Heartworm is a type of parasitic roundworm that can infect many mammals, including both cats and dogs, but they are particularly dangerous to dogs. This is because dogs serve as a natural host for heartworms, which is to say that these parasites can complete their entire life cycle once within your dog and in doing so, they will work into the dog's heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Left untreated, heartworms lead to serious health complications which ultimately prove fatal.
Having dogs and cats on a monthly heartworm prevention plan is one of the best things owners can do for their pets. Prevention should be followed up with an annual heartworm test at your Elk River animal hospital where a veterinarian can ensure your pet is free of parasites.
If during your annual veterinary check-up and heartworm test you find your dog has heartworms, then the good news is that there are treatment options.
The Three Types of Heartworm Treatment
- Medications. Stopping the current lifecycles of heartworms in your pet and preventing future ones will often require the administering of several medications. Melarsomine injections will be administered to kill any adult heartworms living within the pet, doxycylcine and prednisone will commonly be prescribed to be taken orally in order to reduce side effects of those injections, and specialty heartworm preventative will be prescribed to kill juvenile heartworms and stop any more growth.
- Surgery. Heartworms look much as they sound and one of the main health risks they pose is becoming too big and wrapping around vital internal organs, thereby blocking normal body processes. To resolve cases of serious infection by adult heartworms, your veterinarian may suggest surgery to remove adult heartworms from critical areas in your pet's body.
- Exercise restriction. Restricting a dog's exercise regime is a critical component of heartworm treatment. Dogs being treated for heartworm will need to be restricted from heavy play and exercise before, during, and even after treatment as their body heals.
Having Your Pet Treated for Heartworms
Heartworm treatment is not fast, and those pet owners who receive a positive heartworm diagnosis for their pets should be prepared for a six-month process. There are three melarsomine injections that are typically administered, with the second one administered thirty days after the first and the third a day after the second. The pet's exercise should be severely restricted for the first three months following the start of treatment and slightly restricted for a full six months following the third melarsomine injection. This is because only after the six-month mark can a fully accurate test be done to gauge the complete elimination of heartworms from a pet.
For more information about heartworms or to schedule a visit at our Elk River veterinary office, contact our team today at 763-441-4000.