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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Articles > Did You Know Heartworms Can Grow 14 Inches Long

Did you know... heartworms can grow 14 inches long?

PetSmart Banfield, The Pet Hospital®

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As a Pet Parent, you probably have heard that heartworms can cause a serious and potentially fatal disease. But did you know they can measure as long as 14 inches and reduce a pet's blood supply to vital organs?

Heartworm disease is caused by a worm called Dirofilaria immitis. It enters the system of a dog, and less commonly, a cat or a ferret, through bites from infected mosquitoes. Once mature, the worms clog the heart and adjacent vessels of infected pets, interfering with the heart’s valve function and reducing the blood supply to vital bodily organs. Female worms can measure as long as 14 inches and in advanced stages of the disease, a dog can have as many as 300 worms. The disease is currently found in most regions of the United States and Canada, particularly where mosquitoes are prevalent.

Most pets infected with heartworms do not show any signs of disease for as long as two years. Unfortunately, by the time signs are noticed, the disease is usually very advanced. Diagnosis can be based upon symptoms, blood and other laboratory tests, and sometimes radiographs.

In advanced stages of heartworm disease, treatment can include: antibiotics, special diets, diuretics to remove fluid accumulations and drugs to improve heart function prior to treatment of heartworms.

Read more about canine heartworm disease and how to prevent it.

© Banfield, the Pet Hospital

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