My Dog’s Experience With Heartworm

conforting dog
Experience with Heartworm

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

There are 4 stages.

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 spayed 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. 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.

9 thoughts on “My Dog’s Experience With Heartworm

    • Lorena says:

      Hey Nikki! She is doing great overall. It took a while for her energy levels to get back up, but she’s enjoying her long walks now.

  1. Sandy says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I just got a rescue that tested positive for heartworms and just started treatment this week. I have never had a dog that was heartworm positive and I am so scared! This helped me a lot.

    • Lorena says:

      I’m glad it helped! We volunteer for a dog shelter and unfortunately, a lot of dogs are heartworm positive and they all had successful treatments. I was scared too but everything went well.

  2. Tonj says:

    Thank you Lorena, we also have a rescue that tested positive in February. He had his second injection today and has the third tomorrow. It breaks my heart to hear how many precious pups have to go through this when it is so easily preventable. I am happy to see so many success stories .. It keeps me focused and able to see the light at the end of this awful tunnel. Wishing you call the best!

    • Lorena says:

      Give your rescue lots of love, pets and cuddles! It’s a difficult time for them but a month goes by fast and soon you will be able to go on walks with your pet pup again.

  3. Mercedes says:

    Thank you for this story!

    My dog Lily was diagnosed with HW in April and got her first injection last week. She’s been doing well so far with the exercise restriction, but now that she’s had her injection I’m on high alert watching for any weird behavior. She panted a few times, not hyperventilating, just had her mouth open so I made an appointment with the vet to get her checked out. It’s quite stressful, and it’s sad that she doesn’t know she’s sick and that she has to rest. Luckily the Trazodone she’s been taking is helping her stay relaxed.

    Thanks again for writing about your experience, it’s helpful to hear from people who have been through it!

    • Lorena says:

      You’re very welcome! I was sick worried all the time when I heard my dog panting but it’s part of the process. Let us know how did her treatment go.

  4. Sid says:

    Yes I just want to also thank you for writing this article. I have an older border collie who was just diagnosed with heartworm and we are just near the end of the first month. I’m guessing he’s in stage 2. In addition to just helping Andy I have two other dogs who can be very active. It is a challenge to keep them separate. I also noticed that Andy is peeing a lot more sometimes in the house. Nothing fatal :-)…. After peanut butter and cheese stopped working with medicine I’ve been using hot dogs. I’m wondering though if he’s getting a little suspicious of them now…
    I’m glad your pup is recovering and wish the best for all of you!

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