Heartworm is a parasitic disease that typically affects dogs. It is transmitted through mosquito bites, takes six to seven months to manifest and can prove fatal if left untreated.
The risk of heartworm in the UK is very low. However, many of the British public’s favourite European holiday destinations are home to mosquitoes that carry the disease and can transmit it to your beloved pooch. The map above illustrates in shades of red the areas of Europe where your dog is more likely to become infected with heartworm.
When an infected mosquito bites your dog, the parasitic larvae can escape and enter through wound left by the bite. The larvae will then develop within your dog’s tissue and slowly migrate towards the heart. Within about four months, the larvae have developed into adult worms making themselves at home in the heart and pulmonary arteries. Approximately six months after infection, the adult female worms will be releasing more larvae into the bloodstream, ready to be picked up by another host mosquito and deposited on another dog.
Once the heartworms have reached their final goal they will start damaging your dog’s tissue and the symptoms will become evident. Symptoms may include a cough, loss of appetite and difficulty breathing. If the condition goes undiagnosed, it can prove fatal.
The exact timings of the infection vary slightly from source to source, but if you prefer to absorb information visually, this video will give you a good understanding of heartworm.
Prevention of heartworm is a far simpler process than the cure. If you are planing a trip to a high risk area, speak to your vet about a preventative protocol before travelling with your dog, or alternately keep your beloved dog safe and sound in the UK with a trusted dog sitter.