Stage I: Asymptomatic
Stage II: Soft cough starts & you may see some exercise intolerance or nose bleeds
Stage III: Chronic Immune Stimulation-antibodies are being continually produced to attack the heartworms which also produce proteins that can cause damage to delicate tissues.
Stage IV: Congestive Heart Failure-Heartworm disease if left untreated will develop into this dangerous condition with disastrous results.
If your dog has a positive Heartworm Test, the following steps are next:
1. We will look for microfilaria in a blood sample under the microscope
2. Bloodwork to test for abnormalities in the liver, kidneys, or blood count/levels
3. X-rays to look for enlarged heart & ensure other organs look normal
4. Adminster heartworm prevention monthly throughout treatment
5. Course of antibiotics & steroids
6. 2-3 injections of Immiticide (medication to kill adult heartworms) are given 30 days apart (usually in the back muscles)
7. Heartworm test 6 months after completing treatment to ensure heartworm negative
Complete rest is essential after treatment.
The adult worms die in a few days and start to decompose. As they break up, they are carried to the lungs, where they lodge in the small blood vessels and are eventually reabsorbed by the body. This resorption can take several weeks to months and most post-treatment complications are caused by these fragments of dead heartworms. This can be a dangerous period so it is absolutely essential that the dog be kept as quiet as possible and is not allowed to exercise for one month following treatment.
You may also notice a cough during this time which is common. If you become concerned about the severity of the cough, please contact our clinic to set up an appointment with one of our veterinarians.
As mentioned in the previous article, we cannot use the same treatments for cats as we do dogs. The best protection for cats is to always use prevention, such as Revolution, to prevent the disease from first occurring.