Heartworms are parasites that are transferred from one dog to another by mosquitoes. The “baby” worms begin their journey through the bloodstream before landing in the heart and lungs. They can be identified with a blood test six months after the initial infection when they are in the heart.
Can a dog with heartworms be cured?
Heartworm disease in dogs can be cured, but it’s a somewhat time-consuming, difficult, and expensive process.”
Dr. Muller claims that there are injections available to treat heartworm “but, they must be administered regularly, typically twice or three times. Of course, every dog is different, and it can also depend on how serious your pet’s specific condition is.
Furthermore, it’s crucial to remember that dogs with more heartworms may not show any more symptoms than dogs with fewer heartworms. However, the likelihood that they would respond favourably to heartworm therapy with little side effects increases with the severity of the symptoms.
The American Heartworm Society states that treating dogs for heartworms might take several months and uses the following techniques:
- You will need to limit and curtail your dog’s activity. Heartworms are more likely to cause heart and lung damage in active dogs. Your pet should be kept in a box or confined to a single room, and walks should only be taken for bathroom breaks. Your veterinarian can recommend a sedative if you have a dog that is overly excitable in order to keep them relaxed and sleepy.
- If your dog has severe heartworms or other critical medical conditions that could complicate treatment, therapy may be necessary to stabilise their condition before treatment.
- To kill the worms, your veterinarian will probably inject your dog with melarsomine dihydrochloride (trade names Immiticide and Diroban). To eliminate tiny heartworm larvae from your dog’s bloodstream, certain methods call for topical imidacloprid and moxidectin.
- Antibiotics or steroids may also be recommended by your veterinarian.
- If the situation is dire, your dog’s doctor may need to have heartworms surgically removed from his or her body.
- Following treatment, your veterinarian will continue testing for heartworm disease, frequently beginning around six months after treatment has finished.
Should I get a dog that has heartworms?
Not all adopters are interested in adopting a dog who has heartworm. You enter the world of animal rescue when you choose to adopt a dog that has tested positive for heartworms.
In the rural south, we rescue almost 50% of dogs over 2 years old who are heartworm positive, and Texas alone euthanizes 125,000 dogs annually. Every day, overcrowded shelters must pick which animals to euthanize. Heartworm-positive dogs are the first to be put to death due to the poor adoption rates, high expense, and lengthy treatment times.
Let Love Live is one of the few organisations that will accept heartworm-positive dogs because we think that every animal, regardless of breed or medical condition, deserves the chance to find a loving home. Numerous shelters “just rescue the most adoptable pets and ignore the difficult cases.” Not us! You are saving a life that would have been put to death if you decide to adopt a dog that has heartworm. In actuality, you are saving the most vulnerable animals. You are a saviour, not just an adopter!
This manual covers all facets of heartworm illness, available treatments, and what you can anticipate as an adoptive pet owner in terms of success. Additionally, it describes the two distinct adoption programmes we provide for dogs that have tested positive for heartworms as well as the assistance we will provide you and your rescue pet to achieve the best outcome possible.
Not all adopters choose to preserve a heartworm-positive dog, but for those that do, it is an extraordinarily gratifying experience knowing you intervened to save a life that others passed by and were content to let expire.
In the event that a heartworm-positive dog is adopted, Let Love Live offers two programmes:
You will bring the dog home with you if you decide to “Treat-To-Adopt,” just as if you were adopting the animal. However, we offer the drugs required to cure your pet’s heartworm infection under the name “Moxi-Doxy” (see more below). If the animal’s heartworm test at 12 months comes back negative, our medical obligation is over.
We will cover the cost of a second round of “Moxi-Doxy treatment” if the animal tests positive for heartworms 12 months after the initial treatment start date. We will then talk with you about your alternatives if your pet doesn’t respond to the second round of treatment.
While your pet is receiving treatment, we are here to provide you with any assistance or support you may require. Before the pet tests heartworm-free, you are free to return it for a complete refund of your adoption money. There will be no adoption fee refund if you return the animal once the pet’s test results are negative and our standard adoption policies will take effect.
If you select “Adopt-To-Rescue,” you adopt the animal right away just like you would with a regular adoption. You are responsible for all aspects of the animal’s care, including medical care. Your personal veterinarian and you will decide how to proceed with heartworm treatment and what course of action to take.
To help with the expense of your future medical care, we will waive the adoption fee if you select this option, which is normally $125.
By deciding to “Adopt-To-Rescue,” you are joining our team of animal rescuers and freeing up resources for Let Love Live so that we can save additional animals.
You can be proud that when you “Adopt-To-Rescue,” you not only save the animal you adopt but you also help us free up funds to save another heartworm animal that might have been put to death without your love and support!
How is HW treated?
This leaflet offers details on canine heartworm disease therapy. Consult the handouts “Heartworm Disease in Dogs” and “Testing for Heartworm Disease in Dogs” for more detailed information on the causes, transmission, and testing techniques of heartworm disease in dogs.
What causes heartworm disease?
Dirofilariasis, sometimes known as heartworm disease, is a dangerous and possibly fatal condition. It is brought on by the parasite Dirofilaria immitis, which lives on blood.
Infected dogs have adult heartworms in their hearts, pulmonary arteries, and nearby big blood vessels. Worms may occasionally be discovered in other areas of the circulatory system. Female worms are 1/8″ broad and 6-14″ long (15-36cm) in length (3 mm). The size of males is roughly half that of females. When diagnosed, a dog can have 300 worms present.
Infected dogs’ hearts, pulmonary arteries, and nearby big blood vessels all contain adult heartworms.
Heartworm adults can live for up to five years. Millions of microfilaria, the females’ progeny, are produced throughout this period. These microfilariae primarily inhabit the tiny blood arteries.
How is heartworm disease spread?
The disease is not transmitted from dog to dog directly because the mosquito serves as an intermediary host in the transmission process. Therefore, the disease’s spread correlates with mosquito season, which in many regions of the United States can persist all year. The prevalence of heartworm disease in any given area is closely connected with the number of affected dogs and the length of the mosquito season.
My dog has been diagnosed with heartworm disease. What is the treatment?
Although fatalities are uncommon, treating dogs for heartworms carries some risk.
More than 95% of dogs with heartworms can now be successfully treated thanks to a new medication that has fewer adverse effects.
In the past, the medication used to cure heartworms contained significant amounts of arsenic, which usually resulted in toxic side effects. More than 95% of dogs with heartworms can now be successfully treated thanks to a new medication that has fewer adverse effects.
When they are diagnosed, many dogs already have advanced heartworm disease. Consequently, the heart, lungs, blood vessels, kidneys, and liver have sustained significant harm as a result of the heartworms’ protracted presence. Rarely, cases may be so severe that treating organ damage and providing the dog with comfort is preferable than risking the side effects of heartworm treatment. The lifespan of a dog in this condition is most likely limited to a few weeks or months. Your vet will provide you advice on the most effective course of action for treating pets with advanced heartworm illness.
a method to eradicate adult heartworms. To eliminate adult heartworms, melarsomine (marketed under the name Immiticide) is administered via injection. Adult heartworms in the heart and surrounding arteries are killed by melarsomine. A series of injections are used to give this medication. The precise injection schedule will be decided by your vet based on the health of your dog. Most dogs have a first shot, a 30-day rest period after that, and then two further injections spaced 24 hours apart.
In order to prevent infection with the bacteria (Wolbachia) that live inside the heartworm, many dogs will also receive treatment with an antibiotic (doxycycline).
Following treatment, total rest is necessary. Within a few days, the adult worms pass away and begin to rot. In the lungs, where they lodge in the tiny blood vessels after fragmenting, they are finally reabsorbed by the body. The majority of post-treatment difficulties are brought on by these pieces of deceased heartworms, and their resorption can take many weeks to months. The dog must be kept as quiet as possible during this potentially dangerous time and must not be permitted to exercise for one month after receiving the final injection of heartworm medication. Because the worms are dying during the first week following the injections, this period is crucial. Many dogs with severe infections continue to cough for seven to eight weeks following treatment. For treatment alternatives if the cough is severe, contact your veterinarian.
If the dog experiences a major reaction in the weeks after the initial treatment, prompt treatment is crucial, albeit such reactions are uncommon. If your dog exhibits depression, fever, intense coughing, shortness of breath, blood in the cough, or loss of appetite, call your veterinarian right once. Anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics, cage rest, supportive care, and intravenous fluids are frequently effective treatments in these circumstances.
a method to eradicate microfilaria. Your dog will also receive a medication to kill microfilariae in addition to the medication used to treat adult heartworms (heartworm larvae). On the day that this medication is given, your dog might need to stay in the hospital for observation; this could happen either before or after the injections for adult heartworms. Your dog will begin taking a heartworm preventive after treatment.
“Various medications are used in more recent heartworm treatment protocols to kill the microfilariae.”
Various medications are used in more recent heartworm treatment procedures to kill the microfilariae. Based on your dog’s condition, your veterinarian will decide on the best medication and timing for administration.
Are any other treatments necessary?
Prior to receiving treatment for the heartworms, dogs with severe heartworm disease may need to take antibiotics, painkillers, special diets, diuretics to eliminate fluid buildup in the lungs, and/or medications to improve heart function. Some dogs might need lifelong heart failure medication even after the heartworms have been eradicated. Diuretics, heart drugs like beta-blockers, ACE-inhibitors, or cardiac glycosides, as well as specialised low-salt diets, are all examples of this.
What is the response to treatment and the prognosis post-treatment?
Dog owners are frequently taken aback by their dog’s improvement after heartworm treatment, especially if the dog had been displaying clinical heartworm disease symptoms. Many dogs exhibit increased vitality, better appetites, and weight gain.
How can I prevent my dog from getting heartworms?
Using a heartworm preventive will help you keep your dog’s heartworms at bay. After a dog has undergone a successful heartworm treatment, it is crucial to start a heartworm prevention regimen to avoid recurrence. No pet should ever have to deal with the terrifying disease thanks to the safe and economical heartworm preventives that are currently accessible. To find out which heartworm prevention strategy is best for your dog, speak to your vet.
What happens if a dog tests positive for heartworms?
In the United States and many other countries across the world, heartworm illness in pets is a serious and potentially fatal condition. Heartworm disease affects pets and is brought on by foot-long worms (heartworms) that reside in the heart, lungs, and blood arteries nearby. These worms cause heart failure, severe lung disease, and harm to other body parts. Dogs, cats, and ferrets are the most common animals affected by heartworm illness, but heartworms can also infect wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions, and, in rare cases, people. Wild animals like foxes and coyotes are major disease vectors because they frequently reside close to urban areas.
Dogs. The dog serves as a natural host for heartworms, allowing them to develop into adults, reproduce, and create offspring. Dogs have been known to have hundreds of worms in their bodies, and their numbers can grow if left untreated. Heartworm disease damages the heart, lungs, and arteries permanently and can have an impact on a dog’s health and quality of life even after the parasites have disappeared. Due to this, heartworm prevention is by far the best option for canines, and when treatment is necessary, it should be given as early in the course of the illness as feasible. Find out more about canine heartworm treatment.
Cats. Heartworm disease in dogs and cats is significantly distinct from one another. The cat is an unusual host for heartworms because few worms in cats mature to adulthood. Heartworm-infected cats frequently have no adult worms and only one to three adult worms in their bodies. This means that heartworm sickness in cats is frequently misdiagnosed, but it’s crucial to realise that even juvenile worms can harm an animal by causing heartworm linked respiratory disease (HARD). Cats can only be protected from the effects of heartworm disease through prevention because the medication used to treat heartworm infections in dogs cannot be administered in cats.
Ferrets. The parasite that causes heartworm infection in dogs and cats also causes heartworm illness in ferrets. A strange hybrid of the illnesses we find in dogs and cats affects ferrets. Like dogs, ferrets are particularly prone to infection and can have more worms than cats. However, just like cats, due to the smaller size of the heart, even a tiny number of worms, perhaps one, can cause fatal damage. Heartworm disease in ferrets is frequently more challenging to diagnose, and there is no proven cure. For ferrets living inside or outside, prevention is essential.
How is heartworm disease transmitted from one pet to another?
The mosquito is crucial to the life cycle of the heartworm. Microfilaria, tiny baby worms produced by adult female heartworms afflicted dogs, foxes, coyotes, or wolves, circulate in the bloodstream. These tiny worms are picked up by a mosquito when it bites and drinks blood from an infected animal. Over the course of 10 to 14 days, these baby worms grow and mature into “infective stage larvae.” The infectious larvae are then left on the skin’s surface of the new host and enter through the bite wound of the infected mosquito when it bites a different dog, cat, or susceptible wild animal. The larvae take about six months to mature into adult heartworms once they have settled inside a new host. Heartworms can survive once they reach maturity for up to 2 or 3 years in cats and for 5 to 7 years in dogs. Due to the lengthy lifespan of these worms, an infected pet may develop an increasing number of worms with each mosquito season.
What are the signs of heartworm disease in dogs?
Many dogs have little or no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. The likelihood that symptoms will appear increases with the length of the infection. Dogs that are active, have severe heartworm infections, or have other health issues may exhibit strong clinical indications.
A slight chronic cough, resistance to exercise, weariness after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss are all potential heartworm disease symptoms. Pets who have heartworm illness may eventually experience heart failure and a large belly because of an excess of fluid in the abdomen. Large heartworm infestations in dogs can cause sudden obstructions in the heart’s blood flow, which can result in a potentially fatal form of cardiovascular collapse. The symptoms of caval syndrome include dark crimson or coffee-colored urine, pale gums, and an abrupt beginning of difficult breathing. Few dogs survive without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm obstruction.
What are the signs of heartworm disease in cats?
Heartworm disease in cats can manifest in very subtle or very obvious ways. Coughing, bouts that resemble asthma, sporadic vomiting, an inability to eat, or weight loss are just a few symptoms. On rare occasions, a cat with the condition may have trouble walking, faint, have seizures, or develop abdominal fluid buildup. Unfortunately, the cat may suddenly collapse or die as the first symptom in some circumstances.
What are the signs of heartworm disease in ferrets?
Heartworm disease symptoms in ferrets are similar to those in dogs, but because of the smaller size of the ferret’s heart, they manifest more quickly. Dogs may not exhibit symptoms until numerous worms have infected their hearts, lungs, and blood vessels, whereas even one worm can seriously impair a ferret’s ability to breathe. Lethargy (i.e., lethargy, tiredness), open mouth, quick breathing, pale blue or muddy gum colour, and coughing are signs of this distress.
How significant is my pet’s risk for heartworm infection?
Even if heartworms don’t appear to be an issue in your neighbourhood, there are still several things to take into account. Heartworm disease may be more prevalent in your neighbourhood than you realise, or you may unintentionally take your pet to a location where heartworms are more prevalent. Each year, new areas of the nation are becoming infected with the heartworm illness. Heartworms can be carried by stray and neglected dogs as well as some wild animals including coyotes, wolves, and foxes. Heartworm illness is spread by mosquitoes carried far by the wind and by sick animals being moved to previously unaffected areas ” (this happened following Hurricane Katrina when 250,000 pets, many of them infected with heartworms, were “adopted and shipped throughout the country).
Heartworm illness has been identified in each of the 50 states, and risk variables are illogically unpredictable. Infection rates vary significantly from year to year, even within communities, due to a number of factors, including climatic fluctuations and the presence of wildlife carriers. Additionally, both indoor and outdoor pets are at risk since sick mosquitoes can enter buildings.
The American Heartworm Society advises that you as a result “consider 12: (1) Have your pet tested for heartworm every 12 months, and (2) administer heartworm preventative to your pet every month of the year.
What do I need to know about heartworm testing?
Heartworm infection is a dangerous, developing illness. The more quickly illness is discovered, the more likely it is that the animal will recover. When a dog, cat, or ferret is infected with heartworms, there are very few, if any, early symptoms of disease, making it crucial to find them with a heartworm test performed by a veterinarian. The test only needs a tiny amount of blood from your pet, and it works by looking for heartworm proteins. While some vets send the samples to a diagnostic lab, others handle heartworm testing in-house. Results are acquired fast in both situations. Additional testing might be requested if your pet tests positively.
When should my pet be tested?
Dogs. Every dog should get an annual heartworm test, which is typically performed as part of a regular checkup for preventive treatment. The testing and timing recommendations are as follows:
- Although puppies under 7 months old can begin heartworm prevention without a heartworm test (it takes at least 6 months for a dog to test positive after it has been infected), they should be tested 6 months after your initial visit, again 6 months later, and then annually after that to make sure they are heartworm-free.
- Prior to beginning heartworm prevention, adult dogs over 7 months old who had not previously been on a preventive need to be tested. They must also be tested after six months, after a year, and then once a year after that.
- You must seek the advice of a vet, restart your dog’s monthly preventive care right away, and then test him again six months later. Retesting is necessary since it takes around 7 months for heartworms to mature before the illness can be identified.
Even when dogs are treated year-round for heartworms, annual testing is required to make sure the preventative regimen is effective. Although heartworm medicines are quite successful, dogs can still contract the disease. A single missed dose of a monthly medication—or giving it late—can render your dog defenceless. Your dog may spit out or vomit a heartworm tablet or rub off a topical medicine even if you administer it as directed. Although they are very effective, heartworm preventives are not perfect. You won’t know your dog requires treatment if you don’t get your dog tested.
Cats. Since adult heartworms are far less common in cats than in dogs, it is more difficult to diagnose heartworm infection in cats. The most popular screening procedure for cats uses both an antigen and an antibody test (the “antibody test detects exposure to heartworm larvae). X-rays or ultrasounds may also be used by your veterinarian to check for heartworm infection. To document ongoing exposure and risk, cats should be tested before starting a preventive regimen and then again as needed. Heartworm infection in cats has no recognised therapy, thus prevention is essential.
Ferrets. Heartworm disease in ferrets can be harder to diagnose. To show the presence of worms in the heart, your veterinarian may advise both antigen testing and diagnostic imaging, such as echocardiography.