Heartworms are parasitic worms that cause heartworm disease. These parasites live in the blood vessels of dogs and cats. Health problems can result if left untreated.
The cost of treating heartworm disease varies depending on where you live and whether or not your pet has had previous treatments. In some areas, the treatment costs $150-$300 per dose.
You should always consult your veterinarian before starting any medication. They will advise you on the correct dosage and frequency of administration.
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Preventing heartworm infection is very important for both pets and the people who care for them. It’s also a good idea to prevent heartworm infection in other animals that may be exposed to it. This includes:
- A dog adopted from a shelter or a rescue group
- Cats that are being boarded at kennels or boarding facilities
- Puppies and kittens that are raised as pets
- Horses that are kept outside
- Birds that are housed with infected birds
- Wild animals that come into contact with infected wild animals
To help prevent heartworm infection, take these steps:
- Keep your dog indoors when possible.
- Make sure your dog gets regular exercise.
- Take your dog to get checked regularly for ticks and fleas.
- Have your dog treated if he comes down with symptoms of anemia.
- Use insect repellent on your dog.
- Check your cat’s fur often for signs of parasites.
If you suspect your pet might be infected with heartworm, call your vet right away. Your vet will test your pet using a blood sample. The results of this test will determine how much medicine your pet needs.
Tests for heartworms that are positive
Heartworms must first be detected in a dog before it can be treated. In most cases, the results of a heartworm test can be obtained within minutes at your veterinarian’s office. Even dogs on heartworm prevention should be tested for heartworm disease annually. Approximately $35 to $75 may be charged for a heartworm test.
A confirmatory test will likely be recommended by your veterinarian if the in-office test is positive.
As no test is perfect – and heartworm treatment is expensive and can have significant side effects – your veterinarian will want to make sure treatment is necessary before proceeding. The cost of confirmation tests can vary but generally ranges from $20 to $40.
Heartworm Disease Stages
To stage the severity of heartworm disease, additional tests such as chest x-rays and sometimes echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart) are performed after a dog has been confirmed to have the disease.
As a result of staging, the veterinarian can assess the extent of damage done by the heartworms and determine the most effective treatment and post-treatment protocol.
A chest x-ray costs between $125 and $200, while an echocardiogram costs between $500 and $1,000.
The initial treatment
If you have been diagnosed with heartworm disease, treatment usually begins the next day.
The following steps are taken as part of the initial treatment:
Heartworms in adults should be weakened.
Immature heartworms should be eliminated.
Reduce the risks associated with melarsomine (the medication used to kill adult heartworms).
Steroids and Doxycycline
Affected dogs are usually given doxycycline ($30 to $150), an antibiotic that weakens heartworms before melarsomine is given.
Dogs with symptoms of disease, such as coughing or exercise intolerance, are generally prescribed a steroid ($10 to $40) to reduce inflammation.
Your dog’s size may affect the cost of doxycycline and steroids.
Taking a heartworm preventative
Heartworm larvae are usually killed by a prescription heartworm preventative on days 1 and 30. After the initial 30 days of treatment, a waiting period of one month is observed. The cost of heartworm tablets usually ranges from $6 to $18.
Restriction of exercise
A dog with heartworm disease should undergo exercise restrictions as soon as it is diagnosed. Restricted exercise usually involves crate rest.
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Stages of final treatment
Adult heartworms are killed during the final stages of heartworm treatment. Melarsomine, the medication that is the mainstay of heartworm treatment, is generally injected three times during this “adulticide” treatment.
Melarsomine is injected deep into your dog’s lumbar musculature on days 60, 90, and 91 of the treatment process. Melarsomine dosage is weight-dependent. After each injection, steroids ($10 to $40) are typically prescribed for several weeks.
The cost of melarsomine injections may range from $500 to $1,500, depending on your dog’s weight. After the final injection of melarsomine, exercise restrictions should continue for six to eight weeks.
Testing on a follow-up basis
Microfilariae (a larval stage of the heartworm, which can be seen under a microscope) should be detected in your dog’s blood approximately one month after the third melarsomine injection. Microfilaria tests cost between $20 and $40. Heartworm prevention should be continued for four weeks if the microfilaria test is positive.
It is recommended to run a heartworm test ($35 to $75) after three months of receiving the third melarsomine injection (one year after the initial diagnosis of heartworm disease). Two injections of melarsomine 24 hours apart ($500 to $1,000) should be administered if it is positive. The dog will need another round of doxycycline ($30 to $150).
Melarsomine Treatment Complications
Your veterinarian may not recommend melarsomine treatment for your dog if he or she is very ill or weakened due to heartworm disease.
Heartworm disease can cause a complication called caval syndrome in dogs that are severely affected. When heartworms fill up the right side of the heart with blood, caval syndrome occurs.
Symptoms of caval syndrome include collapse, shock, and red blood cell destruction. There is usually a fatal outcome.
Heartworms can only be treated surgically by removing them from the heart in an emergency. The cost of this surgery can range from $3,000 to $6,000.
Heartworm Prevention vs. Treatment Cost-Benefit Analysis
As compared to having to treat your dog for heartworms, the cost of heartworm prevention is low. There is no doubt that heartworm treatment is expensive. The dog is also uncomfortable, has significant side effects, and must be restricted from activity for a prolonged period of time.
There may be an additional $100 to over $1,000 in diagnostic tests and treatments required before melarsomine can be administered. Your veterinarian’s recommendations, your dog’s size, and the severity of the disease will determine the cost.
Melarsomine heartworm treatment costs between $500 and $1,500. It is possible that the cost of treatment may double if the initial doses of treatment aren’t completely effective.
Prescription medications that prevent heartworm disease are readily available, affordable, and highly effective. Veterinary prescriptions are required for heartworm prevention, which is usually administered monthly as a tablet that costs between $6 and $18.
An injection is also an option. ProHeart 6 is a six-month heartworm prevention shot ($50 to $150), and ProHeart 12 is an annual shot ($75 to $350). The best way to prevent heartworm is to administer heartworm medications all year long.
Heartworm disease is caused by what?
The disease of heartworms or dirofilariasis can be fatal. Dirofilaria immitis is a blood-borne parasite that causes the disease.
Infected dogs have adult heartworms in their hearts, pulmonary arteries, and large blood vessels. Rarely, worms can be found in other parts of the circulatory system. The female worms have a length of 6 to 14 inches (15 to 36 cm) and a width of 1/8 inch (3 millimeters). There is about a 50% difference in size between males and females. It is possible for a dog to have as many as 300 worms when they are diagnosed with worms.
Heartworms can live up to five years as adults. Microfilaria is produced by females during this period. A majority of these microfilariae live in the bloodstream’s small vessels.
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What is the spread of heartworm disease?
As the disease requires a mosquito as an intermediate host, it cannot be transmitted directly from dog to dog. In many parts of the United States, mosquito season lasts throughout the year, which contributes to the spread of the disease. A given area’s incidence of heartworm disease is directly correlated with the number of dogs infected and the length of the mosquito season.
Heartworm disease has been diagnosed in my dog. How is the condition treated?
Heartworm treatment involves some risk, although fatalities are rare. A common side effect of treating heartworms in the past was the presence of high levels of arsenic in the drug. More than 95% of dogs with heartworms can be successfully treated with a new drug that does not have as many side effects.
When dogs are diagnosed with heartworm disease, they often have advanced stages of the disease. As a result, extensive damage has been done to the heart, lungs, blood vessels, kidneys, and liver due to the presence of heartworms.
Occasionally, cases may be so advanced that treating organ damage and keeping the dog comfortable is safer than killing the heartworms and risking negative effects. It is unlikely that a dog living in this condition will live for more than a few weeks or months. For dogs diagnosed with advanced heartworm disease, your veterinarian will recommend the best treatment approach.
Adult heartworms are treated with this treatment. Heartworms are killed with an injectable drug called melarsomine (brand name Immiticide®). In the heart and adjacent vessels, melarsomine kills adult heartworms. A series of injections are required to administer this drug.
Depending on your dog’s condition, your veterinarian will determine the specific injection schedule. The first injection is followed by a 30-day period of rest, followed by two 24-hour interval injections.
To combat potential infections with bacteria (Wolbachia), many dogs will also receive an antibiotic (doxycycline).
Following treatment, it is essential to rest completely. In a few days, the adult worms die and decompose. In the lungs, the particles break up and lodge in small blood vessels, eventually being reabsorbed by the body. In most cases, these fragments of dead heartworms are responsible for post-treatment complications.
As this can be a dangerous period, the dog should be kept as quiet as possible and should not be allowed to exercise for one month following the final heartworm injection. A critical period follows the injections because the worms die during this time. Many heavily infected dogs experience a cough for seven to eight weeks after treatment. For treatment options in case of severe coughing, contact your veterinarian.
Dogs with significant reactions following initial treatment should be treated promptly, although such reactions are rare. Symptoms such as loss of appetite, shortness of breath, severe coughing, coughing up blood, fever, and depression should be reported to your veterinarian. These cases are usually treated with anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, cage rest, supportive care, and intravenous fluids.
Killing microfilaria with treatment. Your dog will also receive a drug that kills microfilariae (heartworm larvae) in addition to the drug that kills adult heartworms. There may be a need for your dog to stay in the hospital for observation on the day this medication is administered, either before or after the adult heartworm injections. Your dog will be put on a heartworm preventative after treatment.
Various drugs are used in newer heartworm treatment protocols to kill the microfilariae. Based on your dog’s condition, your veterinarian will choose the appropriate drug and administration time.
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Do you need any other treatments?
Prior to treatment for heartworms, dogs with severe heartworm disease may require antibiotics, pain relief medications, special diets, diuretics to remove fluid accumulation in their lungs, and/or drugs to improve their hearts. It is possible for some dogs to require lifetime treatment for heart failure even after the heartworms have been killed. A diuretic, ACE-inhibitor, beta-blocker, or cardiac glycoside may be prescribed as well as a low-salt diet.
What can I do to prevent my dog from getting heartworms?
By using a heartworm preventive, you can prevent your dog from getting heartworms. A heartworm prevention program is essential following a successful heartworm treatment to prevent future recurrences. This dreaded disease can be prevented today with safe and affordable heartworm preventives. Depending on your dog’s needs, consult your veterinarian about heartworm preventive programs.
What Does a Positive Heartworm Test Mean?
The only thing we know when your dog tests positive for heartworms is that they currently have adult heartworms inside their hearts. It is impossible to know how long your dog has had heartworms based on the heartworm positive test result. In addition, it does not tell us how advanced the heartworm disease is in your pet. There is only one thing we know about your dog’s worms; they require treatment.
Heartworm Disease: What Is It?
By clogging the heart and major blood vessels, heartworms cause heartworm disease. Eventually, the host dies from heart failure as a result of damage to the lungs and heart. Damage to tissue cannot be reversed once it has been done. To minimize damage and ensure your pet’s health, we treat heartworms as quickly as possible.
What caused my dog to get heartworms?
A mosquito bite infected with heartworms transmits the disease. A mosquito bites an infected dog and draws blood containing immature heartworms. Heartworm larvae mature inside the mosquito and become infective. Infected mosquitoes then transmit those larvae to other dogs. An infected dog increases the risk of infection for other dogs in the neighborhood. The high mosquito population in Texas puts dogs at risk year-round. There are no visible signs of heartworm infection in a dog when it is first infected. Every year, your dog should be tested for heartworms. It is crucial to treat heartworm disease as soon as possible to avoid irreversible tissue damage. The longer your dog has heartworms, the more complications there are with treatment and the greater the damage to his heart and lungs.
Heartworm Disease Symptoms: What Are They?
Symptoms usually don’t appear until the heart and lungs have already been severely damaged by heartworms. The heartworms will cause your dog to show symptoms such as Breathing difficulties, Having a cough, Intolerance to exercise, Tiredness, or lethargy that is unusual. Your dog will eventually begin to show more severe and immediate symptoms as the damage worsens. Congestive Heart Failure and Pulmonary Failure are examples of these conditions. A person dies at the end of the process.
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