Your dog has heartworms - what to expect

Narrated from: Dog Health

If your dog has been diagnosed with heartworms, then you are facing some rough times ahead. However, chances are high that your canine companion will be completely healed, but both of you will have to undergo a highly unpleasant period.

The heartworm disease poses a real danger for your dog. If the disease was left unchecked, your dog would probably die.

If your dog has shown symptoms of heartworm disease (coughing is usually the earliest warning you would get), then chances are high that the disease is at an advanced stage. The first thing you have to do is to restrict your dog’s activity – this is of vital importance if your dog is energetic. The dog must not be allowed to strain its body, since the increased blood flow might cause the heartworms to move and an important artery might become jammed, causing heart failure.

The treatment of the disease is a long and painful process. Your dog will undergo a series of laboratory tests, so the extent of the problem can be evaluated. These tests are expensive, but they are important, since your dog’s overall health has to be checked – the heartworm disease treatment can have severe side-effects.

An arsenic-based solution would be injected in your dog to kill the adult heart-worms. This medication can have a lot of side-effects. You must insist that Immiticide is to be used on your dog – older drugs (such as thiacetarsamide sodium), have even more drawbacks. After the medicine is injected, be on the watch for side effects. Basically, nothing can be done to avoid them, so you just have to help your dog through.

Your dog would probably be prescribed some kind of antibiotic which would kill the bacteria that are in symbiosis with the heartworms. Also, a heartworm preventative should be introduced under your vet’s advice – the preventative will kill the heartworm larva.

If heartworm disease is in too advanced a stage, or your dog can’t handle the possible side effects of the arsenic-based medication, the heartworms may be removed surgically. However, this is a dangerous procedure and should be tried only if all other solutions are exhausted.

After the heartworms are killed, you still must not allow your dog to exercise – this is still vitally important, since the dead heartworms break into little pieces and before they leave your dog’s blood vessels, they could still block an artery and kill the dog. The dog should not exert itself for at least several months after the treatment.

After the treatment, a prophylactic heartworm-prevention program would be in order. A cured dog can easily be infected again.

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