Heartworm in Dogs: Treatment and Post Care

Do you know what heartworms are, how to prevent your dog from acquiring heartworms, and how to care for your dog getting treatment?

This blog post covers all of these areas, so it’s a good place to start if you’re looking for information.

Shortly after I adopted my dog last summer, I found out that she had heartworms.

She was just 12 months old when I took her to the vet and discovered the bad news.

This blog post is mainly designed for owners who have dogs and want to learn about this common heart disease.

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What are the first signs of heartworms in dogs

What are heartworms?

Heartworms are caused by parasitic worms known as Dirofilaria immitis that live in the heart and lungs of dogs.

They’re spread by mosquitoes, so if your dog goes outside or is near open water (like in a lake or river), the likelihood of getting infected goes up.

It is most frequently seen along the Atlantic and Gulf beaches from the Gulf of Mexico to New Jersey, as well as along the Mississippi River and its major tributaries, but its occurrence has been documented in all 50 states.

Heartworms are about as long as a pencil and in some cases can grow up to 10 inches long!

If your dog doesn’t have heartworm treatment, it’s likely that he will develop clinical signs of the disease as quickly as within months of being infected.

Heartworms cause damage to the arteries surrounding your pet’s heart and lungs, which leads to scarring and inflammation.

Over time this can lead to chronic respiratory problems or even death.

Dogs Tested (2021)PositivePrevalence
17,680,518215,3921.22%
Source: capcvet.org

How do dogs get heartworms?

Heartworms are spread primarily by mosquitoes.

This means that the only way your dog can get heartworms is if he or she has been bitten by a mosquito that is carrying heartworm larvae.

Dogs who are at high risk of contracting heartworms include:

  • Dogs who live in warm climates
  • Dogs that go outside frequently for exercise and playtime
  • Dogs who spend time near water (ponds, lakes, rivers)
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What are the first signs of heartworms in dogs?

Many dogs show little or no symptoms at all in the early stages of the disease.

The longer an illness goes untreated, the more probable it is that symptoms may appear.

Active dogs, dogs that are severely infected, and dogs with other health issues often have a lot of clinical indicators.

A mild chronic cough, aversion to exercise, weariness after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss are all symptoms of heartworm illness.

As the heartworm condition continues, pets may develop heart failure and a large belly from the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen.

Heartworm-infested dogs can experience a sudden obstruction of blood flow within the heart, which can result in a life-threatening form of cardiovascular collapse.

An abrupt presence of laborious breathing, pale gums, and dark crimson or coffee-colored urine characterizes caval syndrome.

Few dogs survive if the heartworm blockage is not surgically removed as soon as possible.

Doggy says, read this too: Can Heartgard Be Cut In Half? 3 Reasons Not To

Can heartworms be prevented?

ensure lots of rest after heartworm treatment for dogs

Several heartworm preventives on the market now are also helpful against intestinal parasites.

Some examples include hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, and tapeworms.

External parasites such as fleas, ticks, ear mites, and the scabies mite can all be treated with some form of product, but it is important to remember that no single product will eliminate all types of internal and external parasites, so be sure to talk to your veterinarian about the best option for your pet.

Heartworm treatments

Unfortunately, many dogs have advanced stages of heartworm disease when they are first diagnosed as it is not always clear from the onset that they have this problem.

It means that the worms have been present for some time and are likely to have caused significant damage to the heart, lungs, blood vessels, kidneys, and liver.

If the case is so advanced. although it is rarely the case, your vet might advise keeping your dog comfortable rather than risk the negative effects associated with treating the heartworms.

In such cases, he or she may not live longer than a few weeks or a few months.

Your vet will tell you which treatment approach is most appropriate for your dog if he/she has been diagnosed with advanced heartworm.

As for the actual treatment, vets typically use Melarsomine, an injectable medication used to kill adult heartworms.

It kills adult heartworms in the heart and blood arteries surrounding it and is given in a series of injections.

According to your dog’s condition, your veterinarian will decide the particular injection regimen something like this: an initial injection, then a 30-day rest period, and then two further injections spaced 24 hours apart.

Can my dog jump on the couch after heartworm treatment?

Can my dog jump on the couch after heartworm treatment

It is not recommended to allow your dog to jump around or participate in strenuous activities immediately after heartworm treatment, and this should extend for a period of 8 weeks.

The main reason for placing restrictions on your dog is to prevent complications from happening.

After that, you can get your dog used to jumping on and off of things again while keeping an eye out in case they start feeling unwell again.

How long do dogs need to rest after heartworm treatment?

After treatment, the heartworms will die during the next 4 to 6 weeks.

During this time, pieces of them may get lodged in various regions of the body’s blood arteries as they expire and break down, causing new issues, especially if your pet’s activity is too rigorous.

This is why the first 30 days after heartworm treatment are extremely important.

It’s recommended to keep your pet on the leash for only as long as he or she needs to urinate or have bowel movements.

As much as possible, stay away from any kinds of stressful situations.

How to keep a dog still after heartworm treatment?

Keeping it in a room

To keep your dog calm and quiet after heartworm treatment, try to keep him in a quiet room.

This can be difficult if you have multiple dogs, but it’s best for both of you to avoid having too much company at that time.

If that’s not possible, ask someone who lives with your pet to watch him for a few hours so he doesn’t get overwhelmed by strangers.

Place a leash on

If your dog has been very active before his surgery, or if he is still very energetic after recovery (this can be difficult to gauge), be sure that he is on a leash at all times during recovery.

If he is running around the house while off his leash and falls or trips over things in the house, then the risk of infection increases greatly!

Tethering your dog

Another useful method is to keep your dog tethered to you, at least during the day when you are around in order to keep it under control.

When it starts to get restless, you can comfort it or give it a nice long massage. It’s a perfect time to bond with your dog!

Crating it

When you are out, keep them crated to reduce movement and also to prevent them from jumping on you when you open the front door!

I would personally put in a Kong stuffed toy, a giant bone for it to chew, or a puzzle toy to keep it occupied, especially those that are bored and need some mental stimulation.

Don’t worry if they don’t immediately figure out how to get treats out of the toy—they’ll get the hang of it eventually!

In conclusion: Heartworm in dogs

Heartworm disease, just like parvovirus, is a serious condition that can be dangerous for our dogs to endure.

If you’re taking your dog to summer camp, hiking, or even just out on walks, you have to be vigilant.

Be sure that you’re keeping your dog in a heartworm-free area, and if they travel outside of your normal area, make sure they have been treated.

Heartworm disease isn’t something that should ever be taken lightly, so don’t risk it.

Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hi, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a certified vet tech for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn or check out my about page!.

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