a serious and potentially fatal disease, also known as the “heart parasite”.
The disease is caused by a parasite called Dirofilaria immitis, which is transmitted by the bite of Culex mosquitoes. It has a worldwide distribution but there are risk zones where the disease is particularly prevalent - coastal regions and warm and temperate climates.
The infection of our animals depends on the level of activity of the mosquitoes, and with the increase in temperatures also comes a greater risk of disease.
Dogs are infected by the bite of mosquitoes that contain and inject immature forms of the parasite (microfilariae) into the skin. These larval forms migrate through the tissues and organs of our animals, and the adult forms will lodge in the heart, where they cause serious damage.
This disease is a zoonosis – it means that people can also be infected with the parasite, through the bite of the mosquito! That's why it's necessary to control these agents, through the protection of our pets – by protecting your animal, you reduce the possibility of mosquitoes becoming infected with the parasites and the spread of the disease.
The disease progresses slowly (needing about 6 months until the life cycle of the parasites is completed and the immature forms are released), so initially clinical signs are scarce. As the disease progresses, infected animals experience coughing, breathing difficulties, weight loss, exercise intolerance and heart, liver and kidney failure.
The diagnosis of heartworm disease can be made based on the clinical history and course of symptoms, along with some laboratory tests. However, it is possible that the disease is not diagnosed until the life cycle of the parasites is completed. Therefore, timely prevention is advised!
There is treatment for heartworm disease, but it is not risk-free. It is necessary to eliminate the adult and immature forms, which makes the treatment complicated.
The best attitude to adopt is prevention! There are several safe and effective products that can prevent disease and treatment complications.