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Heartworm treatment facts including some dangerous myths

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Heartworm treatment in dogs

Nothing causes more distress than when one of our furry friends gets sick. Dog owners as well as cat owners want the best health for their beloved family members. Heartworm is a serious condition that can take you by surprise so you’ll want to be familiar with heartworm treatment and prevention as well as some dangerous myths that abound about hearworms.


How do dogs get heartworm?

Heartworm is spread to dogs when a mosquito that carries the larva or egg of the worm bites. Once bitten it can take up to 7 months for the eggs to hatch inside your dog and the incidence of infection is on the rise.

After the eggs hatch into worms they invade your dog’s organs, wrapping around the heart and lungs and other blood vessels; sometimes reaching as much as

The result is your dog will cough, have trouble breathing, show signs of fatigue and, if left untreated, your beloved friend with die.

Heartworm treatment can be costly. Your dog could become infected again, making heartworm prevention rather than treatment the very best option.

What is the treatment for heartworms?

Heartworm treatment involves administering an arsenic based product that kills the worms. Without the treatment worms continue to lay eggs and hatch. Some heartworms can break apart during treatment and cause even more health issues for your pup.

During treatment owners must keep the dog quiet. Exercise, not the treatment itself has been shown to be the cause of death in dogs according to some studies.

Part of the treatment is assessing your dog with lab work and x-rays to determine if your dog is healthy enough to even take medication needed to eradicate the worms.

Heartworm treatment can cost up to $1000. Heartworm prevention, in comparison, is much less costly.

Depending on your dog’s overall state of health, hospitalization for one day or weeks might be necessary.

Medication used for heartworm treatment is Immiticide that is administered while your dog is hospitalized.

The medication does have health risks and pet owners must make careful decisions for heartworm treatment. I urge you to perform an internet search from reliable websites to gather the best information you can, which leads us back to the importance of heartworm prevention.

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Extreme cases of heartworm could require surgery as a life saving measure from a condition that can develop known as Caval Syndrome.

Heartworm treatment options can vary depending on the severity of your dog’s infection.

Heartworm Prevention

Dog owners want the best for their pets, of course. You might find information suggesting using natural heartworm prevention that repels mosquitoes and can prevent bites.

Products that stop mosquitoes from biting can be used as an adjunctive, but there is no evidence that the products work - another dangerous myth that pet owners might find compelling.

So called natural products are also not FDA approved, because there are no studies showing they are absolutely effective.

Your dog, even with heartworm prevention, should be tested annually before giving heartworm prevention medications - this includes dogs that are indoor pets.

An often overlooked myth is that indoor pets won’t get heartworms.

Administering heartworm prevention to a dog that is already infected could prove to be fatal.

Available prevention options for heartworm in dogs include:

  • Trifexis
  • Heartgard Plus
  • Iverhart Max
  • Revolution
  • Tri Heart Plus

Heartworm in Dogs: Facts and Myths
10 Myths about Heartworms
American Veterinarian

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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