Vet Blog

What Kills Heartworms in Dogs?

April 17, 2019

If your pet has received the devastating diagnosis of heartworm disease, try not to panic.

Although heartworms can prove fatal, if they are identified early enough and treated, there is every chance that your furry friend will make a full recovery from her ordeal.

What Is the Treatment for Heartworms in Dogs?

The treatment for heartworms in dogs takes place over several stages. In addition to this, your dog may need additional treatment to either stabilize her so that the worms can be eradicated. This is often the case if the heartworm disease has been detected fairly late and is already having a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of your canine. Getting your dog's health stable is essential if the treatment is to be a success.

Exercise Restriction

The first thing that your veterinarian will insist on is restricting your furbaby from any unnecessary physical exertion. The reason for this is because of the additional strain any exercise will place on your dog's heart and lungs, which are already being adversely affected by the heartworm infection. Any physical activity will increase the rate at which these organs are damaged, in addition to making it hard for her heart and lungs to function properly. Your vet will recommend that your dog avoid any physical exertion until stated otherwise by them.

Preparing Your Dog for Heartworm Treatment

Before the treatment itself can begin, your vet may wish to bolster your dog for the process by giving her a couple of medications that will help reduce the like hood that she will have a bad reaction to the death of the heartworms. This is common, particularly if a large number of worms are killed at once and it isn't unheard of for this to cause a dog to go into shock.

Destroying Heartworm Larvae

To completely eradicate a heartworm infection, it is essential to destroy heartworms at every stage of their lifecycle. This means that separate treatment is needed to destroy the microfilaria - heartworm larvae. Fortunately, microfilaria can be dealt with using a heartworm preventative medication. This is something that your dog should be on all year round and must be continued after treating the heartworm infection if your furbaby is to remain protected in the future. Your veterinarian may admit your dog as an outpatient for the day so that she can be closely monitored for a reaction during the treatment.

Killing Adult Heartworms in Dogs

The next step is to kill all of the adult heartworms living inside your dog. The worm burden of a canine can vary immensely, from just a few worms to upwards of 200 depending on how severe the infestation is and how long your dog has been battling it. The drug to kill the adult worms is injected and again, your pet is closely monitored to ensure she doesn't have a bad reaction to the death of the heartworms.

In extreme cases whereby the flow of blood has been completely blocked by heartworms, surgical intervention to remove the parasites may be necessary. This is usually performed as emergency surgery and is a high-risk scenario where not all pets will survive.

After the initial dose of medication to destroy the adult heartworms, a further dose is given around a month later, with a final dose given the day after the second dose. By spreading out the treatment in this way, fewer heartworms are destroyed at once and this means that there is less chance of your dog having a reaction to the process.

When it comes to heartworm, prevention really is the best medicine. Our experienced and knowledgeable veterinarians at The Animal Clinic in Hendersonville, TN understand everything there is to know about heartworms in dogs, including how to treat them and, more importantly, how to prevent them. If you would like more advice, or if you would like to schedule an appointment for your trusted canine companion, please get in touch with our animal clinic in Hendersonville, TN and call us today at (615) 824-0580.