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LAKE CHARLES, Louisiana (KPLC) -- Warm summer months are the prime time for mosquito populations to thrive. With that comes the threat of mosquito-borne diseases for people and pets, specifically dangerous heartworm infections in dogs and cats.

Inside a large jar at Farr Veterinary Hospital in Lake Charles, Louisiana a heart that once pumped inside 60 pound Labrador Retriever is on display, showing the graphic reality of invasive heartworms.

"The right side of the heart is enlarged because that's where the majority of the heart worms live," said veterinarian Dr. Jae Chang.

Regions with large mosquito populations have the highest rates of heartworm infections in the country.

"Once the mosquito bites an infected dog or cat, they are considered infected," said Dr. Chang, "then, once they bite a normal, healthy dog or cat - that's how the transmit the heartworm disease."