Dog Heartworm Disease

Disease

Mosquitos transmit heartworms from pet to pet when they feed. The larval stages develop in the blood stream into adult worms that live in the heart and pulmonary vessels, in the lungs. Heartworm preventative kills off the larval stage before it develops into the adult worm.

Diagnosis

Antigen test looks in the blood for the presence of female heartworms. Its takes 6 to 7 months for the microfilariae to develop into an adult and the test will only show a positive result when they are adults. Microfilariae tests looks for microfilariae in the blood, about 30% of positive dogs will show microfilariae. This depends on the severity of infection. Imaging diagnostics like thoracic radiographs will show structural changes caused by heartworms. They cannot determine if the pet is positive or negative as the structural changes are irreversible. This is due to the inflammation of the vessels and dilation of the heart caused by the heartworms.

Treatment

The recommended treatment is the split dose protocol or also known as the “fast kill” protocol. The Patient starts out on a monthly Heartworm preventative to halt the development of more heartworms. They will continue this for the rest of their life. During the first month, they will be on Doxycycline or Minocycline to weaken the adult heartworms. Then they will be given a dose of Melarsomine to kill off the weak and older heartworm after they finish the Doxycycline or Minocycline.  They will also start on steroids to decrease inflammation. A month later, they will get two doses of Melarsomine 24 hours apart to kill of the remaining heartworms. Throughout this protocol and 6 weeks after the last dose of Melarsomine, they will need to be on strict rest.

The other treatment option is called the “slow kill” protocol, which is not recommended by the American Heartworm Society. The difference in this treatment plan is that you do not give any doses of Melarsomine. The patient is still put on monthly heartworm preventative and given Doxycycline or Minocycline. This weakens the adult heartworms, shortens their life expectancy, and prevents new heartworms from forming. The average heartworm lives 5 to 7 years. The patient needs to be strictly rested until tested negative for heartworms.

There are no “natural” or herbal therapies shown to be safe and effective prevention or treatment for heartworm disease.

Differences

The “fast kill” protocol usually takes 4 to 5 months while the “slow kill” protocol could last between 2 to 7 years. The patient needs to be on bed rest during the entire protocol so the “fast kill” protocol will have the patient back to normal activity sooner. Also, the “fast kill” protocol is shorter; there is a less time for irreversible damage to the heart, lungs, and pulmonary vessels to occur. The “slow kill” protocol is initially cheaper but could become more expensive depending on the duration of the treatment and if other issues arise due to the presents of heartworms.

Written by Kelsey McKenna, DVM

No form settings found. Please configure it.

Office Hours

Our Regular Schedule

Monday:

7:00 am-7:00 pm

Tuesday:

8:00 am-5:30 pm

Wednesday:

8:00 am-5:30 pm

Thursday:

7:00 am-5:30 pm

Friday:

8:00 am-5:30 pm

Saturday:

Closed

Sunday:

Closed

Location

Find us on the map

Testimonials

Read What Our Clients Say

  • "Dr. Cox and Dr. McKenna are amazing people! I am so thankful to have such well trained and kind people caring for my fur babies. My sweet old girl, Ruby needed special care and they knew exactly what to do! I can not thank them enough for being so kind when this doggie mommy was freaking out! Love you guys!!"
    Catherine B.

Featured Articles

Read about interesting topics

  • Sugar Gliders

    Thinking of getting a sugar glider? These tiny marsupials are energetic and friendly, making them popular choices as pets. Though they weigh less than a half-pound, they're more closely related to kangaroos than they are flying squirrels. If you think a sugar glider would make an ideal pet for your family, ...

    Read More
  • Prairie Dogs

    Prairie dogs are cute, affable creatures. But before taking one on as a pet, check your local laws. In some states, such as Colorado, it's illegal to keep prairie dogs as pets. Mostly, this is because they may spread monkeypox. If you live in a state that welcomes pet prairie dogs, be sure to buy from ...

    Read More
  • How to Help Your New Cat Feel Welcomed in Your Home

    Adopting a cat or kitten? Here's what you can do to help your cat adjust to its new home. ...

    Read More
  • Skunks

    Home and Veterinary Care for Pet Skunks If you're an adventurous pet owner, you may love exotic animals such as skunks. You'll be happy to learn that skunks can indeed make excellent domestic pets, but only if they receive the proper care to enjoy a happy, healthy life. Your veterinary team can help ...

    Read More
  • Flying Squirrels

    Much like sugar gliders, flying squirrels make affectionate pets when purchased young and raised by their owner. Unlike sugar gliders, however, flying squirrels are rodents that need veterinary care specific to the species. Your veterinary team can help with the care and treatment of flying squirrels. ...

    Read More
  • Fennec Foxes

    Fennec Fox Care Guide With oversized ears and mischievous faces, fennec foxes are cute as can be. But these exotic pets require a lot of care to stay healthy and happy. Health At just three pounds, fennec foxes are the smallest member of the fox family. Native to the Sahara desert, fennec foxes are ...

    Read More
  • Fish

    If you’re thinking of getting a pet fish, you should know that your veterinarian has a lot of good advice about pet ownership. Fish can be very rewarding as pets, and you just may be surprised about how much fish actually interact with their owners. Here’s more valuable information about choosing ...

    Read More
  • Snakes

    If you’re looking for a low-maintenance pet, then you might be interested in owning a snake. However, there are a few aspects of owning a snake that you need to be aware of before you make this type of commitment. Here’s what you need to know. What to Know Before Choosing a Pet Snake Before you purchase ...

    Read More
  • Domestic Pigs

    Pigs are great for families who want a relatively exotic but easy to care for a pet. Whether miniature, like a pot-bellied pig, or a full-sized animal, caring for a pig is similar to caring for a cat or dog. Health Domestic pigs need to see a veterinarian regularly for vaccinations and checkups. We ...

    Read More
  • Gerbils

    Gerbils are great little pets for pet owners who don't have room for a dog or cat. They're friendly and fun to watch, but they do take a moderate level of care and investment. If you're thinking of getting a gerbil, here's what you'll need to know to keep him happy and healthy, including giving him a ...

    Read More

Newsletter Signup

Sign up for more articles