Is There a Treatment for Heartworm Disease in Dogs?
Melarsomine dihydrochloride (available under the trade names Immiticide and Diroban) is an arsenic-containing drug that is FDA-approved to kill adult heartworms in dogs. Its given by deep injection into the back muscles to treat dogs with stabilized class 1, 2, and 3 heartworm disease. Another drug, Advantage Multi for Dogs (imidacloprid and moxidectin), is FDA-approved to get rid of microfilariae in the dog’s bloodstream. Advantage Multi for Dogs is a topical solution applied to the dog’s skin.
The treatment for heartworm disease is not easy on the dog or on the owner’s pocket book. Treatment can be potentially toxic to the dog’s body and can cause serious complications, such as life-threatening blood clots to the dog’s lungs. Treatment is expensive because it requires multiple visits to the veterinarian, blood tests, x-rays, hospitalization, and a series of injections.
Many products are FDA-approved to prevent heartworms in dogs. All require a veterinarian’s prescription. Most products are given monthly, either as a topical liquid applied on the skin or as an oral tablet. Both chewable and non-chewable oral tablets are available. One product is injected under the skin every 6 or 12 months, and only a veterinarian can give the injection. Some heartworm preventives contain other ingredients that are effective against certain intestinal worms (such as roundworms and hookworms) and other parasites (such as fleas, ticks, and ear mites).
Year-round prevention is best! Talk to your dog’s veterinarian to decide which preventive is best for your dog.
The American Heartworm Society advocates to “Think 12.” Give dogs 12 months of heartworm prevention and get them tested for heartworms every 12 months.
Cats can also get heartworms after being bitten by an infected mosquito, although they are not as susceptible to infection as dogs. A cat is not a natural host of heartworms because the worms do not thrive as well inside a cat’s body. Both indoor and outdoor cats are at risk for heartworm disease.
What will happen if I donât use heartworm prevention?
Your puppy could develop heartworms and heartworm disease. All it takes is one bite from a mosquito carrying infective larvae for your dog to become infected with heartworms.
Can I use heartworm prevention to treat my dog if he is already infected?
No. Heartworm prevention medication only works on the infective larvae. In as early as 51 days, those larvae can develop past the point that prevention will kill them, and they will develop into an adult. After this, your dog will need to be treated with a more costly and extensive adulticide regimen to kill the adult worms.