Heartworm disease is a serious parasitic infection spread by mosquitoes. It can lead to serious medical conditions such as: heart failure, lung disease, and even death. To learn more about the disease itself, click here. However to learn more about the treatment and heartworm medicine for dogs, keep reading this article.
What is the treatment for heartworm disease?
First of all, you need to be aware of the fact that treating heartworms can be risky.
In the past, the drug used to treat heartworms contained high levels of arsenic. Clearly, because of that toxic side effects frequently occurred in dogs.
FDA approved Melarsomine dihydrochloride. It’s available under the trade names Immiticide and Diroban. It treats dogs with class 1, 2, and 3 heartworm disease. But not class 4.
In addition to this, Advantage Multi for Dogs is a topical solution applied to the dog’s skin. It’s FDA approved as well and helps dog get rid of microfilariae.
The treatment is quite expensive and can even cause some serious side effects such as blood clots. These side effects can potentially be life threatening.
Another huge problem is that in most cases the disease is already well developed when diagnosed. At first, most of the symptoms are mild. But when the symptoms get severe enough for the owner to notice them and contact a vet, the heartworms have already caused damage to the lungs, liver, kidney, heart and blood vessels.
In some rare cases the organ damage can be so severe that it no longer even makes sense to treat the hearworms, only the damage that they have done. As dog’s with this serious of a condition wouldn’t be able to go through the conventional therapy.
However, your vet will be the one advising you on the best possible treatment for your dog. As dark as the possible scenarios we just mentioned are, remember that it gets this severe only in rare cases.
Heartworm medicine for dogs
One of the most commonly given medications for heartworm disease is melarsomine (brand name Immiticide®). It kills adult heartworms in the heart and adjacent vessels.
It’s administrated in a series of injections. Your vet will be the one deciding on the number and schedule of the injections.
Most dogs receive an initial injection, followed by a 30-day period of rest. After that two more injections are give only 24 hours apart.
Antibiotics such as doxycycline are also often given to dogs to combat potential bacterial infections.
After the treatment, complete rest is advised.
How does the heartworm medicine for dogs work?
After injecting the medicine, adult worms die in just a matter of days. Slowly, they will start to decompose and will be carried to the lungs. There they lodge in the small blood vessels and are eventually reabsorbed by the body. This resorption can take from several weeks to even months. Complications and side-effects are in most cases caused by these fragments of dead heartworms.
It’s absolutely crucial for your dog to rest as much as possible during this time. He won’t be allowed to exercise for the next month following the injections.
The first week after the treatment will be the one when most of the worms are dying. You may notice your dog coughing for up to eight weeks, especially if the infection was heavy. If the coughing is severe, contact your vet.
If you notice any strange reactions in your dog, contact your vet immediately. Also notify your veterinarian if your dog shows loss of appetite, shortness of breath, severe coughing, coughing up blood, fever, or depression.
Always remember that prevention is the best treatment!
There are different products available for prevention of heartworms, and all require a vet’s prescription. Therefore, talk to your dog’s veterinarian and discuss the best possible prevention for your pup.