Can you guess who I am?
I am well acquainted with dogs. I am as long as two twelve inch rulers laid together. I am very thin and active, white but with no hair. Though I end up elsewhere, I begin life in a mosquito’s stomach and am microscopically small. I am injected under the skin, literally vomited forth into the space between the skin and the muscle, which I promptly burrow into and cause damage to the skeletal muscle layers. I grow and develop as I burrow, seeking the source of the pumping mechanism of the blood. Deeper I travel until I am a full grown adult, swimming with the current of blood and resisting the pressure of the beating heart. I move, along with my fellows, through the heart valves, where I cause the flow to be disrupted and keep the valves from shutting properly. If there are enough of me, I can cause an audible murmur, as blood rushes the wrong way through the heart. If I am in a cat, just one of me can cause sudden death, as I am almost as large as the great vessels, and I completely block the flow of blood, causing acute oxygen deprivation.
But in dogs, I usually cause slow, progressive problems. I make their lungs fill up with fluid, and cause painful, hacking cough. If a doctor can see x-rays of the chest at this point, she will see that the major lung arteries are blunted and deteriorated. The dog’s lung capacity decreases, and I cannot exercise without coughing. The dog may die at this point, or his heart may continue to enlarge. All the dog’s systems are involved now, and I start producing baby heartworms, called microfilaria, which further clog the small arteries in the dog’s body.
Without treatment, the dog is sure to die a long, slow painful death. Treatment is aimed at killing the microfilariae and also the adult heartworms. The injections necessary for the adults involve a 1 ½ inch needle that is inserted in the muscle next to the dog’s spine. Then an arsenic product is injected into the muscle and the arsenic kills the heartworms. They die and are transported by the blood to the lungs, where they form scar tissue, pushing out healthy tissue.
OR ALL THIS CAN BE AVOIDED; both for dogs and cats. Year round heartworm protection is readily available, and essential in Florida, where mosquitos are year round danger. Suffering and misery from heartworm disease can be completely avoided with one monthly tablet.
Do not meet me by accident! I am ruthless!