Your pet has just been diagnosed with heartworms. Now what? Unfortunately for our feline friends, the “now what” involves either supportive care to help them clear the infection or surgery to remove at least some of the heartworms. There are currently no approved treatments for heartworm infection in cats.
For our canine companions, “now what” focuses on eliminating both adult and immature heartworms safely and successfully, preventing new infection and minimizing complications of the drug treatment. Before treatment begins, your dog may be prescribed steroids and antibiotics. The antibiotics are a preventive measure to counteract the bacterium that lives inside adult heartworms and is released into your dog’s body as they die. Steroids are used to help reduce any inflammation that might be present due to the heartworm infection. Following these preliminary measures, treatment involves adulticide therapy which is a three-dose injection series. These injections have to be given in our clinic, and your pup will need to be hospitalized for observation to ensure there are no serious reactions to the injections. Your dog will also have to follow stringent exercise restrictions to help protect his heart from additional damage and avoid complications that can arise as the heartworms die. In addition, your pup may require additional supportive care while undergoing treatment. How intensive the treatment to clear your dog?s body will need to be depends on the severity of the infection.
But once this regimen is complete, your dog is done with the treatment, right? Not so fast. After all this, there is still the chance that the treatment will not fully clear the infection from your furry best friend. Because the treatment targets adult heartworms, there is a chance that any larvae in your dog’s system may mature into adults following the treatment. To verify the treatment was successful or determine that it was not, your dog will need to be tested in six months to see if there are any remaining adult heartworms. If your dog still tests heartworm positive, the treatment may need to be repeated to kill them.
Heartworm treatment is costly, time consuming and hard on both your pet and you. If your pet has not received a positive heartworm diagnosis, we strongly recommend you maintain a year-round heartworm preventive routine to help avoid putting either of you through the process.
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