Every Season is Heartworm Season in Hawaii

Ella Arume
Heartworm aka Dirofilaria Immitis, is just what it sounds like. It’s a worm that grows in dog hearts. These worms are transmitted between dogs via mosquitos. Dogs aren’t the only ones affected by these little parasites, cats can get them too. Although both can die from an infection, cats are more sensitive to them.

Hawai’i is a great environment for mosquitos because it’s warm and humid all year long. That means that unlike places that are drier or have a snowy winter, we have to worry about our pets getting heartworm all the time.

How does an animal get heartworms?
First a mosquito bites an infected dog (or cat) and takes in some of their blood, which contains the heartworm larvae. In the mosquito, the heartworm larvae matures into its infective stage. The mosquito then flies around, finds another dog, bites him and bam! he is infected with heartworms.

Treatment options for heartworm are limited, expensive, and dangerous.
In order to kill the heartworms, your veterinarian must administer a drug containing arsenic which will make your dog feel sick. Because the medicine helps break apart the heartworm, your dog will need to have limited exercise for 6 months or until your veterinarian deems your dog heartworm free. This will help ensure that a piece of worm doesn’t get stuck in a place like their lungs or brain, and to help their body heal. Also, treatment is only available for dogs, which is unfortunate for the poor kitties.

Luckily, there are many medications available to Prevent heartworm from affecting your pets! Go to your veterinarian and get a prescribed monthly heartworm preventative for your pet. The key to stopping heartworm is preventing infection.

Symptoms of Heartworm in dogs:
• Chronic cough
• Trouble breathing
• Swollen limbs and belly
• Exercise intolerance (won’t exercise like they used to)
• Sudden death
• Symptoms of Heartworm in cats:
• Coughing
• Intermittent vomiting (not around feeding time)
• Trouble breathing
• Decreased appetite and weight loss
• Sudden death

Please check out https://www.heartwormsociety.org/ for more information