What Is the Best Heartworm Treatment for Dogs?

The severity of canine heartworm infection has to be diagnosed before any heartworm treatment for dogs is administered. Heartworm medication is generally prescribed after examination of the dog’s medical history. Many drugs have side effects and in very advanced cases of heartworm disease, the owner may choose not to treat the dog at all. The symptoms of heartworms aren’t evident until the disease progresses to an advanced stage.

Symptoms of Heartworm Disease:

  • Heart problems or failure
  • Lethargy
  • Difficult breathing
  • Cough

Mature heartworms are nearly 5 inches long and survive in the heart and major arteries around it. Along with adult worms, immature worms or larvae exist and continue growing in the dog’s body. Heartworm medicine is based on the number of heartworms present, the dog’s age and risks due to underlying illnesses.

Treatment involves killing the immature heartworms before killing the adult ones. The product that kills mature heartworms in dogs contains the active ingredient melarsomine dihydrochloride. This medication is injected in the dog’s body in either two or three doses. A three dose treatment works best, as it prevents too many adult worms from dying at once and causing circulatory shock. In a three dose treatment, the dog is injected once, followed by two more injections a month later.

Heartworm Treatment Aftercare  

  • Keep the dog indoors for nearly 20 days after medication.
  • Avoid physical exercise or activities that will increase the heart rate.
  • It’s best to avoid walks and give the dog plenty of rest.
  • If you notice any signs of nose bleeding or cough, seek prompt medical help.

Heartworm Medication:

  • Advantage Multi
  • Iverhart Plus
  • Heartgard Plus
  • Iverhart Max
  • Sentinel

Most medicines are monthly heartworm preventive tablets. Some drugs treat and prevent hookworms and whipworms along with heartworms. Read and follow package instructions before administering heartworm tablets to your pet. Tablets such as Heartgard Plus contain ivermectin. Although ivermectin doesn’t kill adult heartworms, it shortens their lifespan. Ivermectin kills heartworm larvae and thus prevents adult heartworms from forming. The medicine should be given once a month all year round.

Side Effects of Heartworm Medication:

  • Tremors
  • Dilated pupils
  • Loss of body weight
  • Death

Heartworm Prevention

Due to the seriousness of canine heartworm disease, it’s necessary to take preventive measures to reduce the risk of heartworms in your pet. Consider using techniques to prevent mosquito infestations around the house. A vet test can detect heartworm disease before preventive heartworm medication is used. Although studies reveal that there’s a lower risk of exposure to heartworm infection in colder climates, its best to continue the monthly preventive tablet even during the winter.

Since the treatment of heartworm disease is costly and may not always be successful in the advanced stage of disease, using all year preventive medication is the best approach.