Today’s new article is going to help explain treatment options if your pet ever contracts them. Luckily, heartworms are easily preventable through a variety of monthly medication, so hopefully you will never have to be faced with your pet needing treatment. It is costly, but more importantly, it can be dangerous. The main risk comes from the potential of blockages from killed worms (thromboembolisms). The parasites need to be killed slowly and the patient must remain very still for many weeks.
Treatment will vary depending on how advanced the disease is. Your veterinarian will want to check blood work as well as x-rays to determine the severity. They will then be able to adjust the treatment accordingly. The most commonly used medication to kill adult heartworms is Melarsomine. It is injected into the muscle in a series of treatments (adjusted according to the severity of disease). Normally pets are monitored in the hospital the day the medication is administered. Afterwards it is very important that the pet’s exercise is restricted to very short and slow leash walks only. This will help prevent the dead worms from lodging into the blood vessels of the lungs. The recovery period that requires exercise restriction typically varies from 1-2 months.
Once the adult worms are out of the system typically dogs are put on a monthly heartworm preventative product like Heartguard. This will kill baby, microfilaria, parasites that could be circulating in the blood stream and prevent new adult development. Your veterinarian will still need to periodically re-test for heartworms.
If you have a cat with heartworms, it will be treated differently than a dog. There is not a medication on the market to kill adult worms in cats. Cats are put on medications to keep the worms sterile and let them die on their own from old age. They are also given other medications to help prevent blockages and help with airway irritation and inflammation.
We hope this article will encourage you to keep your pets on heartworm preventative. They are much easier and healthier to prevent than treat.