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Has Your Dog Tested Heartworm Positive?
The most effective treatment for a dog infected with heartworms is to inject an arsenic-based drug called Immiticide. This currently is the only medicine proven effective in killing the adult parasites lodged in the dog’s heart.
Dirofilaria immitis is the parasitic roundworm that causes heart worms in dogs and other animals. The larvae are passed from mosquitoes to dogs.
States with a tropical or humid climate are breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Heartworms are prevalent in these states. However, heartworm disease has now spread through all 50 states.
Immiticide is the only drug licenced by the FDA for the treatment of dogs who are infected with adult heart worms. The drug is injected in two sites in the hip area. The injection site will swell and will cause your dog discomfort. The first few days after injection, your dog may be lethargic and may have trouble walking. It is critical to avoid touching the injection site, as it is very painful for the dog. You may want to place your dog’s bed close to the door, so your dog will not have to walk far to go outside.
The Immiticide will kill any adult worms that have taken up residence in your dog’s heart. After the first injection, the following four to six weeks are particularly stressful for the dog and owner. The dog must be prevented from playing, running or getting excited. The dead worms are destroyed by the process of phagocytosis by phagocyte cells in the body.
The dead worms are expelled from the heart in small pieces. If a dog becomes too excited, the heart will pump harder and faster. Expelling the heartworms too rapidly may cause the dead worms to travel to the lungs. This can cause respiratory failure.
The second stage of heartworm treatment is to kill the worm larvae in the dog’s bloodstream. These are immature heart worms that if left untreated will lodge in the heart and grow into adults, causing serious damage to internal organs.
At this point, your veterinarian may allow you to increase your dog’s physical activity to light playing. However, after the second injection, your dog may not feel well for the first few days.
Surgical Removal of Heartworm
Choosing a homeopathic or “natural” heartworm treatment for dogs may not be as effective as conventional treatments. It is best to consult your veterinarian for advice. Unfortunately, these natural treatments are not proven effective with scientific testing methods (please see our article on this subject).
Currently, arsenic-based drugs are the only drug effective in killing adult heartworms.
There are drugs that are capable of killing the larvae and a variety of preventative medicines that can avoid your dog becoming infected. Please refer to the articles in our Heartworm preventatives section for more information on how to protect your dog.
Prevention is best and most cost effective method. Heartworm treatment for dogs infected with adult worms will costs hundreds of dollars.