By Nan Talleno

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – If you haven’t already done so already, make a worthwhile trip to your veterinarian’s office to keep your pets healthy and have them checked for heartworm.

Heartworm is an intestinal parasite, belonging to the same class of worms as roundworms, which can infect both dogs and cats. The cycle of the heartworm begins with a bite from an infected mosquito carrying the heartworm larvae. There are more than sixty species of mosquitoes that can transmit this disease.

These microscopic heartworm parasites are ultimately passed on to the animal by entering the bloodstream and eventually cluster and grow by the lungs and/or on the right side of the animal’s heart.

Adult heartworms can reach anywhere from six to twelve inches in length. And, if not detected, the growing number of maturing worms can cause a massive blockage of blood flow causing the heart to fail. If left untreated, conditions can be life threatening.

Symptoms may include lethargy, weight loss, coughing and trouble breathing.

This disease is not limited to specific seasons or regions of the country. It’s all too common in most parts of the United States. Fortunately, however, heartworm disease can be easily detected and prevented. So, it’s best to be proactive to prevent this problem from occurring altogether. It’s never too late in life to be checked.

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