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dithibodeaux's avatar

What's an alternate treatment for dogs infected with heartworms other than the costly in vet office treatment?

Asked by dithibodeaux (108points) April 21st, 2008 from iPhone

veterinary advice

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17 Answers

syz's avatar

There is no alternative.

Canine heartworms, if left untreated, will eventually cause death. There is no way to know how long an infected animal will live (a few months versus a few years), but they will definitely suffer a debilitating decline resulting in anorexia, ascites and heart failure.

Treatment for heartworms involves killing the adult worms that are living in the heart chambers – this is a relatively dangerous time for the dog and he will need to be hospitalized for the duration of the treatment. As the worms die, they decay and pieces may circulate through the bloodstream, creating the potential for dangerous emboli. After successful treatment, he will need to return in a month for an injection that will kill any immature parasites circulating in his bloodstream.

After treatment, give monthly heartworm protection to prevent a repeat infection. Having heartworms once will not prevent a reinfestation.

dithibodeaux's avatar

thanks, I was afraid so. My husband won’t spend the $1000 (I have 2 dogs). My vet said that advantage multi will kill the baby heartworms and stop it from getting worse. Is this correct and will my dogs probably be sick for a few days following the drops?

syz's avatar

If you continue giving heartworm prevention (which only affect the immature form of the heartworm), there will be no additional load on the heart because those immature forms will not develope into adult heartworms. Giving the prevention will have no effect on the way that your dogs feel.

There is some theory that if the dog can manage to outlive the heartwoms, the worms will die off of old age and the dog will no longer be infected.

Obviously, that theory is far from optimal (I have never seen it work). Additionally, it allows the continuing damage to the heart itself while the worms are present.

dithibodeaux's avatar

So the advantage multi would be the best thing to do for now until I can budget for the $1000 treatment?

syz's avatar

Well, it’s not going to hurt.

marinelife's avatar

This link is to a very good site that gives details of the veterinary assessment and how the treatment works. Please give it a read and good luck:

scamp's avatar

I recommend you get the treatment as soon as you can. It can be very rough on a sick dog, and if you let the heartworms grow and sap your dog’s strength, you could lose him anyway. I’m not sure how much has changed sine the time I worked in a veterinary hospital, but the treatment was a very strong Arsenic based poison. We had to keep dogs for a day or two to support them after treatment. But Syz can tell you more of what is done now. I hope they will be ok.

Alina1235's avatar

can I ask what really causes heart worm?

syz's avatar

It is an internal parasite. Mature worms live inside the heart chambers (these are not microscopic worms – they are just a little slimmer and shorter than a spaghetti noodle), where they reproduce and release the immature forms (microfilaria, which are microspic) into the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites an infected dog, they draw up these microfilaria along with their blood meal. When that mosquito laters bites another dog, the microfilaria waiting patiently in the mouthparts of the mosquito are injected into their next host. There they circulate through the body until they reach the heart, where they mature into the adult form that causes massive damage to the heart of the host animal.

scamp's avatar

syz, have you ever seen the heart of a dog that died from heartworms during an autopsy? I was amazed and horrified at the same time.

syz's avatar

Yep. Amazing that they survive at all with that mess in them.

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Darwin's avatar

If the infection is fairly light, that is your dog is not showing any signs of heart failure, then giving monthly heartworm treatment for life will suffice to keep the infection under control.

However, if your dogs have symptoms of heart failure due to a heavy load of worms, then the full vet treatment is the only way proven to save your dogs. Even that is dangerous because the dying worms can break up into chunks and cause an embolism or an immune response.

You might talk to your vet and see if he/she can set up a payment plan so you can pay a sum each month until it is paid off, or if the office will take a credit card.

DrBill's avatar

YES< A few years ago my cocker was infected and I could not afford the treatment, I contacted my vet and he helped refer me to a Vetinary College, they treated her for free in exchange for using her in the classes.

They had her in class two hours a month for nine months. My total cost was driving her to the school once a month.

Hope this helps.

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rooeytoo's avatar

I give my dogs a monthly injection of Ivermectin, not intended for dogs but works well in most all breeds except collie types. It takes care of heartworm, mange, all internal parasites except tape worms. It can be used on heartworm positive dogs and as was said will not cure but does not exacerbate the problem and may help marginally over the long haul. It is also give orally, we give it to camp dogs on a piece of bread with anchovy paste on top to disguise it. Fantastic for ticks, I never find an engorged tick on my dogs and this country during the wet is terrible for tick infestations.

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