Heartworm: A Primer
Heartworm infection has been a central part of each of the Huskies’ story. But what exactly is a heartworm? How is it treated and how can it be prevented? Let’s find out.
Heartworms are small, parasitic roundworms with a two-stage life cycle: the immature larva (microfilaria) and the adult worm. Mosquitoes ingest the microfilaria when they feed upon an infected animal. After about two weeks inside the mosquito, the microfilaria are ready to infect a new host. Once in the new host, the microfilaria slowly move towards the heart and lungs, where they take 6-8 months to mature into adult worms. The adult heartworms reproduce and flood the host’s bloodstream with more microfilaria, which are then ingested by a mosquito to continue the cycle.
Adult heartworms are not passive guests while in the host’s body. Their presence damages the lining of blood vessels, which can lead to the formation of blood clots that migrate to the lungs and pulmonary arteries. In addition, heartworm infection triggers an immune response that inflames the lungs, making it even harder for the lungs to properly function. An infected animal may show signs of coughing, difficulty breathing, and lethargy. Severe infections can be fatal.