If you are looking into heartworm treatment, you probably know that heartworm disease is a serious problem that affects a lot of dogs throughout the world and can be fatal to your pet if they contract the disease.
A lot of dog owners think their furry friends are invincible, but sadly they can be taken down by nothing more than mosquito bites which can cause serious problems to your dog’s heart and lungs. Who knew those little bugs had so much power in them, right?
Thankfully, if your dog has contracted heartworm disease then it is treatable, and if they haven’t then there is heartworm preventatives you can put in place so your dog doesn’t fall ill to this debilitating disease.
Throughout this article, we are going to cover all the facts you need to know about heartworm disease and the treatment options available, including medications and holistic approaches to give you the best options possible at giving your furry friend some quality of life back.
Heartworm Treatment for Dogs: But First, How Do Dogs Get Heartworm?
You may be wondering – what is heartworm disease and how can my dog get it?
Firstly, the American Heartworm Society states that heartworm disease is caused by worms that can grow up to a foot-long that live in the dog’s heart, pulmonary arteries, lungs, and associated blood vessels. This causes a severe reaction in the dog’s body and can result in lung disease, heart failure, and fatal damage to other organs in the body.
Unfortunately for our furry friends, dogs are one of the best hosts for the heartworms to nest, which means that majority of the time they are able to mature into adult worms and produce offspring.
If left untreated, the heartworm spreads to all the major organs and can be fatal to your pet.
This is why treatment for heartworm is very important if your dog’s test comes back heartworm positive, and even more important why you should be taking actionable steps to prevent heartworm from occurring in your dog.
But, before we get to treatment, you may be wondering how your dog can get heartworm.
The answer to that is through mosquito bites.
An infected dog with adult female heartworms living inside them produces baby worms that are called microfilaria.
When a mosquito bites a dog, it picks up this microfilaria which develops into the ‘infective stage’ in only 10-14 days and injects the next dog it bites with larvae. It takes, on average, 6 months for the microfilaria to mature into adult worms.
Heartworm Disease: Can Heartworm Hurt My Dog?
Canine heartworm in your dog, if left untreated, can invade your dog’s heart, lungs, and other organs. This can cause symptoms that range from mild, too uncomfortable, to painful. Common symptoms of heartworm disease include:
- A persistent cough
- Inability to exercise
- Fatigue after moderate activity
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
If heartworm disease is left untreated, then your dog may develop heart failure and their belly will fill with fluid. Dogs who have a lot of heartworms can block the flow of the heart and this can result in cardiovascular collapse.
This is known as caval syndrome and is a serious form of the heartworm disease.
Symptoms of caval syndrome include:
- Labored breathing
- Dark, bloody urine
- Pale gums
Worms in Dogs: 6 Tips to Know When Discussing Heartworm Disease with Veterinarian
As a pet owner, it can be hard to know when to consult a veterinarian about heartworm in your dog and you question how often should you take your dog for possible worms.
The answer to that is that you should have your pet regularly checked up every year to prevent heartworm.
Here are some useful tips when discussing heartworm disease with your local veterinarian:
- Puppies under 7 months can be immediately started on heartworm treatment without a test.
- Adult dogs over 7 months and have not had previous issues with heartworm must have a heartworm test prior to starting medication.
- If your dog has contracted the heartworm infection, then they need to visit the veterinarian 6 months and 12 months after diagnosis, then annually every year after that.
Other tips you should know when taking your dog to the vet is:
- Ask your local veterinarian about caval syndrome (a severe form of heartworm).
- Ask your vet about slow kill heartworm treatment if your dog can’t take melarsomine dihydrochloride.
- Treatment usually involves three injections.
Keep Your Dog Safe! Heartworm Prevention for Dogs
Heartworm in dogs sounds scary, and it is!
Thankfully, there are several ways that you can prevent your dog from contracting the disease and falling ill to those pestering worms. Here are some examples of heartworm preventatives that many pet owners use:
Daily Heartworm Preventative
Daily preventatives have been available to give to dogs for many years now and was a very popular form of prevention in early days. Whilst still effectively, it is failing in popularity to better forms of prevention.
Monthly Heartworm Preventative
This is one of the most popular forms of prevention amongst pet owners and comes in the form of chewable treats which takes the hassle out of trying to get your dog to take it. Popular monthly preventatives include Heartgard, Proheart, and Revolution.
Yearly Heartworm Preventative
This is a new form of preventative and one that is growing in popularity. The active ingredient, moxidectin, is an injection that kills the immature heartworm for up to 12 months.
Natural Heartworm Preventative
Many pet owners don’t like the idea of injections or medications and would prefer a more natural prevention to the disease. These include herbal remedies, homeopathy, black walnut, and more.
Worms in Dogs: Heartworm Medication
If your dog has been tested positive for heartworm disease, then the good news is that it is treatable with medications. Before we discuss heartworm medications, you should first know how the treatment works.
Treating heartworm involves killing the adult worms that live in the heart, pulmonary arteries, and the lungs. The medication that your dog may be administered will be determined by your veterinarian and the tests that have been conducted like the chest x-ray, etc.
- Ivermectin – kills the worms slowly to prevent shock to your dog.
- Immiticide treatment – kills the adult worms.
- Doxycycline – kills the Wolbachia organisms.
- Milbemycin Oxime – used a broad spectrum anti-parasitic medication.
Slow Kill Heartworm Treatment for Dogs
Slow kill heartworm treatment is another form of ivermectin-based treatment that involves giving your dog heartworm preventative medication monthly. This sort of treatment waits for the worms to die naturally.
Slow kill heartworm treatment is only recommended by veterinarians when the dog is not a candidate for treatment that involved melarsomine dihydrochloride.
Does It Work? Natural Heartworm Treatment for Dogs
Some pet owners prefer to seek a more natural form of heartworm treatment. The question is, does it actually work?
The answer is yes, it can work. Here are some natural heartworm treatments that are recommended if you choose to go down this path:
- Herbal heartworm remedy – Amber technology created a product called HWF. It helps clean out the cardiovascular system.
- Herbal heartworm formula – Steve Marsden created a formula that breaks down dead worms.
- Homeopathic heartworm protocol – Dr. Deva Khalsa created a remedy that targets healing in various parts of the dog’s body.
- Constitutional homeopathic treatment – Veterinarians bring your dog’s vital force into balance so their own healing process can beat the worms.
- Black walnut and wormwood – herbs that have been known to effectively help heartworm disease.
Common Heartworm Treatment Side Effects
Unfortunately, with all forms of treatments that involve medication or even more holistic approaches, there can be side effects that may occur. You have to remember, also, that the worms within your dog’s vital organs are dying, and that can also take a toll on your furry friend.
Common side effects to watch out for during their treatment include:
- Muscle tremors
- Dilated pupils
- Decreased appetite
- Lack of thirst
If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms and you are unsure whether or not it is linked to the heartworm treatment, consult your local veterinarian immediately to make sure that the treatment is right for your pet.
Mosquitos Can Be Deadly so the Sooner the Heartworm Treatment, the Better!
Who knew that mosquitos could be so dangerous to our furry friends? And unfortunately, you can’t stop every mosquito from landing on your dog and passing them the heartworms, but there are ways to prevent your dog from contracting the heartworm or preventing it from getting worse.
Make sure to get your dog tested today if they present to you with any of the above symptoms we’ve discussed in the article.
Even if you aren’t sure it might be heartworm (would be easier if they could talk to us), it’s best to consult your local veterinarian to talk about treatment and giving your dog their quality of life back.