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- Heart worm disease is EASY to prevent. A simple, relatively inexpensive, monthly medication available from your veterinarian will keep your dog safe. There are several different brands. If the brand your veterinarian recommends for your pet is too expensive, ask for a generic brand. Your monthly cost per dog can range from $3 to $15 depending on the size of your dog, the brand you choose, and the quantity you buy. This is a small price to pay to keep your dog healthy. As an added bonus, many heart worm preventatives also double as flea preventatives and are also effective against certain intestinal parasites. All dogs who live here on the Texas Gulf Coast should be on YEAR-ROUND monthly heart worm preventative.
- Heart worm disease is EXPENSIVE and DIFFICULT to treat. Once your dog is infected, treatment will be expensive and difficult. The good news is that most heart worm treatments are successful. A heart worm treatment must be done under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian. You will need to be able to restrict your dog’s exercise until the treatment is complete. This is necessary because physical exertion can increase the rate of damage the heart worms will do to your dog’s heart and lungs. Your veterinarian will administer a series of injections of melarsomine (trade name Immiticide), the only drug approved for treatment of heart worm in dogs. Depending upon the severity of your dog’s symptoms, your veterinarian may also administer other medications along with the treatment, including antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and pain medications. You will need to continue giving your dog a heart worm preventative before, during, and after treatment to avoid re-infestation. Heart worm treatments can range in cost from around $200 for a small dog with no symptoms of disease to $2,000 or more for a larger dog with advanced heart worm disease.
- There is no such thing as a “slow kill” treatment for heart worms. “Slow kill” refers to the practice of administering a heart worm preventative to a heart worm positive dog. Over time, the dog may test negative for heart worms. However, heart worm preventatives do not kill adult heart worms or treat heart worm disease. While you are waiting for a heart worm negative test result, the adult heart worms will live out the remainder of their lives in your dog’s heart and lungs and continue to do damage to these vital organs. Adult heart worms can live up to five years as they continue to wreck havoc on your dog’s heart and lungs.
- Some dogs are not good candidates for heart worm treatment. Some dogs are too high-energy or too easily stressed to be able to keep their physical activity restrained. Some dogs are in such poor health condition at the time of diagnosis that they cannot withstand a heart worm treatment.
- Dying from heart worm disease is a terrible way to die. Unfortunately, by the time a dog has clinical signs of heart worm disease, the disease is usually quite advanced. As the heart worms live and grow inside your dog’s body, they begin to clog the heart and the major blood vessels leading from the heart. Blood supply to your dog’s vital organs is greatly reduced, causing these organs to malfunction and die. Reduced lung functions will cause your dog to become short of breath and lose stamina. He will begin to have a short, dry cough and seem weak or listless. As the disease progresses, your dog may experience congestive heart failure, and your dog’s chest, abdomen, and legs will begin to swell with accumulation of fluid. Your dog will begin to loose weight and may become anemic. The cough will become painful and productive, as your dog begins to cough up blood and fluid that has pooled in his lungs. At this point, any exertion at all could cause your dog to suddenly die. If sudden death does not occur, your dog will become more and more lethargic as his breathing becomes more labored and he will eventually die as the disease overcomes him.
In honor of Heartworm Awareness Month, we will be posting new information throughout the month. Please check back with us frequently to find out everything YOU need to know to protect your pet’s heart!