Heartworms in Humans – Can We Get That From Our Pets?

Your pet health is important, and so is yours. Heartworm disease belongs to one of the life-threatening diseases for the pets that require immense care. There are many parasites that not only affect your pet but can also be detrimental to your health. So, it is imperative for pet parents to know whether humans can get heartworms from dogs, and here’s all that you need to know about is.

Heartworms in Humans

What Are Heartworms?

Heartworms are commonly referred to as Dirofilaria immitis, which is a parasitic worm that spreads through the bite of a mosquito. The natural host for heartworms is dogs, but they can also be found in cats. Heartworm disease can lead to heart failure, severe lung disease, and other organ damage in animals suffering from heartworms. These parasitic worms are called heartworms because they live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood cells of the host.

What Causes Heartworms

Heartworm primarily affects a dog through a mosquito bite. However, it can also affect other animals including – wolves, foxes, raccoons, cats, and coyotes. The microfilaria is ingested by the mosquito during a blood meal, and those microfilariae (small worms) are produced by mature worms. In the mosquito, microfilaria develops into larvae, and the larvae are then transmitted through subsequent mosquito blood meals. It takes 6 months for microfilaria to develop into adult worms when ingested into a new host, which can, in turn, cause an infection that can result in blockage of major arteries or organ infections in animals. While in humans, a heartworm larva never really matures, and that condition is known as pulmonary dirofilariasis. This is because your body reacts to their tissue with inflammation as it tries to destroy the heartworms.

Symptoms of Heartworms

Here are the symptoms of heartworm infections in humans. However, the symptoms can differ in humans and animals, the reason being the way they develop into the bloodstream.

  • Coughing
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Fluid buildup around the lungs
  • Exercise Intolerance
  • Fainting
  • The round lesion that shows up on chest X-ray

How Are Heartworms Diagnosed?

As the symptoms of heartworm disease are common, you may not realize that you’ve heartworm infection until your doctor diagnosis it. One gets to know about heartworms when the doctor sees a coin lesion on an X-ray. The lesion is known as granuloma, which results from the buildup of immune cells and inflammation known as histiocytes that fight the heartworm infection. The doctor takes a tissue sample from the lung to test the heartworm infection if they spot one of the lesions on X-ray.

Ways to Treat Heartworms

The treatment of heartworms in humans can be done by the surgical removal of the lung granulomas and nodules under the skin. Moreover, the best way to prevent heartworms is to avoid mosquito bites in the area where mosquitoes are infected by Dirofilaria larvae.

The Final Takeaway

In a nutshell, we need to worry about getting heartworm infection from cats or dogs or other pets as it is the mosquitoes that carry such infection. And heartworms aren’t a major issue until they cause discomfort, pain, or other symptoms.