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All About Heartworms

Heartworm Disease

Any dog can get heartworm disease, at any age, at any time.

Heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes, and Hawaii is the perfect environment for them.

It is prevalent in Hawaii and we do see pets who are positive for heartworm.

What is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworms are worms (parasites) that circulate and grow in your pet’s bloodstream. When a pet is bit by an infected mosquito, heartworms travel from the tissues, to the bloodstream, and enter the heart and lungs. As larvae (microfilariae) they are microscopic and typically cause minimal to no symptoms. Symptoms include, coughing, difficulty breathing, and exercise intolerance. Mild symptoms can lead to more severe illness such as heart failure, clogging and damaging of arteries, and liver and kidney malfunction.

Cats are atypical carriers. They can be affected by heartworm but are not ideal hosts and are not affected as severely.

Testing for Heartworm Disease

The quick in-house test requires only 3 drops of blood and takes 7-10 minutes to complete.

Heartworms are only detectable 6 months after initial infection. This is why dogs are tested starting at 6 months and re-tested every 12 months, even if the pet is currently on heartworm prevention.

  • Testing starts at 6 months (or 1 year, if on a monthly heartworm prevention)

  • Adults are tested annually

Heartworm Prevention

We strongly believe that prevention is the best protection!

Heartworm preventions are prescription medications. This meaning that a doctor’s approval and instructions are required to purchase the medication from any source. This is to ensure that the medication is being administered appropriately, as some heartworm medications can be harmful if given to heartworm positive dogs.


There are 3 types of heartworm prevention.

  • Monthly oral tablets (some combined with other anti-parasitic medications)

  • Monthly topical applications (some combined with other anti-parasitic medications)

  • Injectable prevention (administered in hospital, lasts 6 or 12 month)


Your doctor can help you decide which type of prevention is best for you and your pet.

Rabies Vaccine

Rabies vaccines are usually required for travel out of the state of Hawaii (depending on your destination).

Rabies vaccines and a Rabies Titer are required for entry into the state of Hawaii.

Click HERE for more information on rabies vaccines and travel requirements.

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