Heartworm Treatment


Hello Everyone. As promised, today I’m barking about how to treat & prevent heartworm. There are several medications but there is some controversy as to how often it should be administered. Except for the warmest parts of the U.S. (mainly in the southeast), heartworms are a seasonal problem. During seasons when there are no mosquitoes, there is no risk of heartworm infection. But pharmaceutical companies pressure vets to prescribe heartworm medications year round.

The most common preventative drugs for heartworm are ivermectin (Heartgard®), milbemycin (Interceptor®) & selamectin (Revolution®). These drugs are generally safe & effective,  but there are always exceptions. The toxicity associated with ivermectin include depression, ataxia (balance problems), & blindness, but these are uncommon at the low doses used in heartworm preventatives. Ivermectin should be used with caution in collies & related breeds such as Old English Sheepdogs & Australian Shepherds, who are more sensitive to the drug’s neurological effects. Milbemycin, the most common alternative drug for collie breeds, can cause depression/lethargy, vomiting, ataxia, anorexia, diarrhea, convulsions, weakness & hyper salivation (drooling). Selamectin is also used to treat ear mites; adverse reactions include hair loss at the site of application, diarrhea, vomiting, muscle tremors, anorexia, lethargy, salivation & rapid breathing.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that the heartworm is slowly developing resistance to these drugs.

As for alternative, all natural treatments, let me start by saying you need to consult with your vet before trying anything on your good dog or cat. While some natural treatments can help to “repel” pests (i.e., make your dog/cat less attractive to mosquitoes), their effectiveness to actually prevent infection is inconclusive & they are definitely not guaranteed to be 100% effective. Furthermore, some natural alternatives are downright dangerous. As an example, one “natural” treatment contains sheep sorrel, & grain alcohol, which are both toxic to dogs & cats.

One alternative approach I sniffed out was to have a special DNA test done which can detect the presence of heartworm larvae. Depending on where you live & the length of mosquito season will determine how often the test is required (about every 4 months to detect larvae before they develop can into adults). If the test is negative, you won’t need treatment & if it’s positive, you will most likely be able to kill the larvae before they reach maturity.

To conclude, at this time it is probably best to first see your vet & give your good dog or cat a recommended heartworm medication but only during the months that mosquitoes are active.

I found a free guide you can download to learn more.

CEO Olivia

What are heartworms? ~ Now You Know


Hello everyone, CEO Olivia here. This week I want to bark out about a serious topic; heartworms. Today I will explain what heartworms are & why they are a serious threat to all good dogs & cats. On Wednesday I will bark about treatments, both pharmaceutical & natural.

Heartworms are parasites that are transmitted by mosquitoes. Heartworm larvae, called microfilaria, circulate in the blood of an infected animal & are sucked up by the mosquito when it feeds. Once inside the mosquito, the larvae develops through several stages before they can infect another animal. For that to occur, outside temperatures must remain above 57 degrees F ( 13 C )day & night, for a minimum of 8 days. The warmer the temperature, the faster the larvae will mature. If the temperature drops below that critical level, larval development will stop; but the larvae don’t die—development will re-start at the same point when the weather warms back up. Larvae reach their infection stage in 8 to 30 days.

When an infected mosquito bites a dog or cat, the heartworm microfilaria are deposited on the skin, where they crawl into the bite wound & enter the bloodstream. Once inside the body, the larvae migrate to the heart where they develop into adults, reproduce, fill the blood stream with microfilaria, & pass it on to the next mosquito.

It takes the microfilaria about 6-7 months to mature into adults & begin reproducing. Left untreated, heartworms can cause severe damage to the heart, lungs, & other organs & is usually fatal.

Signs of heartworm disease may not be recognized in the early stages. The number of heartworms in an animal tends to accumulate gradually over a period of months or even years. Symptoms of heartworm infection may include a persistent cough, reluctance to move or exercise, fatigue after only moderate exercise, reduced appetite & weight loss. Left untreated, adult worms can live up to 7 years in a dog.

With cats, more often than not, their immune system kills the larvae & clears the infection. Adult worms may still develop, but they cannot reproduce; they take about 9 months to mature, & they tend to die after a year or two. However, adult heartworms are about a foot long, so it only takes 1 or 2 to fill up a cat’s tiny heart & cause serious problems. Also the microfilaria can still cause significant inflammation in the lungs. Feline heartworm infection may be misdiagnosed as asthma or bronchitis.

Well that was gross but now you know. On Wednesday I’ll share how to deal with these nasty bugs.

Be sure to enter my Barkday Giveaway. You could win a Knotty Toy for your good dog or cat.  Go on Facebook & visit my page, Oh, the Life of Olivia, or Knotty Toys for Good Dogs page to enter.

CEO Olivia