Heartworms & Other Parasites

Heartworm Treatment

Heartworm larvae, transmitted by the bite of the mosquito, travel the bloodstream to lodge in the heart and pulmonary arteries, causing a potentially fatal disease.

Heartworm Is Hard to Treat

Steps in diagnosing and treating heartworm disease:

Step 1

1. Clinical Signs

Dog exhibits sickness with coughing, distended abdomen, listlessness, weight loss and difficulty breathing.

Step 2

2. Testing

Blood and serum tests can confirm the presence of heartworms.

Step 3

3. Evaluation

A thorough medical exam is required, including radiographs and ultrasound, to determine the extent of the disease.

Step 4

4. Medication

In separate appointments, a series of injections of a very potent arsenic-based medication is administered to kill adult heartworms.

Step 1

5. Hospitalization

A stay of 2-3 days is required after the initial treatment. The dog must be kept inactive and closely monitored.

Step 2

6. Surgery

In some cases, surgery may be required to remove extensive heartworm buildup. This is costly and dangerous.

Step 3

7. Confinement

To avoid the possibility of dead heartworms causing a stroke, the dog must not exercise and be kept in a cage or small room for up to 2 months.

Step 4

8. Survival

Subsequent blood tests and other tests are required to confirm the success of the treatment. Not all dogs will survive this grueling treatment regimen.

Ask your veterinarian

Because of the regional and climate-dependent nature of the heartworm cycle, it is crucial to consult your veterinarian before giving any medication to your pet. Your veterinarian is your best reference, with expert knowledge of the heartworm life cycle and transmission patterns in your region, along with the individual health and activity profile of your dog.

Test your pet

Before starting a preventive program, all dogs that could possibly be affected with mature heartworms should be tested, as some preventive medicines may cause severe reactions in dogs that are already hosts to adult heartworms. A dog that is on a preventive medicine should be tested routinely to ensure ongoing protection—especially when a dose has been missed or forgotten.