Heart worm is preventable. A mosquito bites your pet and in approximately one to three weeks the larvae from the microscopic baby worms or microfilariae (Dirofilaria immitis/roundworm) that is carried by the infected mosquito, mature into larvae and travel to your pet’s heart where the worms grow within the chambers of the heart and larger blood vessels. If left untreated the end result can be fatal; the worms will multiply and block blood flow to your dog’s heart and lungs. Within six months after the infection sets in, the mature worms in the dog’s heart will produce more microfilariae and the cycle continues.
The best heart worm prevention method says it all, “prevention”. If your dog is not given the necessary preventatives, resulting with a negative diagnosis, the treatment becomes more complicated. The veterinarian can use the common drug Ivermectin, kills immature worms not yet in the heart muscle and blood and not the worms already obstructing circulation or lungs. One drug for more severe infestations of the worm is Immiticide (melarsomine). This drug contains arsenic and does have numerous side effects. The veterinarian will run tests to make sure the liver and kidneys are functioning, along with an x-ray of the chest to check for damage caused by the worm. This is done to make sure that the dog can withstand the difficult treatment. The dose is given in three injections, twenty-four hours between each dose. The injection is very painful and the dog must be watched for complications and kept quiet with little movement. In very severe cases, surgically removing the heart worms may be necessary.
The treatment using Melarsomine is expensive and with many risks. The alternative for dogs that have tested positive but not yet showing symptoms is to use Ivermectin and Doxycycline (an antibiotic) for approximately nine months; weakening the worms so they will die.
The best heart worm prevention for your dog and cat are to use heart worm medications. Some contain a combination of different preventative medicines to manage the control of hookworms, tapeworms, roundworms, as well as fleas, ear mites and ticks. These medications do not treat existing parasite infections and are only a heart worm prevention.
The number one best heart worm prevention is an annual test especially before starting treatment for your dog. The American Heartworm Association also recommends a test if the owner is switching from one brand to the next. Infected mosquitoes can transfer the larvae to puppies and kittens. They should be started on preventatives by eight weeks old. The antigen and antibody heart worm tests require a blood sample from your pet. Antigen tests detect antigens from adult female heart worms and antibody tests are used mostly for cats.
The old adage “An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure” applies to the best heart worm prevention advice available. This saying can also apply to holistic veterinarians and their philosophy that the whole animal needs to be considered to take full advantage of supporting a healthy living being. Natural cleansing and purifying can keep our pets free of parasites. Natural remedies also used in conjunction with testing can be an essential tool in the fight to keep our pets healthy.