Heartworm Treatment for Dogs

Chances are, you have actually gone to a minimum of one veterinary workplace that plainly showed a photo or drawing of a canine heart infested with heartworms. This gruesome image shows what can take place to your dog when the spaghetti-like worms block his heart.

As a dog owner, you’re probably familiar with the risks of heartworm disease, and I hope you are taking precautions to avoid it. However beyond glaring in scary at the poster in the vet’s examining room, have you ever considered what’s involved in dealing with heartworm? Believe me, it’s not an easy matter for your dog or for you.

Heartworm Treatment for Puppies and Young Dogs

Heartworm Disease In Dogs

As soon as your dog is detected with heartworm disease, your vet may recommend a course of antibiotics, heartworm preventives and steroids before starting the real adult worm treatment.

Antibiotics may be recommended due to the fact that a bacterium found living inside the heartworms– Wolbachia– is believed to add to an inflammatory reaction within the body. When the heartworms die, they release the bacteria into the dog’s body. Scientists think the existence of Wolbachia may cause the body to install an immune response that could worsen not just the heartworm disease but likewise the lung and kidney swelling seen in dogs with this condition.

For this reason, numerous veterinarians start treatment by recommending doxycycline, based on appealing arise from published research studies of doxycycline use in dogs infected with heartworms.

Because the heartworm treatment just kills adult worms, vets may prescribe a regular monthly heartworm preventive to kill the smaller larvae before initiating adult heartworm treatment.

The administration of corticosteroids at the very same time as the antibiotics and heartworm preventive likewise helps reduce inflammation.

How To Treat Heartworm Disease In Dogs

Once your dog has actually completed the course of steroids, heartworm preventive and antibiotics, he should be ready to start the real adult heartworm treatment. The treatment for heartworm disease takes a minimum of 60 days to finish and consists of a series of drug injections that kills the worms. There is just one drug authorized by the Food and Drug Administration to kill adult heartworms in dogs, an organic arsenical compound that is injected into the dog’s lumbar, or back, muscles.

On the days injections are given, your dog needs to stay in the medical facility for observation to make sure he does not have any major responses to the treatment. Your vet might also recommend a tapering dose of steroids for a time period following the injections.

However, wait, there’s more! Your dog ought to be retested after treatment and 6 months later on to make sure that of the larvae, microfilariae and adult worms are dead. Dogs who stay heartworm positive 6 months after treatment may have to repeat treatment to eliminate the staying worms.


The typical cost of heartworm treatment for dogs is typically around $1,000. Nevertheless, it can range from $500 to $1,100 and even more depending generally on the size of your dog, veterinary costs, and the stage of the disease. The typical treatment procedure consists of x-rays and bloodwork for measuring the infection load, antibiotics for killing the parasites which reside in the heartworms, Immiticide, sedatives, and pain medication.

Modern veterinary care for dogs can be rather pricey. Traditional heartworm treatment is also pricey in many areas of the U.S., and you can anticipate high veterinarian bills if your dog has heartworm disease. Veterinarian expenses can get very pricey, so missing small things like month-to-month heartworm treatments is a huge mistake. Ensure that you take your dog for an annual checkup at the veterinarian each year. Keeping your pet existing on shots, vaccinations, and heartworm treatments are some of the lighter expenses that pet owners deal with. Nevertheless, this little investment helps prevent huge costs in the future.

Is Heartworm Treatment Painful for the Dog?

An injection of Immiticide┬« (melarsomine) is given to your pet, and frequently they will remain in the healthcare facility under the veterinary group’s supervision for the rest of the day. The injection can often be painful, so your vet may recommend pain medication to keep your pet comfortable through the duration of the treatment.

Your dog must be restricted to leash walks only and have minimal activity throughout the entire duration of treatment. Due to the fact that the medication eliminates the heartworms while they are still inside your pet, it is necessary that you limit the activity level of your pet throughout treatment and follow all recommendations from your vet. Excessive activity can trigger discomfort, complications and even death. Your veterinarian will let you know when it is safe for your dog to resume normal activity (read more here.)

Caring for Dog After Heartworm Treatment

The owner of a dog that has undergone treatment for heartworm should take seriously the recovery period of the pet after the procedure.

Throughout treatment and for numerous weeks later, your dog’s activity level must be limited. Pieces of dead worms can obstruct blood circulation through pulmonary vessels and intensify the inflammatory action; excessive workout increases blood circulation to blocked areas, causing blood vessels to burst as the body tries to pump blood through the obstructed vessels. This heightens the likelihood of problems, such as coughing, breathing problems and unexpected death.

Do you know that a highly active dog with only a little number of heartworms is more likely to develop serious heartworm disease-associated signs than a dog with many heartworms who’s a lazy-bones.

To minimize the threat of problems, it’s necessary that you restrict exercise for the entire time your dog is going through treatment and for an amount of time later. Depending on the severity of the damage brought on by the heartworms, this can suggest complete confinement in a cage except for potty walks on leash or very little activity in the home, with just quick walks on leash and crating when nobody exists to monitor his activity and make certain he remains calm.

Your veterinarian will let you understand when your dog can resume normal activity levels.

When Surgery May Be Necessary

Not every case of heartworm disease can be treated clinically; often the worms are discovered not just in the heart but likewise in a big vein called the caudal vena cava, situated between the liver and the heart. Because circumstance, surgical elimination of worms might be needed.

Luckily, drug treatment for dogs with heartworm disease is generally successful, especially if the dog has only moderate signs of disease. A dog with more extreme heartworm disease can also recuperate, however he runs a greater danger of complications as well as death. For these reasons, the best remedy of all is prevention. Ask your veterinarian about your dog’s risk level and make certain you’re doing whatever you can to stop heartworm disease prior to it starts.

Heartworm Disease & Surgery

Not every case of heartworm disease can be dealt with clinically; in some cases the worms are discovered not only in the heart however likewise in a large vein called the caudal vena cava, located between the liver and the heart. In that circumstance, surgical elimination of worms may be essential.

Thankfully, drug treatment for dogs with heartworm disease is generally effective, specifically if the dog has only moderate signs of disease. A dog with more severe heartworm disease can also recover, however he runs a greater risk of complications and even death. For these factors, the best cure of all is avoidance. Ask your veterinarian about your dog’s risk level and make certain you’re doing whatever you can to stop heartworm disease before it starts.

Questions & Answers

When should we carry out spay-neuter surgery in a heartworm-positive dog?

In dogs with mild infection and no scientific signs of heartworm disease, it is safest to carry out spay-neuter surgery prior to starting adulticidal treatment. At least one study explained no proof of clinically relevant perioperative problems when disinfecting heartworm-positive dogs, and lots of top quality, high-volume spay-neuter clinics and shelters frequently participate in this practice. Adulticidal treatment might be administered upon healing from anesthesia.

In cases when adulticidal treatment has currently been initiated, anesthetic treatments ought to be postponed for 6 months to guarantee clearance of passing away worms.

How can we maintain exercise constraint and protect behavioral health in the shelter environment?

Reducing physical activity, limiting exercise, and making sure dogs are safely restricted when not being watched are essential elements of lessening problems from heartworm treatment. To ensure success throughout healing, actions ought to be taken to supply safe physical and mental stimulation and to satisfy dogs’ requirements for social interaction.

Many dogs can be securely leash-walked throughout the treatment healing period and offering proper chew toys can assist alleviate a few of that stored up physical energy. Throughout confinement, reading to dogs can assist reduce arousal and stress and there are lots of simple, low-cost ways to provide in-kennel enrichment. Taking benefit of feeding times to offer mental stimulation in addition to ensuring that a range of promoting activities are provided can assist keep the canine mind active and healthy.

Can heartworms be transmitted to unborn young puppies?

According to American Heartworm Society, transmission of heartworms needs a bite from an infected mosquito, so direct transmission from a mother to her coming young puppies is not possible. It is possible for the tiny baby worms (called microfilaria) to go through the bloodstream of the mom into the young puppies; nevertheless, these worms can not turn into adults and should be removed when the pups receive their first dose of heartworm preventive. Up until the worms are gotten rid of, those infected young puppies could work as sources of infection for nearby mosquitoes and unguarded dogs.

Is it safe to offer heartworm preventives to a pregnant or nursing dog?

All heartworm preventives are authorized as safe and efficient in reproducing, pregnant, and lactating dogs when utilized according to identify instructions.

Is it safe to treat heartworms in a pregnant or nursing dog?

The usage of melarsomine adulticidal treatment in pregnant dogs has actually not been studied. In cases where a litter will be reached term, adulticidal treatment should be delayed till weaning unless immediate treatment for serious infection is shown as a way of maintaining life.

Is it safe to move a heartworm-positive dog for adoption?

Relocation of heartworm-positive dogs must be reassessed unless life-saving chances and resources can be offered at the location. All dogs higher than 6 months of age ought to be checked and all dogs 8 weeks of age and older need to be started on heartworm preventive treatment prior to relocation. When dogs test positive and moving can not be delayed, steps ought to be required to reduce heartworm transmission in microfilaremic dogs.

Dogs that have undergone adulticidal therapy in preparation for moving must not be transferred for a minimum of 4 weeks after melarsomine injection.

Can we treat dogs with 2 injections of melarsomine instead of 3 to get them out of the clinic earlier?

The American Heartworm Society suggests that all dogs be treated with three dosages of melarsomine for the safest and most effective adulticidal therapy. This course of treatment, consisting of one injection followed by two injections offered 24 hours apart 1 month later on, ought to result in the clearance of 99% of the worms.

For dogs with asymptomatic, moderate, or moderate disease, melarsomine dihydrochloride is also labeled for 2 treatments provided 24 hours apart. Limiting the treatment course to two treatments must result in the clearance of approximately 90% of the worms.

Is there a less expensive option for heartworm treatment besides melarsomine?

Melarsomine dihydrochloride is the only treatment identified for use as an adulticide and is the safest, most efficacious, and fastest method to make sure clearance of adult heartworms. Other therapeutic combinations may work; however, these all need a substantially prolonged treatment course to obtain comparable worm death. The advantages and disadvantages of alternative treatment regimens must be thoroughly weighed.

When conclusive adulticidal treatment with melarsomine can not be offered immediately, heartworm-positive dogs ought to be begun on a 4-week course of doxycycline and a monthly preventive with a macrocyclic lactone until such treatment can be supplied. Exercise limitation should be maintained throughout this time.

Should dogs being treated for heartworms receive pain medications?

Pain, swelling, and tenderness at the melarsomine injection site are the most typical treatment problems. These can be minimized through the use of careful injection technique and a variety of pain medications when required. Administration of local anesthetics prior to injection is not recommended as these treatments bring their own threat of discomfort and can interfere with appropriate melarsomine injection.

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