How To Treat Heartworm in Dogs

by Vera
(St. Louis, MO.)

I am fostering a 12-year-old female beagle named Pokey. I will keep her until she dies per my agreement with the organization I adopted her from. She takes Temaril-P once daily and Heartgard-Plus monthly with an application of Frontline.

When I got her 7 months ago, she was 30 pounds, now she is 35 pounds. The rescue place received her from the dog pound. She arrived from the pound with heartworm. X-rays showed them in her heart and lungs. They put her on Docicyclin for 30 days. Now she receives one Temeral-P daily. A week ago she started coughing after coming up a flight of steps from being outside walking around. I reported it to the vet and they put her on 2 Timeral-P for four days. Now we are back to 1 per day. The vet's office weighed her yesterday and put her on OM food for overweight condition.

She is very sweet. She was taken from the dog pound, moved into the shelter and three days later into my foster care until her end. She is a solid 35 pounds and I don't see how her skinny little legs can support her. She runs and walks with agility.

I had rescued an old dog years ago from the railroad tracks, had him for three years, but he died from heartworm, he had suffered and I was not able to treat him. I don't want her to suffer like he did. I was only 20. 37 years later I am faced with a similar situation. I am into this situation with both eyes open knowing fully that my Pokey will choke to death at the end. She is receiving treatment for the young worms, they will die from the Heartgard Plus.

Is there anything I can do to help her get rid of the mature heartworms in heart and lungs?

Veterinarian Response: Canine Heartworm Treatment

Hello Vera,

Because you have Pokey on a heartworm preventative, she will not be picking up any new heartworms. The adult worms in her heart and lungs will die over the course of several years, but there is no way to know whether this process will do so much damage to Pokey’s heart and lungs that it ends up killing her before the heartworms are all gone.

The only way to clear the adult worms in her heart and lungs in the near future is with the medication Immiticide (melarsomine dihydrochloride). In most cases, an injection of this medication is given once a month for three months so the worms are killed gradually and the body has a chance to absorb them and recover before the next group dies. Throughout this process, dogs must be rested and monitored closely for side effects.

Immiticide treatment is not without risks and can be expensive, but if Pokey’s heartworm infection is as bad as you say, it is likely the only way to save her life.

Best of luck,

Jennifer Coates, DVM

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