Heartworm is both common and scary. Knowing about the disease can help you to better understand Heartworm so that you know the symptoms, treatments options, and how to prepare in general for helping your little one through this difficult time. If you are wondering ‘how much does Heartworm treatment cost’ then you have come to the right place. We’ll discuss the basics, get your questions answered, and if you are currently treating your dog for heartworm (or just worrying in advance) then you will be better prepared! Let’s talk about Heartworm and what you can do.
What is Heartworm and how do dogs get it?
Heartworm is a dangerous condition that can be easily prevented. Without prevention, however, Heartworm is dangerous and can be very costly to treat. The biggest problem is the unpredictability, as Heartworm comes from the bite of an infected mosquito. Unless you live in a mosquito-free bubble, preparation and prevention are the best idea for protecting your dog from Heartworm.
Once your dog has been bitten by an infected mosquito then it takes about 6 to 7 months for the larvae to grow into adulthood, where they attach to the heart and surrounding tissues. These hearty worms can live for 5 to 7 years, reaching up to 12 inches in length and reproducing quickly. It is not uncommon for an infected dog to have more than 250 worms in their system!
What are the symptoms of Heartworm?
One of the problems with Heartworm is that the symptoms can vary in both variety and intensity. Heartworm manifests in 4 stages, with the first being the easiest to treat and the 4th being considered the most severe. In the more advanced stages, surgery may be required before treatment can begin, as your Veterinarian will need to resort to surgery to remove the largest Heartworms from your dog’s body. That said, some early warning symptoms of heartworm are:
- Persistent coughing
- Weight loss
- Swollen belly in advanced stages
Heartworm can be fatal but is it contagious?
In the highest stages of a Heartworm infestation, your dog is at risk for heart attack. This is a serious disease! That said, you do not have to worry about an infected dog spreading the heartworms to another dog. This is because Heartworm is only transferred through the bite of an infected mosquito. As such, your dog can be around other dogs with no worry so they won’t have to be lonely when they are recovering.
What can I do to prevent my dog from getting Heartworm?
The good news is that the old adage about ‘an ounce of prevention’ being worth a pound of cure is correct. Heartworm can be easily avoided although there is a caveat… the treatment is a monthly one. That said, it is cheap (try 5 to 15$ per month) and effective and manifests in either pills which your dog can take or alternately, in topical solutions which you can rub into your dog’s skin once a month. These treatments will help to make sure that your dog never gets Heartworm in the first place and this is worth every penny!
Treating Heartworm – Costs and considerations
Treatment of Heartworm is generally going to run in the neighborhood of $400 USD to $1000 USD. Your doctor is first going to need to run a number of tests, such as blood tests to determine if there is liver or kidney damage. Your dog’s lungs will need to be X-rayed as well in order to check for damage and your
“Your dog’s lungs will need to be X-rayed”
Vet will check out your dog’s heart at the same time. Depending on the severity of the Heartworm infestation, surgery may be required after the testing before the Heartworm treatment may begin.
Treatment is generally in the form of a medication called melarsarmine hydrochloride. Depending on the strategy which you choose, treatment will either be two treatments spaced about a month apart or a more aggressive 24 hour period in which a number of injections of the drug are administered. Your dog will also be given a preventative medication for use during the time when the worms are being eliminated. Generally within 4 weeks the worms should be gone, dispersing throughout the body as the worms are dying and eliminated by your dog’s immune system. During the time of treatment it is very important that you keep your dog from vigorous activities, as these can cause a large number of ‘dislodged’ worms to race to specific locations in the body, causing a blockage. You will also want to watch out for diarrhea, vomiting, and coughing in your dog, taking your pet to the Vet immediately if these signs should occur.
Once the worst is over
Once your dog has been treated for the Heartworm there is a slight possibility that you are not out of the woods yet. While 98% of dogs respond perfectly to the treatment, about 2% of dogs may experience a recurrence of the Heartworm infestation. Due to the length of time which it takes for the worms to reach maturity, you will not know for sure that your dog is completely recovered until a period of 6 months has passed. At this point an Antigen test from your Veterinarian will be able to determine if your dog is in the clear but if they fail the test then a second treatment may be required. Once your dog is fully recovered, simple preventative medications will ensure that Heartworm is never an issue for your dog again!
Today we have discussed Heartworm: how it starts, how it is treated, and what you can do to prevent it from occurring or reoccurring. Heartworm is a serious condition that is 100% preventable, so if your dog has never had Heartworm then this is a good time to obtain preventative medication in order to assure that they never do. Follow that up with regular checkups and your dog will be happy, healthy, and Heartworm-free!