Owning a dog comes with lots of unexpected moments. You’ll be surprised by how much you love them and all their lovable quirks, but you’ll also be surprised by the new world of veterinary information there is to learn. Of all the illnesses new owners must learn to recognize, heartworms may be the absolute worst of common canine ailments. These nasty worms are contracted through mosquito bites and can wreak havoc on your dog’s heart and lungs if left untreated. Heartworms are preventable with the use of a monthly heartworm preventative medicine.
We hope your dog never has to endure heartworm treatment, but we know that sometimes these things happen. Every dog owner should be informed and know what to do to prevent and treat heartworms. To keep you informed, we’re sharing three important facts about heartworm treatment and heartworm prevention.
Heartworm Prevention Should be Given Year Round
In some places, the common misconception is that heartworm prevention medicine is only required during the summer months when mosquitoes are more active. This isn’t the case, especially in Texas where the weather is never truly cold enough for mosquitoes to be totally eliminated!
Even in colder months, medicine should be given all year to work most effectively. This is because heartworm medicine doesn’t actually prevent your dog from catching heartworms – it kills young heartworms before they can grow, reproduce and cause harm. If you don’t give medicine during the winter months, you may be missing out on treating heartworms that were contracted while it was still warm. To be safe, always give your dog their monthly preventive dose at the same time each month.
Heartworm Treatment is Long, Painful and Expensive
Make sure your dog is tested for heartworms during their annual check up. If it’s positive, don’t panic or beat yourself up. No matter how your dog contracted heartworms, it’s treatable. Work with your vet to find the best treatment plan for your dog, and begin implementing treatment early.
The most effective treatment for a heartworm positive dog is a treatment of doxycycline and immiticide. Doxycycline (an antibiotic) is given for a period of time before the immiticide, to kill off the Wolbachia bacteria in the heartworms. This helps eliminate some weaker worms and keeps your dog from being infected by the intestinal bacteria of those worms when they die.
Once the antibiotic is completed, you should visit your vet for immiticide injections. These are given twice within 48 hours. These shots are absolutely no fun for you or your dog. First, because immiticide is in very high demand and can be expensive. Treatment is often upward of a thousand dollars. Second, immiticide injections are commonly painful for your dog. They’re delivered with a large needle to the haunches, and they result in a few days of nausea, vomiting and extreme soreness.
After the injections, your dog will have to be confined to very quiet activities for at least a month. This means no walks, no games of fetch, no running or playing of any kind. For especially hyper dogs, it may mean crate rest whenever you’re not there to watch them. This can be hard, but with love and care, your dog will get through it.
This rest period is not optional, and should begin even before the critical period following immiticide injections. If your dog’s heartbeat suddenly increases, there is a serious risk of the dog having a pulmonary embolism and dying. To prevent this tragedy, diligently follow your vet’s instructions for rest.
Asking your dog to rest is difficult, but very worthwhile. Before you know it, they’ll be healthy and ready to jump and play without the fatigue and stress of heartworms.
How to Deal With Heartworms
It can be really hard to keep a happy, playful dog contained. Be patient with your pup when they’re recovering from immiticide injections. Dogs will often begin digging, barking and chewing out of boredom and frustration. To mitigate these behaviors, provide your dog with lots of stimulating chew and puzzle toys while they’re resting. It may be a good time to teach them some new, quiet tricks.
Be sure to give them lots of love and time with you to comfort them and replace the physical activities you used to do together. Once their rest period is over, check back in with the vet before resuming activity. Start them slow with short walks, and then build up to more rigorous activity.
You can and should continue to give your pet an ivermectin-based heartworm preventative while they rest during heartworm treatment. Talk to your vet about the best approach. Once your pet has undergone heartworm treatment, they can always contact heartworms again – be sure you continue to give a monthly preventative for the remainder of the dog’s life.
At Pawderosa Ranch, we want to see your dog happy and healthy. If you have a dog with health issues, we are happy to accommodate – just let us know ahead of time. As experts in all things canine, our enrichment programs offer the best in dog daycare and overnight stays. Give us a call and book your stay today.
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