Heartworm Disease Exposed

Worms in a Dog's Heart

I do my best to read through the comments and address the concerns of the readers as I become aware of them.  Often times, many people have the same concerns and also quite often previous blogs have been written that discuss these topics!  Be sure to scroll through our blog to find other good information when you are in need.  Sometimes I will rewrite articles on the same subject, but I want to keep things new and current.  Recently pleaded with, to write an article on Heartworm Disease and I could feel the sincerity!  So, in order to help save the lives of more dogs, please read on!

Heartworm is a parasitic round worm (a thread like filarids) that is spread from host to host (dog to dog) through the bites of mosquitoes.  The disease spreads by mosquitoes that become infected when they bite an infected dog.  While in the mosquito, the microfilaria mature into the infective larvae stage.   When the mosquito then bites another animal, the larvae are deposited and migrate to the new host.  The worms live in the arteries, the lungs and occasionally in the right side of the heart.

People in colder climates become complacent because heartworm disease may not be as prevalent, however, dogs move with their families all over the country…there may be someone in your neighborhood with a dog that just moved from the South and the dog maybe positive for heartworms and a carrier for the disease.

Ultimately there are no safe geographical areas when it comes to heartworm disease, it has been diagnosed in all 50 states!  Heartworm is serious and potentially fatal!  Anywhere there are mosquitoes there is risk of heartworm disease.

The Signs

The clinical signs of heartworm may not be recognized in the early stages sometimes it takes months or years.  Dogs that are recently exposed may exhibit no signs at all.

Heavily infected dogs may:

Can be Your Dog's Worst Enemy

  • Cough
  • Fatigue easily
  • Be reluctant to exercise
  • May have a decreased appetite
  • Show signs of weight loss

Detection

Heartworm is usually detected with blood tests taken by your veterinarian.  Most vets use an antigen test, however worms can also be seen on x-ray, ultrasound, and even swimming in the blood sample of heavily infected dogs!

Prevention

Heartworm disease is totally preventable!  It is best to talk with your veterinarian about the best possible drugs for your geographical area.  Your vet has the best and latest information on efficacy of products available.  Prevention is easy, safe and inexpensive when administered on a timely schedule.  The medications interrupt the heartworms development before the adult worms reach the lungs and cause disease.

Treatment

Treatment can be effective and can save lives, however heartworm treatment is extremely expensive and can, in severe cases, cause death.   Adult heartworms are killed using an inject able drug through a series of treatments.  Dogs must be exercise restricted and walked on leash for 2 months or more throughout the treatment.  Prevention is much better than treatment!

If you read only one section in this article READ THIS!

Dogs can be infected and not show a positive test until 7 months after infection has occurred!  Most vets recommend yearly heartworm tests for this exact reason let your dog be tested yearly even while on prevention  so that the disease can be detected and treated early if possible!  Most of these tests also test for other diseases like Lyme and Ehrlichia which are tick borne diseases.

When I was a technician, most of the major drug companies guaranteed their products (if purchased through your veterinarian, NOT purchased from drug companies online where the storage and condition cannot be verified), if you can provide proof of purchase on a timely manner, year round and reasonable administration the drug companies will pay for treatment.

Life Cycle of the Heartworm

Heartworm medication should be administered year round.   Even in cold climates the administration of drugs is beneficial, they also often provide important de-wormings to keep your family safe.  Mosquitoes don’t function on a set schedule, they flourish if the temperatures get a little warmer in February or March or stay a little longer in November or December.  It is best to be safe and give it year round.

Keep your dog safe by practicing prevention!  Ask for yearly heartworm tests, and keep records of your purchases and when you administered the drugs and be diligent about sticking to a schedule!  You can keep your dog safe if you stick to a regiment and arm yourself with knowledge!

 

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Comments

  1. Jana Rade says:

    Yes, heartworm is one of the nasty ones.

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  2. Alice Fonda Henson Workman says:

    Thank you; I appreciate this, so do Piccola, Scout, and Bowser all are now 1 year survivors. Rodney would have appreciated it, too. I hope everyone pays attention; it was a horrible way to lose a dog we loved.

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  3. bayo says:

    My 9month old gsd dog died late last year,and i suspect he died of this infection,cause he was vomiting a whitish substance,then after a while he started vomiting blood and died.my vet tried all she could to save his life but all the injections and drugs he was given just didnt work. although it was an emergency case.Now i av two female gsd and i must make sure i take every important step to prevent them from dis deadly disease.

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    Blake Reply:

    Gsd is a herding dog they have a good chance of having the mdr1 gene which combined with heartworm preventatives could kill them (they have lists on all potentially effected breeds with this gene DONT ALWAYS TRUST YOUR VET THEY WERE FEEDING MY DOG HEARTGAURD WITHOUT EVER HAVING HIM TESTED me being a new dog owner didn’t know about this until now going to get him tested before giving him any more meds also vets are paid by these companies to sell there products such as low quality dog foods DONT FEED YOUR DOGS BY-PRODUCTS,CORN, AND WHEAT

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  4. David Robinson says:

    I find it most interesting that most of the marketing…and this article is just that….marketing….Why do I say it is marketing because there sale pitch is a sales pitch on the sales pitch…
    So here we have a lot of words and nothing critical is said or offered…
    The question remainse what is it it you use to prevent heart worm…you never really say…
    Absured

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    Minette Reply:

    The article is meant to be educational about the concerns of heartworm disease and the need to prevent the disease year round for the lifetime of the dog and to get yearly tests to make sure your dog is safe.

    Your veterinarian will prescribe the medications she sees fit that best fits the geographical area you live in. Not all medications are prescribed in the same areas. Visit your vet to get on the best meds for your dog!

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  5. Peggy says:

    I don’t think giving your animals drugs (chemicals) to prevent a disease is the smart way to go. Are you trading possibly cancer for the possible heartworm disease? Cancer is running rampant in our beloved pets as bad as it is in humans. Is there a natural way to prevent heartworms?

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    Minette Reply:

    You would have to speak with your veterinarian, however I have seen heartworm disease in its most dire form and I have seen it kill dogs.

    I personally would rather take the risks and keep my pets safe from a known killer.

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    Peggy Reply:

    The vet, unless it’s a holistic vet is going to push drugs just like medical doctors. I’m sure there is something out there to prevent and cure heartworms holistically. I would prefer to give them something safer than chemicals to prevent a disease they MIGHT get. Could you research that and
    advertise the holistic way also? Then people would have a choice.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I would only trust advice coming from a veterinarian! People who are not as well educated but well meaning often give false information.

    Here is a link to the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association http://www.ahvma.org/ where you can find a holistic vet in your area or online that can answer your questions and meet your needs.

    In the long term, I will continue to research the holistic approach and update you as I find information.

    Erika Beckers Reply:

    Garlic, I give my three dogs Garlic Tablets – you can give it so, there are chewable, or make them to powder and put it on their food. The dogs smell like garlic but no bug will bader them and the dogs like it. Every year they get their HARTWORM test, until now everything was fine. We live in Wisconsin!
    Garlic is no garantie, but the expenciv Hartworm prevention medication are not either. Erika

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Be careful, garlic can cause toxicity to dogs in large amounts, if in doubt contact your vet!

    http://www.vetinfo.com/dtoxin.html

    [Reply]

    Erika Beckers Reply:

    About this Garlic Tabletts, on the bottle is mensioned how much you could give your dog, by the weight of the dog.
    I have a Maltese (7 lb.), a Shephard/Colly mix (56 lb.) and a German Shepherd (85 lb.)
    Too much is not good from anything. Erika

    TSN Reply:

    Just watch one of your beloved pets die of this horrible disease and you will never skip heart worm medicine again. I found out my beloved black lab had heartworms at the age of 5 because I “couldn’t afford” the cost of the medication. I took him to A&M Veterinary college to a vet that I knew and trusted. My dog would not let them in the cage to be treated after the initial dose of arsenic which is what it takes to kill those nasty worms in the dogs heart. He lasted another 4 years and the last 6 months was a daily debate on whether to put him out of his misery. The once robust dog that loved retrieving tennis balls and playing in the hose more than life itself was hunched over, coughing and did not have enough energy to run across the yard. I felt so guilty when I finally put him down that I held him and cried for two hours in the vet’s office. I now have two poms and an 8 month old black lab puppy and I NEVER miss their heartworm medicine no matter what it cost.

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    Minette Reply:

    Thank you for sharing that! I know how hard that must have been, but your words here will save lives!

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    TSN Reply:

    Well, I used to be one of those people who thought my dogs would never get heart worms. It is an ugly, ugly death for a dog. In the end he could barely walk and peed every time he got up and coughed almost constantly. I slept with him the last night he was home and I apologized to him a thousand times for being so stupid. All three of my dogs at the time were diagnosed with heartworms and the arsenic treatments cured the other two but after the first injection, he would bark and growl and bite so they couldn’t give him any more. They have to stay still for a few weeks after the treatment and I do believe they were never the same after that. The worms put holes in their hearts and they never have the same amount of energy or stamina after that. If one person that reads this decides to keep their dog from getting heartworms by giving them the medication every month then I will be a happy girl knowing they won’t go through what my family went through because of my stupidity.

    I’m a nurse and those people that talk about it’s cruel to give their dogs “chemicals” every month should shut up and listen. Would you deny your parents or kids medication if they had congestive heart failure? Medication are chemicals and that is basically what heartworms does to a dog – makes their heart weak where it can’t pump blood through their body any more. You just have to watch one pet die to convince you but why do that? Why not be smart and proactive and save your kids from losing their dog?

  6. Evast says:

    You spoeke around the treatment, never mentioned what and how.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    That is up to your veterinarian and the specifics of how pronounced and advanced the disease is, treatment should be catered to fit the needs of each dog. However restricted activity and keeping the dog indoors most of the time is a must!

    [Reply]

    Erika Beckers Reply:

    The treatment is injection with Arsenic. It kills the worms but possible the dog as well! And kost a lot!
    So prevention is much better. Erika

    [Reply]

    TSN Reply:

    Here in Texas it is 3 injections of arsenic and they have to stay quiet for a few weeks because their heart is so weak after the treatment. The cost is expensive too $350-$500 depending on where you go and how big your dog is. It takes a few years for your dog to die if left untreated. It took 4 for my lab but they are never the same. It is just like a person with heart problems, they keep getting weaker and weaker.

    [Reply]

  7. Trysh says:

    I AM a veterinarian in a semi-rural area in Florida and we diagnose at least one case of heartworm disease every week. It can even occur in cats! This is a very informative article and I thank you for taking the time to write. I would like to make a couple of comments to the above blogs. First of all, to David Robinson who felt this was a marketing ploy, I would say that if it truly were there would have been a specific brand of preventative named and there wasn’t. Although I am schooled in Western Medicine I am completely open to alternative and holistic modalities and in all my research I have never found a reliable alternative to the commercial heartworm products that are available. To all of those who have concerns about putting “chemicals” into their pets’ bodies…I say, yes, unfortunately, it takes “chemicals” to kill parasites. But even herbal supplements could be considered a source of chemicals. Most of the drugs we have are derived from some sort of herb or plant. The amount of medication it takes to prevent heartworms is minuscule compared to the dose of medication it takes to kill adult worms in the heart. And, yes, the drug needed to kill the adults worms is a derivative of arsenic. If I have a choice, I would prefer to administer a very small amount of medication monthly rather than give a several injections of a large dose of very strong medication to kill heartworms after the fact. Plus, once you treat the heartworm disease, you will still need to give something to prevent future infections, otherwise your dog may contract heartworms a second time. It happens; especially in the South. I’ve seen it. It is true that we seem to see more cancer now. But you must take into consideration that part of the reason for that is that we have better diagnostic tools and, thanks to the advances in preventative medicine, our pets live longer than they used to. You can’t always prevent cancer. Sometimes it’s just caused by bad luck or bad genes, but it truly is heartbreaking when a dog passes away or has to be put to sleep because of a very preventable disease.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Thank you soooo much for your response! I try to educate my readers from a dog trainer and vet tech point of view! I am not trying to push certain medications as that is up to their vet who can be the only one to prescribe medications and not all medications are safe for all dogs!

    I just want to help people get the information they need to make educated decisions. I too have seen dogs die from heartworm disease when it could have easily been prevented.

    I really appreciate your response! Thank you for doing what you do to love and treat animals!

    [Reply]

  8. Peggy says:

    I talked to a friend that rescued a German Shepherd and found out it had heart worm. She couldn’t afford to do the conventional treatment so she did some research and contacted Grand Adventures Ranch in Arizona. She treated it with Dynamite Herbal Tonic. You give it to them twice a day (sprinkle it on their food) for a week. She had the dog retested and tested negative. It’s also
    for prevention. You give it to them every six months for the 7 day period. It’s also for horses and cats.
    I’m going to get some!

    p.s. Since it’s a powder, I guess if your pet is on dry food you can incorporate some canned food with the dry during the period of the treatment.

    [Reply]

  9. BB says:

    Peggy, I’m skeptical. I looked at the ingredients of this product. It looks like it’s mainly vitamins. I don’t see how it could kill or prevent heartworm and until it’s put to some type of serious scientific testing, I’ll stick to vet approved heartworm medication.

    [Reply]

  10. Shanda says:

    I have a question for a pet professional, I can do without everyones “opinions” please. I give my 3 dogs heartworm preventative every month but sometimes on the 12th, sometimes on the 20th or other days. Do I need to give the medicine on the same day each month or does it not matter as long as im giving it every month??

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Same day each month is recommended so they are getting the appropriate dose every month.

    [Reply]

  11. dave hoover says:

    I just put my German Shepherd asleep for having liver problems. She didn’t have heartworm. I was devastated but now I have found a Shepherd, Belgium Malinois mix who has heartworm. I want her so badly but am a little worried about the heartworm. The shelter told me that she will be treated before she leaves there and come up completely well. It may take about a month they say. I am now a little scared!!! She is about 2 years old and absolutely beautiful and sweet. Do you think I am doing the right thing by her? I hope so but it would be okay if I didn’t get her. Please let me know!!!

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    There is no reason to worry if they do the treatment.

    I have Malinois and they are wonderful!

    Just keep her current on HWP and test her as often as your vet recommends.

    [Reply]

  12. Andy says:

    Does the dog really need X-rays. My dogs has a confirmed HW infection is lab test. My dog is young and acquired HW this fall

    Why not just treat. Even if the heart is enlarged and confirmed via X-ray, what ,besides nothing, is the vet going to do differently. Not treat? The dog is dead either way. Any thoughts.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    x-rays tell you how dangerous treatment is for the dog. If the heart is full of heartworms the treatment needs to decrease in dose but extend over time to more slowly kill the worms and not risk killing the dog.

    [Reply]

  13. Andy says:

    It is such a recent infection and the dog does not demonstrate any symptoms. It’s not like he has been living with this for years
    With that in mind, can the dog be given just the treatment. Everything I have read indicates that that level of infection would take more than 6 months

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Only your vet can give you medical advice.

    [Reply]

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