Heartworm Prevention in Miami, FL


At Dollys Animal Clinic, we strongly emphasize the significance of heartworm prevention for all pet owners.

The reason behind this emphasis is that heartworm is a preventable disease and not taking preventive measures can lead to devastating outcomes both emotionally and financially. For both experienced and novice pet owners, we provide an overview of heartworm, how it spreads, and ways to prevent it from affecting your beloved pet.
cute dog on vet table at dollys animal clinic

The World of Heartworms

Heartworm disease is a serious threat to both cats and dogs. Although cats are more resistant to the disease, it can still infect them. Dogs, on the other hand, are highly vulnerable to heartworm disease and often show no signs of infection in the early stages. Heartworm disease is preventable and can be cured if diagnosed early, but if left untreated, it can be fatal. Therefore, it is crucial for pet owners to have their cats and dogs tested for heartworm disease on an annual basis, regardless of whether they are already on preventive medication.

What is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworms are a type of parasitic worm that can infect several mammals through mosquito bites. However, dogs, wolves, coyotes, and foxes are the most common hosts as the worms can mature and reproduce inside their bodies. Ferrets are also susceptible to the disease, which can be fatal. While cats and humans can contract heartworm disease, the worms typically die before reaching adulthood, making them less harmful to internal organs such as the heart and lungs.

How Does Heartworm Disease Spread?

Heartworms are a parasitic worm that spread to animals solely through mosquito bites. When a mosquito feeds on the blood of an infected animal, the microfilariae living in the animal's bloodstream are ingested. Within two weeks, these microfilariae develop into infectious larvae. When a mosquito bites a susceptible host, it transmits the larvae into the animal's bloodstream through the puncture wound caused by the mosquito's bite, thus infecting the animal with heartworms. If your pet is receiving heartworm prevention medication, the larvae die quickly without causing harm. However, if your pet is not on heartworm-preventative medication, the heartworm can live undetected for years and cause serious complications as it grows and reaches adulthood.

What are Heartworm Symptoms?

Heartworm symptoms depend on the stage of infection and the number of worms.
Stage 1: Occasional cough with no other symptoms.
Stage 2: Occasional cough with abnormal tiredness.
Stage 3: Occasional cough, abnormal tiredness, and breathing difficulties. Chest x-ray may show signs of heart and/or lung damage.
Stage 4: Severe damage to the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. Caval syndrome may occur, which is a life-threatening condition that requires quick surgical intervention. However, most dogs do not survive long enough to receive the surgery.

Can You Treat Heartworm Disease?

Treating heartworm in dogs is a challenging and expensive process that requires frequent veterinary visits, blood work, x-rays, hospitalization, and multiple medications. Unfortunately, there is no FDA-approved drug to treat heartworm in cats. However, cats that test positive for heartworm have a better chance of recovery since they are not the ideal hosts for the parasite. The best course of action is to prevent heartworm infection altogether in both cats and dogs.

Heartworm Prevention is the Best Treatment

To protect dogs and cats from heartworm infection, it is recommended to start them on prevention medication at a young age, ideally as early as two months old. The dosage of the medication is based on the animal's body weight and can be administered as early as the first check-up. Heartworm infection is widespread in the US, and all dogs and cats are at risk of contracting the disease. There are three types of prevention medication available, but they all must be prescribed by a veterinarian. Heartworm prevention can be received through:

Monthly heartworm prevention pills
Monthly topical solution
Bi-annual preventative injections

Here's a picture of the reported heartworm incidence in the US in 2019 alone:


Next Steps for a Healthier Pet

You should consult your veterinarian immediately if your pet is not on a heartworm prevention regimen, or if you are more than two weeks late in administering your monthly heartworm preventative. You can make an appointment by calling 786-396-1209.

Dollys Animal Clinic offers urgent care, orthopedic surgery, pet wellness care, in-house laboratory testing, and dental care for dogs and cats in Tamiami, Sweetwater, West Kendall, Westchester.