No responsible owner wants their beloved pet to experience any sort of parasite infection.
However, most agree that when it comes to parasites to avoid the most, heartworms are at the top of the list. These long, thin worms live inside the lungs, heart, and blood vessels of affected animals, compromising how well their body functions and eventually causing organ failure and death if they aren't treated promptly.
If you are living in West Nashville, TN, and are looking for information on heartworms and their treatment, our experienced veterinarians will be happy to help. In the meantime, here is everything you need to know about heartworm treatment.
Treating Heartworm Disease in Dogs
Fortunately, there is a single, approved medication used for treating heartworms in dogs. This is known as melarsomine. Unfortunately, treating heartworms in dogs is not without risk and your vet will need to take specific steps to minimize these and reduce the likelihood of your canine having an adverse reaction to the heartworm treatment.
Exactly what will happen during your pet's heartworm treatment will vary between veterinarians. However, typically you can expect treatment to take a format similar to the one we have described below.
Immediately after diagnosis, your vet will tell you to restrict your dog from doing any exercise. This is important so that no further strain is placed on your pet's heart and lungs, which are becoming blocked and adversely affected by the accumulation of worms inside them and the surrounding blood vessels. You shouldn't recommence exercise until you have the permission of your veterinarian.
If your pet's health is seriously suffering as a result of her heartworm infestation, she may need her condition stabilized before treatment can begin. This could involve a range of different medications including pain relief and IV fluids. Your vet will be able to tell you when your canine is stable enough for treatment to begin.
Before your pet's heartworm treatment can begin, she will first be given oral prednisone and doxycycline which will help to reduce the likelihood that she will have a bad reaction to the death of the heartworms.
Destruction of Juvenile Heartworms
Heartworms must be destroyed at every stage of their lifecycle. Your pet will be hospitalized, at least for the day, while they are given a preventative that will kill all of the microfilaria (juvenile heartworms) in her body. This is to ensure that she doesn't have an adverse reaction. After this, you will still need to give monthly heartworm preventatives at home to protect her from further infection.
Destruction of Adult Heartworms
An injection of melarsomine will be given which will destroy a percentage of the adult heartworms. It is important to do this in several stages as if too many die at once, it is more likely to trigger an adverse reaction in your pet. Your pet will be closely monitored for the first 12-24 hours after the injection is given. A second dose of melarsomine is given 30 days after the first. A third will then be given the day following the second.
Checking for the Presence of Heartworms
Three to five months after the final melarsomine injection, your vet will test for microfilaria to ensure that the treatment has been successful. At six months after the final melarsomine injection, a test for adult heartworms will also be performed. These should hopefully show that the treatment has been successful and there is no evidence of heartworms at any stage of their lifecycle.
In some circumstances, it may be necessary for your vet to surgically remove worms from your pet's body. If this is the case for your dog, you will be spoken to about the risks involved.
Treating Heartworm Disease in Cats
Heartworms may be treatable in dogs, but cats are less fortunate. Currently, there are no approved treatments for heartworms in felines, and while some veterinarians have used the medication designed for dogs, there are also significant risks attached to doing so. As heartworms die, their bodies release bacteria into your pet's body. Some animals will experience a reaction to these bacteria. The majority of cats who have been treated using canine heartworm medication have not survived.
As a result, if you are seeking heartworm treatment for your cat, your vet will almost certainly suggest a management plan instead. This is based on managing the current symptoms associated with the heartworms and helping your feline to outlive the worms. Since heartworms in cats typically only live two or three years, this is possible. However, there may be permanent damage to your cat's health.
If you are concerned that your pet might be affected by this parasite and are looking for heartworm treatment in West Nashville, TN, look no further than Richland Animal Clinic. Our dedicated team of veterinary experts would be happy to assess your pet and offer the necessary treatment. Please contact us at (615) 356-6534 today to schedule an appointment.