Heartworms – What is it?
Heartworm is a term all dog owners hear about. Few people understand why it’s expensive to treat and what is involved in the treatment. We thought you may be interested in learning the answers. Heartworm = HW
What is heartworm disease? Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the United States and many other parts of the world. It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. Heartworm disease affects dogs, cats, and ferrets, but heartworms also live in other mammal species, including wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions and—in rare instances—humans. Because wild species such as foxes and coyotes live in proximity to many urban areas, they are considered important carriers of the disease.
Heartworm prevention, Before your dog can be started on heartworm prevention you need to have your veterinarian perform a heartworm test. At this time you will discuss the various brands of prevention. Most veterinarians carry heartworm prevention, or they can write you a prescription to have filled elsewhere.
Heartworm Treatment. It’s important to remember that treatment for HW is very painful for the dog. The shot itself hurts and in the days and weeks after, the pain can be immense depending on the stage of HW.
It is also very expensive and time consuming for the rescue. These dogs occupy an average of 90-120 days in a foster home. Average cost of treating a stage 1-2 heartworm positive dog is $1200-3000 depending on the area you live in and if complications are encountered. A stage 3 heartworm positive dog takes several months and more money due to potential complications.
Once diagnosed & verified
•Immediate exercise restrictions & the more pronounced the symptoms, the stricter the exercise restrictions.
•Given prednisone if symptomatic & to reduce risk of anaphylaxis.
•Administer heartworm preventative 30 days prior to 1st heartworm. It is imperative to kill the juvenile worms. There is a window of time that the HW is immune to the preventative and the melarsomine injection. That is why the treatment is spread out over so many months.
•Administer Doxycycline for 4 weeks prior to 1st heartworm injection. This kills a bacteria that lives on the adult worm and makes it sterile. It also makes the adult worm more susceptible to the treatment.
30 Days Later
•1st melarsomine injection
(for hw). The initial injection kills ~50% of the load.
•Given pain meds.
•Given prednisone for 30 days to further decrease inflammation in the lungs secondary to the worms dying.
•Given heartworm preventative.
•Further decrease in activity level (cage restriction/on leash for potty breaks/no walks/no running/no playing). This is the period of time that a dog is at the highest risk for complications such as developing a clot in the lung from the worms dying.
Another 30 days later
•On day 31 and 32 there are back to back injections. This set of injections along with the first injection will kill up to a total of 98% of the HW load.
•2nd and 3rd melarsomine injection (for
•Given pain meds.
•Given prednisone for 30 days.
•Given heartworm preventative. It is imperative, since only 98% of the total HW load is killed, to maintain preventative for the life of the dog.
•Maintain decreases in activity level.
6 Months After 3rd Injection
•Draw blood & test for Antigens.
•Maintain monthly & year-round HW prevention.
•Blood tests= $150-300. The dog has to have normal kidney and liver function to receive the treatment. Dobermans are also at an increased risk of bleeding if the thyroid level is abnormal. This can add an additional 6-8 weeks for treatment.
•Vet visits-average $55 per visit.
•HW preventative-runs around $12 per month. Basic
•Prednisone-varies according to area-average is ~$50.
•3 melarsomine injections =
For more information visit the American Heartworm Society
The information provided on this website is not a substitute for professional veterinary help. If your dog has a medical issue please take them to the vet as soon as possible.