A 501(c)(3) Not for Profit Corporation
Serving the Gulf South and All of New England
Additional information on heartworm disease
CANINE HEARTWORM TREATMENT
Heartworms live in the heart. Until a large number of heartworms collect in the heart there are no symptoms. When symptoms develop, it is too late to treat safety. The dogs that survive treatment seldom recover completely. Dead heartworms are even more damaging than live heartworms. A large number of worms dying at once can cause death of the patient. Dogs generally tolerate one live heartworm per pound of body weight without symptoms but dead worms are about 10 times as dangerous. A 50-pound dog would die if even 10 worms died suddenly. Most cases of heartworms are detected quite early but there are options of treatments if your dog has heartworms: 1). No treatment. 2). Extreme treatment. 3). Mild treatment.
1). If you elect no treatment and your dog gets no more heartworm larva from mosquito bites, your dog could live a normal life and could actually free itself of heartworms over a period of several years. Without treatment it is more likely that your dog will continue to get more heartworms until it finally develops symptoms and irreversible damage has been done.
2). Extreme treatments have been used in the past when alternatives were limited. These medicines contain arsenic and are poisonous to both heartworms and patients. Immiticide is now the only drug of this type on the market. The problems with this drug are twofold. The drug itself can kill or severely weaken your dog. In cases where heartworms are killed, the added stress of even a few dead worms can kill your dog. In cases where many heartworms are killed at once, the dog will probably die of pulmonary emboli. The death rate using Immiticide in dogs with minimal numbers of heartworms is still 1% to 2%. The death rate of dogs when this drug is used with moderate infestations approaches 20%. Using Immiticide the death rate of dogs with severe infestations is about 100%. Most dogs treated this way are antigen positive for many months and even years.
3.) The mild treatment is the treatment we recommend for nearly all dogs with heartworms. This treatment uses ivermectin as the active ingredient and other drugs to decrease the reaction to dying microfilaria. Ivermectin is extremely non toxic. The dosage is begun at a low level and increases at subsequent treatments to help prevent the death of a large number of microfilaria at one time. When the treatment is completed a blood test for microfilaria will assure that heartworm prevention can be safely started. Heartguard with Ivermectin as its active ingredient is the prevention recommended for dogs that have been treated.
Note from GSGRR: Based upon the number of doggies that we have placed with heartworms who have received the mild treatment, a majority of them test heartworm free within 18 months of placement when the mild treatment was commenced. This can be controversial for some vets but we strongly urge that you consider this method.