Heartworm is a blood-borne parasite disease in dogs. Known as Dirofilaria immitis, adult worms live in the heart, pulmonary artery, and surrounding large blood vessels of infected dogs. One dog can have as many as 300 heartworms at once. Prevention is the best way to keep your dog safe, but treatment for heartworm is often very successful.
Are you looking for the right vet for your dog? Dr. Neal is an experienced veterinarian in Tucson, AZ. Our team at Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic brings experience and compassion into the examination room. Call 520.889.9643 to schedule an appointment, and keep reading to learn everything you need to know about heartworm treatment for dogs.
How Is Heartworm Disease Spread?
Many dogs with heartworms live with them for a long time before a vet diagnoses the disease. Heartworm transfers through bites from infected mosquitos, meaning it does not spread through other dogs. Infections happen during mosquito season when the mosquito population is the highest.
Prolonged heartworm disease causes damage to the heart, liver, lungs, blood vessels, and kidneys. In the case of severe infection, the best route is to treat organ damage instead of heartworms.
What Is the Treatment for Heartworm?
Treatment for heartworm has a 95% success rate. The veterinarian begins treatment by injecting a drug called melarsomine. This drug kills adult heartworms in the heart and surrounding blood vessels. Most dogs receive one injection followed by 30 days of rest. Next, the vet will administer two more injections 24 hours apart.
Infected dogs will need a second form of treatment that kills heartworm larvae. This can happen either before or after the adult heartworm treatment. On the day they receive this treatment, your dog needs to stay at the vet to ensure that they have no adverse reactions to the medication.
Dogs who receive treatment experience increased energy, improved appetite, and healthy weight gain. After recovery from treatment, your dog will start a heartworm-preventative program. This program focuses on stopping an infection from happening in the future.
What Should I Do After Treatment?
Watch your dog and help them rest while they recover from the treatments. As adult heartworms die, they go to the lungs and lodge themselves in the small blood vessels. Reactions like mild coughing are common while the body absorbs the dead heartworms.
Possible severe side effects include:
- Excessive panting
- Difficulty breathing
- Lack of appetite
If this occurs, contact your vet immediately. Even with treatment, some dogs may need lifelong treatment for heart failure.
After successful treatment, your vet may recommend you start a program for heartworm preventives to protect your dog against future infections. Ask your vet about which heartworm-preventative program is best for your pet.
Learn More About Heartworm Treatment for Dogs
Treatment for heartworm is vital to save your dog’s life. At Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic, experienced staff brings compassion into every part of treatment. Visit us online to learn more about the services we provide and find the answers to questions like why your cat keeps scratching furniture. Call 520.889.9643 to schedule an appointment with Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic.