Heartworm disease/ testing/ prevention

The scientific name for a heartworm is Dirofilaria immitis. Heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes and is a very big problem in Florida due to the fact that it never gets cold enough here for the mosquitoes to completely go away. Even indoor dogs are at risk for this deadly disease, since there is no way to guarantee that even a single mosquito does not get into your home. For details on the life-cycle of heartworms and detailed information on the stages of the disease and its treatment, please visit www.heartwormsociety.org. Heartworm testing is not performed on puppies younger than 6 months old, since the test detects adult female heartworms and they cannot be detected until 6 months after the dog is infected. It is vital to the health of your new puppy that they be started on heartworm prevention as soon as possible; most heartworm preventatives are safe for puppies as young as 6 weeks old. Heartworm prevention is available through a veterinarian by prescription only, and can be taken orally or applied topically once a month, year-round, for their entire life! It is our policy that all new patients have an exam and a negative heartworm test before prevention can be dispensed. This is because if the dog is already infected with adult heartworms, they may have an allergic and potentially life threatening reaction to the prevention. Yearly heartworm testing is recommended even if you have not missed any prevention based on manufacturers’ recommendations, since there is no medication that is 100% effective. Yearly heartworm screening tests are designed to catch the infection while it is still in the early stages and we have the best chance at successful treatment. If a dog tests positive for heartworm infection, our veterinarians will discuss the treatment to eliminate the adult heartworms and prevent further infection. This treatment can become very expensive and has a high risk of side effects in some dogs. The best way to ensure that your dog never has to suffer from heartworm disease or the side effects of treatment is make sure they never miss a month of heartworm prevention!