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Companion Animal Practice
Disease risks for the travelling pet: Heartworm disease
  1. Luca Ferasin

    Luca Ferasin graduated from the University of Bologna, Italy, in 1992 and undertook a threeyear research project in endocrinology at the BBSRC in Cambridge for which he was awarded a PhD in 1996. He was appointed assistant professor at the University of Padova, Italy, first in veterinary physiology, and then in internal medicine. He is currently a lecturer in small animal medicine at the University of Bristol where he teaches on cardiorespiratory diseases of the dog and cat. He holds the RCVS certificate in cardiology.


HEARTWORM disease is a parasitic infection caused by Dirofilaria immitis. This is a nematode (roundworm) that lives primarily in the pulmonary arteries and the right heart of dogs and, less commonly, cats and ferrets. The disease may sometimes affect other species, such as wild canids and felids, sealions and, sporadically, humans; however, these species are generally considered dead-end hosts as the parasite does not reach full maturity and cannot complete its biological cycle. Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquito bites and there are more than 70 species of mosquito that can potentially transmit the infection. This article discusses the epidemiology and pathogenesis of heartworm disease, as well as its diagnosis and management.

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