Heart worm is the deadliest type of parasitic worm in dogs and cats. This fatal disease is also found in 30 other animal species such as wolves, coyotes, ferrets, and sea lions. It is also possible for humans to contract heart worm. In fact, heart worm cases have been reported all over the U.S., in animals of all kinds. Heart worm is not discriminate against older animals or younger animals or animals with well-to-do owners or not-so-well to do owners. Heart worm can strike in the city, in the country, in rural areas, and in the suburbs.
How is this possible? One of the most common ways to contract heart worm through an insect bite. Mosquitoes are a common host and they can be found in every corner of the earth. When the mosquito bites the animal, the infection is transmitted through the animals skin. The larvae develop in the body over a period of several months during which time they grow and migrate to the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. If you have a pet with heart worm, you will notice:
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·Abnormal heart sounds
·Abnormal lung sounds
·Enlargement of the liver
·Fluid accumulation in the abdomen
·Temporary loss of consciousness
In the earliest stages, there are no abnormal signs of infection. In mild cases, coughing is present. In the moderate stage, you may notice coughing, exercise intolerance and abnormal lung sounds. In the most severe cases, all of the above symptoms above may be present. If the infection is severe enough, it can cause death. The disease can damage your dogs heart valves. Once the dog’s heart valves are damaged, the heart is already on its way to failing.
To help ease the symptoms associated with a damaged heart valve or heart disorders, your vet may prescribe a diuretic to reduce fluid retention. Surgery is possible, but the availability of it is very limited. Vets use an alternative to surgery called balloon valvuloplasty. This procedure requires intensive care hospitalization. Any form of damaged heart valve repair is quite costly. The cost to perform any type of heart surgery on dogs is anywhere from $10,000-$20,000+.
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If your pet is in the earliest stages of heart worm, there are many conventional treatments that are considered highly effective. There are also many natural treatments for canine heart worms that may be effective in the early stages of the dieseas. The goal for conventional treatments for canine heart worms is to kill all adult worms with an adulticide and all microfilariae with a microfilaricide. The American Heartworm Society offers the detailed treatment description below. Please read carefully.
Adult Heartworm Therapy (Adulticide Therapy)
There is currently one drug approved by the FDA for use in dogs for the elimination of adult heartworms. This drug is an organic arsenical compound. Dogs receiving this drug therapy will typically have had a thorough pretreatment evaluation of its condition and will then be hospitalized during the administration of the drug. Melarsomine dihydrochloride (Immiticide®, Merial) has demonstrated a higher level of effectiveness and safety than any other adult heartworm treatment previously available. It is administered by deep intramuscular injection into the lumbar muscles. For complete information on the classification and treatment for heartworm infected dogs using this product, consult your veterinarian.
The primary post-adulticide complication is the development of severe pulmonary thromboembolism. Pulmonary thromboembolism results from the obstruction of blood flow through pulmonary arteries due to the presence of dead heartworms and lesions in the arteries and capillaries of the lungs. If heartworm adulticide treatment is effective, some degree of pulmonary thromboembolism will occur.
When dead worms are numerous and arterial injury is severe, widespread obstruction of arteries can occur. Clinical signs most commonly observed include fever, cough, hemoptysis (blood in the sputum) and potentially sudden death. It is extremely important to not allow exercise in any dog being treated for heartworms. Often dogs with severe infections will also require the administration of anti-inflammatory doses of corticosteroids.
Elimination of Microfilariae
The most effective drugs for this purpose are the macrocyclic lactone (ML) anthelmintics, i.e.,milbemycin oxime, selamectin, moxidectin and ivermectin. These drugs are the active ingredients in commonly used heartworm preventives. Although their usage as microfilaricides has not been approved by the FDA, they are widely used by veterinarians as there are no approved microfilaricidal drugs currently available. It is recommended that microfilariae positive dogs being treated with these macrocyclic lactones be hospitalized for at least eight hours following treatment for observation of possible adverse reactions, including those resulting from rapid death of the microfilariae.
Circulating microfilariae usually can be eliminated within a few weeks by the administration of the ML-type drugs mentioned above. Today however, the most widely used microfilaricidal treatment is to simply administer ML preventives as usual, and the microfilariae will be cleared slowly over a period of about six to nine months. – The American Heartworm Society
Natural Cures for Heart Worms
While treatments for canine heart worms are best administered under a vets care, some dogs may be too old or too sick to undergo rigorous treatments. They may be too old for preventative medications as well. Preventative care in the form of monthly tablets, chewables, or topicals includes: Ivermectin, Macrocyclic Lactone (ML), Milbemycin, Moxidectin, and Selamectin. Natural cures for canine heartworms are not regulated, so there is literally hundreds, if not thousands, of products on the market that claim to cure or prevent canine heart worms. It’s best to speak with your vet about alternative cures or contact the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association to locate a holistic vet in your area.