What Is Heartworm Disease In Dogs?

What Is Heartworm Disease In Dogs
Heartworm Disease – What Is It and What Causes It? – Photo courtesy of Matt W. Miller, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM (Cardiology) Photo courtesy of Matt W. Miller, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM (Cardiology) Heartworm disease is a serious disease that results in severe lung disease, heart failure, other organ damage, and death in pets, mainly dogs, cats, and ferrets. It is caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis.

  • The worms are spread through the bite of a mosquito.
  • The dog is the definitive host, meaning that the worms mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring while living inside a dog.
  • The mosquito is the intermediate host, meaning that the worms live inside a mosquito for a short transition period in order to become infective (able to cause heartworm disease).

The worms are called “heartworms” because the adults live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of an infected animal. In the United States, heartworm disease is most common along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from the Gulf of Mexico to New Jersey and along the Mississippi River and its major tributaries, but it has been reported in dogs in all 50 states.

What are the first signs of heartworms in dogs?

What are the signs of heartworm disease in dogs? – In the early stages of the disease, many dogs show few symptoms or no symptoms at all. The longer the infection persists, the more likely symptoms will develop. Active dogs, dogs heavily infected with heartworms, or those with other health problems often show pronounced clinical signs.

  • Signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss.
  • As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen.
  • Dogs with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockages of blood flow within the heart leading to a life-threatening form of cardiovascular collapse.

This is called caval syndrome, and is marked by a sudden onset of labored breathing, pale gums, and dark bloody or coffee-colored urine. Without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage, few dogs survive.

Can heartworm in dogs be cured?

No one wants to hear that their dog has heartworm, but the good news is that most infected dogs can be successfully treated. The goal is to first stabilize your dog if he is showing signs of disease, then kill all adult and immature worms while keeping the side effects of treatment to a minimum.

What happens when a dog gets heartworm?

What are the signs of heartworm disease in dogs? – In the early stages of the disease, many dogs show few symptoms or no symptoms at all. The longer the infection persists, the more likely symptoms will develop. Active dogs, dogs heavily infected with heartworms, or those with other health problems often show pronounced clinical signs.

Signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. Dogs with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockages of blood flow within the heart leading to a life-threatening form of cardiovascular collapse.

This is called caval syndrome, and is marked by a sudden onset of labored breathing, pale gums, and dark bloody or coffee-colored urine. Without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage, few dogs survive.

What puts dogs at risk for heartworm?

What pets should be tested for heartworm? – Because heartworms are spread by mosquitoes, any pet exposed to mosquitoes should be tested. This includes pets that only go outside occasionally. Remember that mosquitoes can also get into homes, putting indoor-only pets at risk as well.

Do heartworms come out in poop?

Myth #3: If my pet has heartworms, I will see them in her feces – Although many worm types, such as roundworms and tiny hookworms, are shed in your pet’s feces, heartworms do not live in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and are not found in feces. Heartworms live in a pet’s heart and surrounding large blood vessels, where they cause significant inflammation, and interfere with normal blood flow.

What causes dogs to have heartworms?

Heartworm Disease – What Is It and What Causes It? – Photo courtesy of Matt W. Miller, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM (Cardiology) Photo courtesy of Matt W. Miller, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM (Cardiology) Heartworm disease is a serious disease that results in severe lung disease, heart failure, other organ damage, and death in pets, mainly dogs, cats, and ferrets. It is caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis.

The worms are spread through the bite of a mosquito. The dog is the definitive host, meaning that the worms mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring while living inside a dog. The mosquito is the intermediate host, meaning that the worms live inside a mosquito for a short transition period in order to become infective (able to cause heartworm disease).

The worms are called “heartworms” because the adults live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of an infected animal. In the United States, heartworm disease is most common along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from the Gulf of Mexico to New Jersey and along the Mississippi River and its major tributaries, but it has been reported in dogs in all 50 states.

Is heartworm contagious from dog to human?

– You can’t get heartworms from your dogs, cats, or other pets — only from mosquitos that carry the infection. Most heartworm microfilariae die on their way through the skin. Even if they do get into your blood somehow, heartworms can’t mature and will eventually die off. In most cases, heartworms in humans aren’t a serious problem unless they cause pain, discomfort, and other noticeable symptoms.

Do dogs live a normal life after heartworm?

Dogs with heartworm disease can live high-quality lives as long as they are given appropriate care. After completing treatment and following your veterinarian’s recommenda- tions on heartworm disease testing and prevention, the chances of any long-term effects are very low.

Can a dog live a normal life with heartworms?

How long does it take for a dog with heartworms to show symptoms? – Some dogs live with heartworms for a long time with little to no outside indicators of infection, especially if they don’t have many heartworms. That said, heartworms have a lifespan of five to seven years, so unfortunately they have plenty of time to wreak havoc on your dog’s system.

Is heartworms painful for a dog?

Is heartworm painful? – Animal Hospital of Statesville. It’s not painful, per se, but they feel sick, uncomfortable, and they’re likely having difficulty breathing. They’re not perfusing very well, so they don’t feel well.

How much does it cost to treat heartworm in dogs?

The American Animal Hospital Association places the average cost of preventative heartworm treatment for dogs at $5-$15 per month, and the cost of treating a dog already diagnosed with heartworm at $400-$1,000. With both prevention and treatment, costs typically increase with the weight of the dog.

What are the chances of a dog surviving heartworms?

My dog has been diagnosed with heartworm disease. What is the treatment? – There is some risk involved in treating dogs with heartworms, although fatalities are rare. “A new drug is available that does not have as many side effects, allowing successful treatment of more than 95% of dogs with heartworms.” In the past, the drug used to treat heartworms contained high levels of arsenic and toxic side effects frequently occurred.

A new drug is available that does not have as many side effects, allowing successful treatment of more than 95% of dogs with heartworms. Many dogs have advanced heartworm disease at the time they are diagnosed. This means that the heartworms have been present long enough to cause substantial damage to the heart, lungs, blood vessels, kidneys, and liver.

Rarely, cases may be so advanced that it is safer to treat organ damage and keep the dog comfortable than it is to risk negative effects associated with killing the heartworms. Dogs in this condition are not likely to live more than a few weeks or months.

Your veterinarian will advise you on the best treatment approach for dogs diagnosed with advanced heartworm disease. Treatment to kill adult heartworms. An injectable drug, melarsomine (brand name Immiticide®), is given to kill adult heartworms. Melarsomine kills the adult heartworms in the heart and adjacent vessels.

This drug is administered in a series of injections. Your veterinarian will determine the specific injection schedule according to your dog’s condition. Most dogs receive an initial injection, followed by a 30-day period of rest, and then two more injections that are given 24 hours apart.

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Many dogs will also be treated with an antibiotic (doxycycline), to combat potential infection with bacteria ( Wolbachia ) that inhabit the heartworm. “Complete rest is essential after treatment. ” Complete rest is essential after treatment. The adult worms die in a few days and start to decompose. As they break up, they are carried to the lungs, where they lodge in the small blood vessels and are eventually reabsorbed by the body.

This resorption can take several weeks to months, and most post-treatment complications are caused by these fragments of dead heartworms. This can be a dangerous period so it is absolutely essential that the dog be kept as quiet as possible and is not allowed to exercise for one month following the final injection of heartworm treatment.

The first week after the injections is critical because this is when the worms are dying. A cough is noticeable for seven to eight weeks after treatment in many heavily infected dogs. If the cough is severe, notify your veterinarian for treatment options. Prompt treatment is essential if the dog has a significant reaction in the weeks following the initial treatment, although such reactions are rare.

Notify your veterinarian if your dog shows loss of appetite, shortness of breath, severe coughing, coughing up blood, fever, or depression. Treatment with anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, cage rest, supportive care, and intravenous fluids is usually effective in these cases.

  • Treatment to kill microfilaria,
  • In addition to the drug that is used to kill adult heartworms, your dog will receive a drug to kill microfilariae (heartworm larvae).
  • Your dog may need to stay in the hospital for observation on the day this medication is administered, and this may be performed either before or after the injections for adult heartworms.

Following treatment, your dog will be started on a heartworm preventative. “Newer heartworm treatment protocols use a variety of drugs to kill the microfilariae.” Newer heartworm treatment protocols use a variety of drugs to kill the microfilariae. Your veterinarian will select the correct drug and administration time based on your dog’s condition.

What time of year are dogs most likely to get heartworm?

Why Testing for Heartworm in Spring is a Good Idea Why do we recommend testing for heartworm in the spring? Heartworm disease, although not currently common in Portland, is a deadly disease found in southern Oregon and other parts of the country that people are likely to travel to with their dogs.

  • The adult heartworms that take up residence in the blood vessels of the heart and lungs start as baby larvae that are transmitted when a mosquito feeds on an infected dog and then goes on to bite another dog.
  • After 6 months of growing through several larval stages, the adult worm produces the antigen that the standard heartworm test screens for.

In other words, a heartworm test won’t detect the presence of heartworm until an adult worm is present, which may take as long as 6 months after the last risk of exposure. In most parts of the country, exposure risk is greatest during the warm months of summer and early fall.

Unless your dog came from or has travelled to parts of the country that maintain a very warm climate throughout the year (Florida, Louisiana, or Texas, for example) it’s very unlikely they would have been exposed to heartworm since the previous October. This is why spring is the best time of year to test for heartworm.

Why test when, in the past, heartworm has not been a threat in Portland? We recommend using a heartworm preventative if you are traveling with your dog outside of Portland and may be entering a heartworm endemic area. A handy resource to check your destination for heartworm prevalence is,

  1. If any doubt, err on the side of prevention.
  2. Confirming a negative heartworm test is essential before embarking on any heartworm preventative strategy.
  3. There is a degree of uncertainty as to why heartworm is rare in Portland and whether it’s a matter of time before it will become a more serious threat.

Climate is a likely factor contributing to the difference in heartworm infections between Portland and places like southern Oregon. Unfortunately it seems like our climate is becoming less predictable and the future risk of exposure is likewise less predictable.

There may be certain situatio ns in which using a heartworm preventative during the summer in Portland may be the right choice. This can be discussed at your pet’s annual exam as part of anindividualized wellness plan. We would be happy to schedule a heartworm test or wellness exam for your dog. Just give us a call.

Wishing you a happy spring! : Why Testing for Heartworm in Spring is a Good Idea

What prevents heartworms in dogs naturally?

Treating Heartworm in Dogs Naturally Some diseases require conventional medications to prevent and treat them, and heartworm is one. But natural therapies can reduce your dog’s risk of being infected. Margaret was shocked when her golden retriever Rudy was diagnosed with heartworm.

“I didn’t think it would be a problem we’d ever have to deal with, so it came as a real surprise.” Rudy recovered with treatment, but the experience made Margaret take heartworm more seriously, and to educate herself about ways to prevent and treat the disease. Heartworm is the most common parasitic infection of the canine circulatory system.

Fortunately, it is easily prevented, and when treatment is necessary, conventional medicines can be integrated with natural therapies. While heartworm can also affect cats, it’s more often found in dogs. Traditional Prevention and Treatment It’s currently recommended that all dogs take monthly heartworm preventive medication.

  1. This is necessary year-round where I live in Texas, but in other parts of North America, the medication is only needed during the warmer months.
  2. Find out how prevalent it is in your area, and ask your vet for guidance on when your companion should take the preventive.
  3. The most commonly prescribed oral medications utilize ivermectin or milbemycin.

While topical spot-on medications can be used, holistic veterinarians tend to prefer the oral monthly variety. That way, the medication only stays in the dog’s body a few days rather than the entire month, which is the situation with spot-on medications.

  1. Compared to other medications, oral heartworm preventives are quite safe.
  2. The dose needed to prevent infection and disease is very tiny, approximately 1/30 of that necessary to treat other parasitic diseases.
  3. Conventional treatment uses a drug called Immiticide (melarsomine), a potent medication that must be given deep in the back muscles of the dog.

While this drug is safer than the one formerly used (Caparsolate, an arsenic compound) it must still be administered carefully under a veterinarian’s supervision since side effects can occur. What About Natural Approaches? In researching my book The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats, I tried to find documented proof of natural remedies recommended for the prevention and treatment of heartworm infection.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that herbs such as garlic, black walnut and wormwood, and the homeopathic heartworm nosode, may actually prevent as well as treat infection. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to find substantive proof that these therapies can reliably and safely prevent or treat infection or disease.

For example, simply because a dog has been given a natural preventive and never develops a positive heartworm test doesn’t prove the therapy works. Many dogs not taking preventive medication, either conventional or natural, will never become infected with heartworms.

The only way to “prove” a natural preventive is to follow the same protocol used to “prove” a conventional medication: administering it to a large group of dogs and then intentionally trying to infect them with heartworm larvae and recording the number of positive and negative cases. The same problem arises when trying to evaluate natural therapies to treat it.

With time, dogs that are not killed by infections will eventually test negative due to the natural death of the parasites. Without treating a large number of heartworm positive dogs with natural therapies, then proving they show a negative result on a heartworm test, it’s impossible to recommend a natural therapy.

Reduce the frequency of vaccinations, feed your dog a healthy diet, and use antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation and oxidation. This will improve your dog’s overall health and make it less likely that infection could develop into heartworm disease. Take your dog for regular veterinary visits and blood tests to allow for early diagnosis. The sooner it’s diagnosed, the less likely the infection will turn into disease. Limit your dog’s exposure to mosquitoes. They can be controlled naturally with citrus oils, cedar oils, and diatomaceous earth. Dogs needing conventional treatment may benefit from herbs such as milk thistle and homeopathics such as berberis; these minimize toxicity from the medications and dying heartworms.

In my practice, monthly oral heartworm preventives combined with minimal vaccines, a natural diet, and a sound nutritional supplement regimen work very well to prevent infection. The rare dogs I see with heartworm disease do best when conventional treatment is combined with nutritional supplements, herbs, and homeopathics to support their immune systems and detoxify the byproducts of the medication.

Infection vs. Disease There is a difference between heartworm infection and disease. Dogs infected with the parasite but not showing clinical signs are considered to have heartworm infection rather than heartworm disease. These dogs are less likely to have side effects from therapy because they are not currently sick.

Dogs with heartworm disease show clinical signs and must be treated more carefully. : Treating Heartworm in Dogs Naturally

What is the most effective way to prevent heartworm?

How do I prevent my pet from getting heartworms? – The best way to prevent heartworms is through a regular heartworm preventative such as Interceptor Plus, Heartgard Plus, or Trifexis given strictly according to directions on the box and given regularly.

  • It is also imperative to have your pet tested yearly for heartworms while on preventative.
  • Heartworm preventatives are highly effective, but dogs can still become infected.
  • If you miss just one dose of your monthly medication – or give it late – it can leave your dog unprotected.
  • If your pet is found to have heartworms and has been on regular, documented preventative – Heartgard, Interceptor, and Trifexis will cover the cost of heartworm treatment.
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Heartworm treatment can cost upwards of $1,000. This will buy you about 7.5 years worth of heartworm preventative of this brand and weight range. (pictured below) This is how much heartworm prevention you can buy for the cost of the average heartworm treatment. It is much cheaper to prevent than to treat! Contact us today to get your pet in for their annual vaccines and heartworm test and get your pet on heartworm preventative now! It will save you and your pet heartache in the long run.

How is a dog tested for heartworms?

Heartworm disease is usually diagnosed with a simple blood test. There are two main tests for detecting heartworm infection; one test detects adult worms and the other detects microfilariae.

How long can a dog go without heartworm pills?

Back Did you miss a dose of heartworm prevention medicine? Don’t panic! Here’s what to do if you missed a dose. If you’ve missed a dose of heartworm prevention medicine, there are several things you need to take into consideration before starting your pet back on heartworm preventatives.

  • However, in the case that your pet has never been on heartworm prevention it’s important that you learn how to get started right away,
  • Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 states year-round.
  • Monthly heartworm preventatives can help your pet avoid this potentially deadly disease.
  • Why is it important to never a miss a heartworm dose? The American Heartworm Society has recommended year-round heartworm protection, without missing a dose.

A missed heartworm pill leaves your pet exposed to becoming infected, which can happen even in winter. Making monthly heartworm medication part of your pet’s health care regimen makes it easier to remember. Of course, mistakes happen and sometimes pet parents forget a dose.

Heartworm disease is deadly,but preventable,Heartworm disease has been documented in all 50 states throughout the year.Heartworm infection can cause varying degrees of heart and lung pathology in dogs and cats.Heartworm disease can lead to various symptoms from exercise intolerance, coughing, possible heart failure, vomiting, lethargy, abdominal distention, and in some cases, scarily enough, sudden death.

Do I need to get my pet tested immediately if I missed a heartworm dose? Many times pet parents are given inappropriate information by both their friends and maybe even some veterinarians. It is not necessary to have a pet immediately tested for heartworms if they have missed one month of heartworm medicine.

  1. The reason for this is because it takes at least 6 months for a pet to become heartworm-positive if he or she is bitten by mosquitoes carrying heartworms.
  2. This means that even if your pet has become infected during the time that you missed a heartworm dose, test results would not show as positive until 6 months after the initial infection.

What if the dose is just a few days late? Most of the monthly heartworm medicines have a safety factor of at least 15 days of protection if a dose is missed. This means that if you’re just a week or two late, your pet is likely still within that window of protection and would be unlikely to become infected during that time.

In this case, it would be fine to just resume giving your pet heartworm prevention medication as usual. What if my pet has missed a month of heartworm prevention? The simplest answer to those who miss a month of heartworm prevention is to give the dose immediately and restart the monthly preventative schedule.

At the time of an annual or semi-annual exam, a routine blood heartworm test is recommended, along with a complete wellness exam and/or vaccinations and other laboratory testing if appropriate. While pet parents are encouraged to maintain their monthly heartworm preventative scheduling, accidentally missing a dose will not be a health risk or harmful to their pets in these isolated circumstances.

If missing a dose isn’t harmful, why can’t I give my pet heartworm prevention when I want? Pet parents shouldn’t pick and choose their own schedule of monthly heartworm medication administration. Irregular use of many medicines such as prescribed antibiotics and/or parasitic medication may be associated with the development of resistant strains of parasites.

It is hard to predict when heartworm transmission season ends or begins in many areas of the country. In fact, heartworm-carrying mosquitoes have been seen even in colder months in some areas of the country. Being a responsible pet parent means consistently giving your pet proper health care, nutrition and love.

What does heartworm cough sound like?

1. “Goose Honk” Cough – The first and most obvious symptom of heartworm in dogs is the persistent cough, which is often likened to the sound of a goose hoking. This goose honk cough occurs whether the dog has been active or not, but it is more common after a dog has just exerted himself in some way.

Where is heartworm most common?

The five states with the highest incidence of heartworm were Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Alabama. In Mississippi, almost 10% of dogs tested for heartworms were heartworm positive in 2019; in Louisiana, just under 8% of dogs tested were positive.

Do dogs really need heartworm pills?

One of the most common questions heard by our veterinarians during an annual wellness exam is, “Does my pet really need heartworm prevention?” To put it simply: yes! Even if your pet is considered “indoors-only,” all cats and dogs should be on a heartworm prevention medication.

Previously, it was not recommended by most veterinarians for pets to be on heartworm preventatives due to the low risk in Las Vegas. However, in recent years, the number of heartworm cases in Nevada has been steadily increasing. Due to the increased number of cases, it is now highly recommended for both cats and dogs to be on year-round heartworm prevention medication.

The American Heartworm Society estimates that more than a million pets in the United States have heartworms, despite heartworm disease being preventable. With a combination of medicine and education, a heartworm-free nation is entirely possible. The more owners know about this disease and use preventive medicine, the less the disease is able to spread.

How long can a dog have heartworms before showing symptoms?

Heartworm signs in dogs tend to show up when the worm reaches maturity, typically around 6 months post-implantation. This preventable condition starts when a mosquito bites an animal that’s already infected with heartworm.

How soon can you detect heartworm in dogs?

Does a negative test mean a dog does not have heartworm and does a positive test mean the dog is infected with heartworms? By Dr. Michael W. Dryden Canine Heartworm Disease (CHD) caused by Dirofilaria immitis continues to be a commonly diagnosed parasitic disease in the United States. Given the large number of dogs being infected annually and the known medical risks of infection (6 – 13″ long worms in the pulmonary arteries and right heart), routine annual screening is commonly conducted in practices. Additionally, dogs presenting to the clinic with symptoms indicative of CHD (cough, exercise intolerance, rapid breathing, ascites, cyanotic mucous membranes, ataxia, heart murmur, tachycardia, etc.) must have the presumptive diagnosis confirmed by appropriate diagnostics.

  • For at least two decades the most commonly used diagnostic tests have been antigen tests.
  • All currently available antigen tests (ELISA, Immunochromatographic and Hemagglutination) are designed to detect heartworm antigen circulating in the blood.
  • While the specific antigens that are being targeted are proprietary, it is reported that all antigen tests detect a protein produced by mature female worms (likely a uterine antigen) and currently there are no USDA licensed serologic tests that can detect male D.

immitis, While currently available antigen tests are highly sensitive and highly specific, there are limitations that must be taken into consideration before telling a dog owner that their dog is or is not infected with D. immitis,

Circulating heartworm antigen appears in the blood as early as five months post-infection in a small percentage of dogs, but most dogs are not antigen positive until seven months post-infection. Yes, contrary to popular belief, a dog infected six months previously can be negative on an antigen test. A low worm burden can markedly affect a test’s sensitivity. These tests will detect dogs infected with one – two female worms only 60 – 70 percent of the time. Such dogs, while often asymptomatic, can either have negative tests, positive tests or inconsistently positive tests. Recent studies have documented that antigen tests may not test positive in up to 7% of dogs due to the occurrence of “antigen-antibody complexes” that are formed in the dog’s blood. These complexes bind the circulating antigen so that it is “unavailable” to react on the antigen tests. These dogs will only test positive after specific heat or acid treatment is applied to the dog’s serum sample to dissociate the immune complexes, neither of which can be accomplished in a veterinary practice. False positives, while uncommon can also occur a) in well-type tests due to inadequate washing, b) due to residual circulating antigen post-adulticide treatment, and c) cross reaction with Spirocerca lupi or other unknown antigens. While the esophageal nematode S. lupi is most commonly encountered in the Southern states, such as Louisiana, this author has recently consulted on cases in Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri, one of which was positive on an antigen test.

Now even with the abovementioned limitations, parasitologists are not recommending that practices stop using these tests for clinical diagnosis or routine screening. They are the best diagnostic tests available. What is being recommended is that veterinarians learn to appreciate the limitations of the tests and augment their diagnostic procedures.

  • For routine annual screening we need to be conducting an antigen test and also go “old school” and look for circulating microfilariae (Knott’s test, filter test, or even a direct smear) in the blood.
  • For dogs with clinical signs indicative of CHD, conduct not only an antigen test, but also a test to recover microfilariae, chest radiographs and a CBC.
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If both the antigen and microfilariae tests are negative (remember 20+% of dogs with CHD do not have circulating microfilariae – occult infections) in a dog with clinical signs of CHD, consider submitting 1.5 to 2ml of serum to a diagnostic service that will conduct heat (KSVDL and others) or acid (IDEXX) immune complex dissolution.

  1. Remember that the American Heartworm Society ( https://www.heartwormsociety.org/ ) does not recommend testing a dog with an antigen test until at least six months post-treatment due to residual circulating antigen.
  2. It is recommended that in antigen-positive, microfilariae-negative asymptomatic dogs, adulticide therapy should not be instituted until the antigen result is verified on a different manufacturer’s antigen test.

Finally, if the heartworm antigen test is negative this does not always mean the dog is not infected with D. immitis, What the test is telling us is that there is not enough circulating antigen to be detected, which could be because the dog is truly negative, only male worms present, low female worm burden, immature (prepatent) infection, test error or immune complexes binding the antigen.

How do you get rid of heartworms in a dog without going to the vet?

Treating Heartworm in Dogs Naturally Some diseases require conventional medications to prevent and treat them, and heartworm is one. But natural therapies can reduce your dog’s risk of being infected. Margaret was shocked when her golden retriever Rudy was diagnosed with heartworm.

  1. I didn’t think it would be a problem we’d ever have to deal with, so it came as a real surprise.” Rudy recovered with treatment, but the experience made Margaret take heartworm more seriously, and to educate herself about ways to prevent and treat the disease.
  2. Heartworm is the most common parasitic infection of the canine circulatory system.

Fortunately, it is easily prevented, and when treatment is necessary, conventional medicines can be integrated with natural therapies. While heartworm can also affect cats, it’s more often found in dogs. Traditional Prevention and Treatment It’s currently recommended that all dogs take monthly heartworm preventive medication.

  • This is necessary year-round where I live in Texas, but in other parts of North America, the medication is only needed during the warmer months.
  • Find out how prevalent it is in your area, and ask your vet for guidance on when your companion should take the preventive.
  • The most commonly prescribed oral medications utilize ivermectin or milbemycin.

While topical spot-on medications can be used, holistic veterinarians tend to prefer the oral monthly variety. That way, the medication only stays in the dog’s body a few days rather than the entire month, which is the situation with spot-on medications.

Compared to other medications, oral heartworm preventives are quite safe. The dose needed to prevent infection and disease is very tiny, approximately 1/30 of that necessary to treat other parasitic diseases. Conventional treatment uses a drug called Immiticide (melarsomine), a potent medication that must be given deep in the back muscles of the dog.

While this drug is safer than the one formerly used (Caparsolate, an arsenic compound) it must still be administered carefully under a veterinarian’s supervision since side effects can occur. What About Natural Approaches? In researching my book The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats, I tried to find documented proof of natural remedies recommended for the prevention and treatment of heartworm infection.

  1. Anecdotal evidence suggests that herbs such as garlic, black walnut and wormwood, and the homeopathic heartworm nosode, may actually prevent as well as treat infection.
  2. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to find substantive proof that these therapies can reliably and safely prevent or treat infection or disease.

For example, simply because a dog has been given a natural preventive and never develops a positive heartworm test doesn’t prove the therapy works. Many dogs not taking preventive medication, either conventional or natural, will never become infected with heartworms.

  • The only way to “prove” a natural preventive is to follow the same protocol used to “prove” a conventional medication: administering it to a large group of dogs and then intentionally trying to infect them with heartworm larvae and recording the number of positive and negative cases.
  • The same problem arises when trying to evaluate natural therapies to treat it.

With time, dogs that are not killed by infections will eventually test negative due to the natural death of the parasites. Without treating a large number of heartworm positive dogs with natural therapies, then proving they show a negative result on a heartworm test, it’s impossible to recommend a natural therapy.

Reduce the frequency of vaccinations, feed your dog a healthy diet, and use antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation and oxidation. This will improve your dog’s overall health and make it less likely that infection could develop into heartworm disease. Take your dog for regular veterinary visits and blood tests to allow for early diagnosis. The sooner it’s diagnosed, the less likely the infection will turn into disease. Limit your dog’s exposure to mosquitoes. They can be controlled naturally with citrus oils, cedar oils, and diatomaceous earth. Dogs needing conventional treatment may benefit from herbs such as milk thistle and homeopathics such as berberis; these minimize toxicity from the medications and dying heartworms.

In my practice, monthly oral heartworm preventives combined with minimal vaccines, a natural diet, and a sound nutritional supplement regimen work very well to prevent infection. The rare dogs I see with heartworm disease do best when conventional treatment is combined with nutritional supplements, herbs, and homeopathics to support their immune systems and detoxify the byproducts of the medication.

Infection vs. Disease There is a difference between heartworm infection and disease. Dogs infected with the parasite but not showing clinical signs are considered to have heartworm infection rather than heartworm disease. These dogs are less likely to have side effects from therapy because they are not currently sick.

Dogs with heartworm disease show clinical signs and must be treated more carefully. : Treating Heartworm in Dogs Naturally

Do dogs act different when they have heartworms?

What Is Heartworm Disease? Heartworm disease is an invisible, but potentially fatal threat that occurs in dogs and other animals. Heartworms ( Dirofilaria immitis ) are parasitic worms that are transmitted to dogs by mosquitoes. These microscopic larvae develop under the skin, then migrate to the blood vessels of the heart and lungs of the infected animal where they rapidly grow, becoming adults that are 5-12 inches in length.1 Heartworms are an invisible threat because they cause severe damage to the vessels of the dog’s lungs, typically long before any symptoms appear.

While treatment is available, heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs, and arteries, and can affect the dog’s health and quality of life, long after the parasites are gone. Not all dogs develop noticeable symptoms. While blood tests performed by your veterinarian are the only way to confirm a diagnosis of heartworm disease in dogs, here are five warning signs that are reported in dogs with heartworm disease: A persistent, dry cough is a common sign seen in dogs with heartworm disease.

The cough caused by heartworm disease can be one of the first signs you notice in an otherwise healthy-appearing dog. Lethargy and reluctance to exercise are also common signs described in dogs with heartworm disease. If your pet loses interest in going for walks or is fatigued after activity, it may be a sign of heartworm disease. Keep in mind, these symptoms may be consistent with signs of other conditions, and a blood test performed by your vet is the only way to confirm a diagnosis of heartworm disease. If you have concerns, please contact your vet immediately. If your vet determines your dog has heartworms, killing the adult heartworms is the next step.

But the treatment can be long, difficult, and is not always 100% effective. That’s why vets recommend keeping your dog on a heartworm disease preventive year-round and visiting your clinic yearly for regular testing. If you suspect your dog has heartworm disease, don’t wait – talk to your vet immediately.

If heartworm disease is confirmed, your dog will undergo treatment at the veterinary clinic based on how advanced the disease is. Unfortunately, most treatments can be a long, painful, and expensive process.2 Heartworms are transmitted from an infected animal to your healthy dog through mosquitoes. When an infected mosquito bites your dog, the mosquito can also pass on infective larvae. Over 6 to 7 months, these larvae develop into adult heartworms, causing severe health issues and potentially death. Heartworm disease prevention works by eliminating heartworm larvae before they grow into adults and migrate to the arteries of the lungs and heart. Before getting a prescription for a heartworm disease preventative, your dog must be tested for heartworms. Testing can be done by your local vet. Just one bite from an infected mosquito can give your dog heartworm disease. Protect your dog with HEARTGARD Plus. Save Big When You Buy Two Get a $60 rebate on your qualifying purchases of either NexGard ® (afoxolaner) or a FRONTLINE ® Brand Product and HEARTGARD ® Plus (ivermectin/pyrantel). Download and present this coupon to your vet. Buy 12 doses of HEARTGARD ® Plus (ivermectin/pyrantel) and enjoy a $15 rebate: Simply download the coupon and take it to your vet. : What Is Heartworm Disease?