Heartworm disease is a life-threatening problem in dogs. There are many medications available to cure it. This article will make you aware of the different treatment measures.
Heartworm or Dirofilaria immitis is a parasite that lodges itself in the right chamber of the heart, the pulmonary artery, and the vena cava. It finds its way into the canine body through a mosquito bite. Mosquitoes bite an infected dog and suck the blood containing microfilariae, the baby heartworms. This mosquito in turn bites another dog and introduces the microfilariae into it. The heartworm larvae migrates to the heart of the dog and grows into an adult in about 6 months. The female heartworm lays live microfilariae, which circulate in the blood only to be picked up by a mosquito, and injected into another dog in the same way.
In about four months, the microfilariae reach the heart and within two months, they develop into mature adults. The infected dog will exhibit no symptoms during this period. The symptoms are displayed according to the dog’s immune reaction and the amount of time since the infection. Many times, dogs with low worm infections or inactive dogs exhibit no symptoms at all. It may be years before any heartworm symptoms are exhibited.
The heartworms cause irritation of the heart and the blood vessel walls. This leads to thickening of the vessels resulting in blockage of the blood flow. In any worm infestation, the dog’s overall health deteriorates. The dog initially starts with a simple cough which becomes more severe and faces difficulty in breathing. The other symptoms include lethargy, exercise intolerance, and anemia. Heartworms may also cause heart failure, leading to death. If the worm lodges itself in the liver, the symptoms may include jaundice, loss of appetite, and collapse.
The vet may want to run a few tests before diagnosing heartworm in your dog. He may look for changes in the heart functioning with the help of chest X-rays. He may even conduct a blood test before deciding an appropriate treatment for the dog.
The vet may first evaluate the degree of the spread of disease. It helps him to decide a specific treatment for the dog. This disease in dogs is divided into three classes:
Class One: Asymptomatic to mild heartworm disease symptoms
Class Two: Moderate heartworm disease symptoms
Class Three: Severe heartworm disease symptoms
There are different treatment measures available for heartworm in dogs, depending on the severity of the disease. If the infection is asymptomatic or mild, then 2 injections of Immiticide are given 24 hours apart. A series of 3 injections of Immiticide can also be given initially. Then, after 30 days, 2 injections of Immiticide are given 24 hours apart. The second line of treatment kills the heartworms slowly. It causes less damage to the dog’s lungs and there is also lesser risk of complications. The vet will decide the treatment that best suits your pet dog.
There are many heartworm medicines for dogs that are given along with Immiticide injections. These include ivermectin product, like Heartgard Plus. The medicine is given 2-3 months before the first dose of Immiticide injections. Alternative treatment may include doxycycline, which can be given 30-60 days prior to Immiticide injections. After the injections, there should be strict cage rest for your dogs for about 4-6 weeks. This helps reduce stress on the heart and lungs of your dog.
Other alternative treatment includes a monthly routine of ivermectin-based heartworm preventive medicines. Ivermectin has relatively less risk of complications in dogs. The dogs should be kept under observation for 6 to 12 hours after the initial dose of ivermectin to prevent any adverse side effects. This medication kills the microfilariae in the bloodstream. The adult heartworms present in the heart will die eventually. This process may take years and your dog’s heart will be at risk till the worms are alive.
Possible Side Effects of Drugs
Side effects arise mainly due to the body’s reaction to the drugs or the presence of dead worms. These include:
- Pain, swelling, and tenderness at the site of injection
- Lack of appetite
- Excessive drooling
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Death, in extreme cases.
If you observe any of these side effects in your pet, please visit the vet immediately.
Alternative heartworm treatment may include use of homeopathy. Homeopathy is a safe and effective way to treat dog illness. It can efficiently expel the worms and restore the lost appetite. Homeopathy treatments cleanse and detoxify your pet’s digestive system. Many dog owners try natural treatments for heartworm in dogs. There are many herbal medicines available in the market, which support the immune system and liver functioning. It helps restore the lost vitality of the dogs. Please consult your doctor and carry out enough research before choosing any alternative heartworm treatment for your dog.
Heartworm in dogs can be treated using monthly tablets of Revolution. Monthly prevention treatment is the solution of effectively treating it in dogs. Keep your surroundings clean and do not allow mosquitoes to breed around your house. You cannot stop a mosquito from biting your pet, but you can always take precautions to minimize the chances. The responsibility of the overall health of your pet rests on your shoulders. Visit the vet regularly to minimize the chances of any infection.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.