Heartworm is a silent killer that can cause irreparable damage to the lungs and heart of your dog if not treated on time.The heartworm treatment is very strong and prevention needs to be taken seriously. It’s possible to eliminate any trace of heartworm in your dog with treatment but this same treatment takes a big toll on your pet.
Our dog was heartworm positive when we rescued her from the shelter and didn’t know much about it. Fortunately, the shelter provides free treatment for their dogs. The treatment is very expensive; the price range is around $800 – $1200, which can be easily avoided with monthly heartworm prevention. Our monthly medicine costs us around $60 and it comes with 6 pills for 6 months. Which is a low price to pay compared to the treatment and the damage that heartworm can cause to your dog. Try your best to never forget a dose as one dose missed can lead to your dog being infected.
Before Heartworm Treatment
Stage 1: Not many symptoms or any at all. Dogs might seem pretty healthy.
Stage 2: Dogs shows symptoms like lethargy, cough, gets tired easily, rapid breathing.
Stage 3: You will find the dog infected coughing a lot, difficult breathing and might even cough blood.
Stage 4: Symptoms are similar than the previous stage and even more noticeable. Heartworm will start causing a lot of damage to your dog’s overall health. Dogs will most likely need surgery to remove the heartworms from their lungs and heart as the regular treatment will be too dangerous for them as the heartworm might dettach and block their respiratory system.
First Month: Doxycycline or Minocycline treatment
Fortunately, our dog was on Stage 1. She was found as a stray and was taken to the shelter where they tested her immediately for heartworms and was able to start an early treatment. They neutered her and started the initial 28 days treatment of Minocycline (They might also use Doxycycline)
Second Month: Short walks and calm environment
After 2 months of her being in the shelter, we adopted her and we didn’t know much about her except that she was heartworm positive and was found as a stray. By that time they already finished the doxycycline treatment and told us to set an appointment with their vet the following month. She seemed very healthy, but as we got closer to the appointment we started noticing that she was breathing heavier at night. She was hyperventilating sometimes as well and we heard her coughing a few times. We still walked and took her to the park but we avoided to exercise her too much.
Third Month: Immiticide Injection
A month passed and we took her to the vet. They did a blood test to make sure there were not baby heartworms (which are the hardest to kill). Fortunately, she was negative and they proceeded with the treatment. They administrated her immticide. They took her temperature and shaved one side of her lower back around 1″ or 2″. They made us leave the room and after 10 minutes they made us come back. The injection goes behind their vertebrate and it’s very painful, so they had to muzzle her and tried their best to keep her steady.
They gave us pain and anti-inflammatory medication. We could tell she was really in pain. We went home and we noticed that she didn’t know where or how to lay down. They told us to give her the medicine with food, but she was in so much pain that didn’t want to eat (She is really food driven and for her not to eat, she must have felt extremely sick).
We tried different foods and she finally ate some bologna so we were able to give her half a pill. We knew we had to find something that she’d eat. We went to the pet store and got her premium canned dog food. She was able to eat some of it and we were able to give her medicine. She laid down the whole day and we only gave her very short potty breaks as she could barely walk. The second dose was the next day and we were really afraid of it.
As we enter the vet office she was hesitant. They shaved her other side and asked us to leave. This time they took a little longer, when we came back they told us she struggled a lot and had to try a few times before they were able to inject her. We took her home and again, she was in a lot of pain. However, it needed to be done. If it’s not treated, heartworm can cause a lot of irreparable damage to your dog and will shorten their lives considerably. It wasn’t necessary to crate her as she was not moving much, we continued giving her can food for a few days till she finished her pain medicine and for a month we gave her very short walks.
After a week she looked happy again and had more energy, but it’s important not to exercise your dog and keep them as calm as possible because as the heartworm starts detaching from their lungs, it might increase their chances to choke them or get lodged in an artery. She coughed a little blood a couple times. We didn’t need to crate her as she is a couch potato and a very lazy dog. Overall she responded very well to the treatment after the first initial week.
Fourth month: Finally, we can walk her again!
After a month we decided to take her to the dog park and we start walking her around the block. We only started giving her longer walks after 6 weeks of the immiticide shot.
Eighth month: Retest
A second blood test needs to be done after 6 months of her immiticide treatment. Which is next month. We are hoping everything went well and she is negative. The treatment has a very high success rate so we can’t wait to hear the results. We will keep this post updated about her results. After all we went through we cannot emphasize enough about always remembering giving your dog the heartworm medicine every month.