Heartworm Questions

Heartworm Preventive Administration

Heartworm medication should be administered monthly. Consider the following:

1. Heartworm Preventives are more effective against heartworm larval stages that emerge 1-2 months AFTER the last mosquito bite. If your mosquito season ends in November, unless you are giving preventive in January, your pet is vulnerable. 

2. Our part of the country is famous for warmer temperatures later in the year which lengthens the mosquito season even briefly. 

3. Our pet population in 2015 is more mobile than in the past. If, for example, we taken them to Florida in the winter and they are not on preventive medication, those pets are vulnerable. 

Heartworm Testing Requirement

The American Heartworm Society, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Animal Hospital Association, as well as most online pet sites recommend annual heartworm testing for dogs. We have adopted this position for our pet owners. This even extends to those pets that get heartworm medication each month.

We live in a busy time. We have many things to do, appointments to keep, kids or grand kids to care for, along with our pets. Sometimes we can forget the heartworm dose or assume that another member of the family has given Fido his monthly heartworm preventive. When this does happens, the pet is vulnerable.  

Other times we dutifully give the pet its dose only to have the pet eat some grass and vomit up the medication. Again, the pet is vulnerable. 

Finally, no medication is 100% effective. There have been cases where pets are given their medications properly and yet come down with heartworm disease. Is this medication failure or some unique response in the individual pet?  If the testing is not done, the adult worms live an doing their damage and we have the false impression that the pet is protected and free of the worms. Heartworm disease is treatable when detected early and this is good pet health. 

In the face, occasionally, of accusations that testing dogs that are on year round heartworm preventive is not necessary, we must remind people of our reasons. In this profession we are animal advocates and our recommendations are in the best interest of the pet.s health. 

Heartworm Treatment

Heartworm treatment is divided into parts to lessen its impact on the pet.  

1. First Phase. This part of treatment is done at home and involves oral antibiotic medication that, over a ten day period, clears a bacterial population that often lives within the adult heartworm. When the preferred host, the heartworm adult, is killed, those bacteria can adversely affect the patient. Another medication is given to start lessening the population of heartworm larva in the blood stream and tissues. 

2. The Second Phase begins within a week of the end of the antibiotics and is done in the hospital. The pet is hospitalized 3-4 days and is given medication kill the adult heartworms in the heart and in the large blood vessels that go from the heart to the lungs. Once these worms die, then go with the blood flow to the lungs where they get trapped in the small blood vessels. Over the next 30 days or so, the body's defense system mobilizes and goes into this area to remove dead heartworm debris. IT IS CRITICAL THAT OVER NEXT 30 DAYS YOU SEVERELY LIMIT YOUR PET'S ACTIVITY LEVEL. To much activity can result in pneumonia or even strokes. 

3. Thirty days after release, a recheck of the pet is done. If the pet checks out, the doctor will release the pet for a gradual resumption of exercise. 

4. Five months after this visit, a blood test is done to make sure the pet is heartworm free.      


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