Heartworm 101

This is a discussion on Heartworm 101 within the Health Issues & Questions forums, part of the Health & Wellness category; Instead of taking focus away from Emma, I decided to do an independent thread on heartworm, what it is, how ...

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    Heartworm 101

    Instead of taking focus away from Emma, I decided to do an independent thread on heartworm, what it is, how it is contracted, and treatment.

    The definitive site on heartworms is <http://www.heartwormsociety.org>

    Dogs contract it by being bitten by a mosquito carrying the microfilaria. The microfilaria enter the blood stream and make their way to the heart where they lodge and grow into adults. It is endemic in most parts of the United States, with a few exceptions and isolated pockets of the country. Year round preventative should be given in most areas of the country. Now that dogs post hurricane Katrina have been scattered all over the US, heartworm is now appearing in areas where it didn't exist before and dogs that have lived in those areas all their lives are now coming up heartworm positive, much to their owners' dismay.

    Dogs infected with heartworms can be asymptomatic for a while, but it is a slow and in the end painful death. Except for ivermectin sensitive breeds, such as collies, shelties, and a few others, treatment for heartworm involves a series of injections (usually immiticide which is basically a poison which kills the heartworms) spread out over a month to six weeks time, depending upon the severity of the load of worm a dog might be carrying, plus age, overall health and other extenuating factors. In the old days, arsenic was what was used and that was very hard on the dogs. Thankfully, immiticide was the drug of choice since I have been involved in dealing with heartworm positive dogs. It is still hard on the dogs being treated and veterinarian instructions must be followed.

    As the worms start dying off they get into the blood stream to be carried through the body's cleansing system, it is possible for them to get lodged in the lungs or other organs and cause clots, which in turn can kill the dog. This is why there is limited activity allowed and essentially crate rest during the time of treatment. And not always will all the worms lodge in the heart. My vet told me of one dog where a worm had lodged at the base of the brain of a dog and it died during treatment. My second fosters, one of them was a heartworm positive and I lost her due to an aberrant worm that was lodged in her spin. She went down in her back and was paralyzed. Because of her, I am on pins and needles until I get the results of the heartworm test on a new foster and my gut will clinch if they come back positive. The good news is that every other one I have been through treatment with, they have sailed through with no problems at all.

    There are alternative treatments as well and none should be done without veterinarian consultation. One protocol being utilized by rescue groups is just beginning the monthly preventative. The adult worms go through their life cycle and die off, the monthly preventative (which is something of a misnomer, as what it does is kill off any microfilaria that might be present preventing the development of adult worms to lodge in the heart) kills off any microfilaria preventing further investation. Alternative/holistic methods exist as well, again without veterinarian supervision, do not attempt on one's own.

    While I am very sorry to hear Emma is having to go through this (and T-gal too), awareness has been raised and others will now have their corgis tested and put on preventative.

    Cost wise, $100 +/- a year for preventative is a small price to pay to avoid more costly treatment and increased risk of losing one's corgi. Price for heartworm treatment varies around the country a bit, but the cost at my vet's is $300 - $400 per dog.

    Debbie
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    Good idea to create this seperate thread Deb and thanks for all the info.

    linda
  3. #3
    sweetlychee's Avatar
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    Pardon me if I don't have the knowledge. I thought that heartworm was from all the sniffing the dog does and touching, tasting, and sniffing all the stuff from the ground? I have heart worm medication for Milo every month that he takes. Is that good preventive care enough?
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    No, heartworm comes from being bitten by a mosquito(like Deb's thread says)
    If your dog is on monthly heartguard or something else prescribed by your vet, then she should be okay - I am assuming your vet advised you on this.

    linda
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    I am glad you started this thread Deb. Hopefully it will help everyone understand the danger of heartworms and how to prevent it.
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    Good post Debbie.
    Thanks
    Cindy ( darci's mom )
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    sweetlychee's Avatar
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    Yes, my vet said take the heartworm medication every month.
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    Debbie,

    I have a question - Emma seems to poo everytime we go out now - this isn't her usual routine. I did start adding pumpkin to her food yesterday = 2 tbl pumpkin, 1/2 cup kibble and sometimes a little bit of leftover meat like the 1/3 turkey frank yesterday. I can tell she is going easier this afternoon. Do you think it is the pumpkin making her go more often OR could it be the heart shot that is breaking down the worms causing this? She is also having bad gas....
  9. #9
    Jane Austen's Avatar
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    Dog(s): Kayli
    I just started Duchess on a tablespoon or two of pumkin every day. She is pooing oftener too. Just before I started the pumpkin she was seeming to have a hard time passing stool, straining a bit. Now it seems to come easier.
  10. #10
    donnawells's Avatar
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    Dog(s): Honey and Sassy
    Debbie I am new to this forum, and also new to having Corgis, although I have been interested in the breed for many years, but didn't have the time or place for them until now that I have retired and moved to the country where the property is completely fenced. I adopted 2 sisters from the same litter, Honey & Sassy 2 mos. ago. They are 5 yrs old & both were heartworm positive & had the immiticide shots 6 days ago. I am keeping a close watch on them and hoping for the best, while also feeling scared about the dying worms causing a clot, which can kill them. I found this forum & joined so I can read about the experiences of others and particularly about caring for the Corgi breed.

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