Unfortunately, heartworms can lead to death in pets. However, if your pet should get it, you can visit our vet for treatment. It’s not an easy process though. We advise our families to come into Oak Ridge Animal Hospital, serving Greensboro, NC, and the surrounding area, for treatment. We can also take preventative measures, so your pet doesn’t get worms.

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About Heartworms

A heartworm is a parasite. It comes from mosquitos contaminated with them. When an infected mosquito bites your pet, the heartworm is transferred into your pet. The worm is a roundworm that enters your pet and has the potential to travel to his or her lungs and heart. This worm will continue to reproduce inside of your pet; therefore, one worm can turn into 250. These parasites can grow up to 16 inches in size. This particular parasite is more common in subtropic and tropic areas, especially along the Atlantic coast. This makes North Carolina a prime area for heartworms. If you notice your pet is coughing frequently or having difficulty exercising, it’s possible he or she has heartworms. However, some pets never exhibit any symptoms.

Treatment of Heartworms

The first step of the treatment process is the diagnostic screening, which consists of an antigen test. We may also perform a microfilariae test and a complete blood cell count (CBC). Additionally, it’s possible we’ll use imaging to view the worms. Once we confirm your pet has heartworms, we prescribe medications. For instance, we may inject your pet with doxycycline and prednisone. These drugs help to prevent side effects caused by the heartworms dying.

We then use a heartworm preventative in order to kill the young heartworms and as a preventative measure. Typically, we use melarsomine hydrochloride, which is an injectable used to kill the adult heartworms. We restrict your pet’s exercise level for the next 30 days and educate you on how to monitor your pet for side effects. After 30 days from the initial treatment, we give the second. A day later, we give your pet the third injection.

Your pet will need to undergo a test for microfilariae in the bloodstream about three to five months later. Six months after the last treatment we check your pet for both microfilariae and heartworms.

If we can’t treat the problem using medication, your pet may need to have surgery. This requires a veterinary surgeon to remove the worms from the heart and blood vessels in your pet’s lungs. This is a last resort though because it’s not always a successful procedure.