It was a warm night, with a gentle breeze. Crickets were singing and fire flies filed the fields with their glow. Fido laid sleeping at your feet. Little did you know this night was going to cost you thousands of dollars.
While you enjoyed the night, swaying your feet in the warm pond water, Fido took a stroll into the brush to do his business. He shook his head fiercely in an attempt to shew a pesky mosquito but it was too late, the welt began to appear at the nape of his neck under his fur.
Several months later Fido went for his yearly physical. The vet asked if he was on Heartworm preventative to which you shrugged your shoulders and shook your head. A Heartworm test was administered and the results were positive.
Heartworm is found in all 50 states and is transferred exclusively by the bite of an infected mosquito. Once an infected mosquito bites and infects its host, roughly 7 months later the larvae matures into adult worms. Heartworms are most prevalent in canines but can also be found in cats, ferrets and other mammals excluding humans.
Once the larvae matures into adult worms they lodge in the lungs, heart, and other blood vessels throughout the body and begin reproducing. Adult worms can grow to be over 12” long and live between 5 to 7 years with an abundance of 250 or more worms in a single infected host.
Symptoms will not present until the disease has progressed and become more advanced. If caught early enough, symptoms will not be present and a blood test is the only way to diagnose and therefore develop a treatment plan.
Symptoms to look for:
There are two approaches to treatment, one more severe and potent but required for quick and complete elimination of worms, especially for more advanced cases. Damage inflicted by the worms is permanent and irreversible so swift treatment is required and expensive. Treatment can range in price from $500 to $2000 depending on location, veterinary clinic providing treatment, severity of disease and the type of treatment administered.
The more potent and more often utilized treatment plan requires a drug called Immiticide. Immiticide contains ingredients such as arsenic. As you can imagine, Immiticide is a very potent and strong drug that can cause symptoms much like someone receiving chemotherapy would experience. The drug is administered in 3 dosages determined by the dogs weight. During treatment and for a time after, the dog needs to be kept inactive with little to no exercise. As the drug works, the worms will die and begin to break apart into large pieces. If a dog undergoing treatment is allowed to exercise, an increase in heart rate will increase blood flow and therefore increase the likelihood that a piece of dead worm will lodge in an artery and cause complication.
The more potent and more often utilized treatment plan requires a drug called Immiticide. Immiticide contains an organic arsenical chemotherapeutic agent. As you can imagine, Immiticide is a very potent and strong drug that can cause symptoms much like someone receiving chemotherapy would experience. The drug is administered several weeks apart in 3 dosages via a shot injected into the lumbar muscles. During treatment and for a time after, the dog needs to be kept inactive with little to no exercise. As the drug works, the worms will expire and begin to break apart into large pieces, exercise can cause blockages and therefore cause severe complications or even death.
The second treatment is a much slower process and often times does not achieve the same effect as Immiticide. Administering a monthly Heartworm preventative such as Heartgaurd will slowly kill Heartworms over a period of 2 years but, again, the damage caused to the vessels during this time is irreversible and will likely result in a shorten life expectancy.
If left untreated, the disease will result in death.
The good news is...
There’s a way to avoid the little buggers all together! It’ll cost you roughly $12 a month and taste like a treat to your dog. Giving your pup a monthly Heartworm preventive will not only protect them against Heartworm but many also guard against ringworm, round worm and other parasites that could wreak havoc on your pups health and your bank account.
With over 10 years of experience through ownership and rescue work, I hope to share my knowledge and insight to happier, healthier fur kids. Have a question, feel free to ask!