Can dogs die from heartworm treatment?

The treatment for heartworm disease is not easy on the dog or on the owner’s pocket book. Treatment can be potentially toxic to the dog’s body and can cause serious complications, such as life-threatening blood clots to the dog’s lungs.

Heartworm is a serious condition in dogs that can cause serious, long-term health problems. Unfortunately, it is also a condition that is easy to dismiss when first diagnosed and can be difficult to treat. Treatment of heartworm in a dog can be lengthy, costly, and risky. As a result, many pet owners may be wondering if it is possible for a dog to die from heartworm treatment. In this blog post, we will explore the risks associated with heartworm treatment in dogs, discuss how serious the condition can be, and answer the question, “Can dogs die from heartworm treatment?” We hope to provide pet owners with the information they need to make educated decisions regarding their dog’s health and well-being.

What causes heartworm disease?

Dirofilariasis, also known as heartworm disease, is a serious and possibly fatal condition. It is brought on by the parasite Dirofilaria immitis, which lives on blood.

Infected dogs have adult heartworms in their hearts, pulmonary arteries, and nearby large blood vessels. Worms may occasionally be discovered in other areas of the circulatory system. Female worms are 6 to 14″ (15 to 36 cm) long and 1/8″ (3 mm) wide. Males are about half the size of females. When diagnosed, one dog may have as many as 300 worms.

Adult heartworms may live up to five years. During this time, females produce millions of offspring called microfilaria. Most of these microfilariae reside in the tiny blood vessels.

Since the mosquito serves as an intermediary host during transmission, the illness does not directly spread from dog to dog. Therefore, the disease’s spread coincides with mosquito season, which in many parts of the United States can last all year. In any given area, the prevalence of heartworm disease is directly correlated with the number of infected dogs and the length of the mosquito season.

My dog has been diagnosed with heartworm disease. What is the treatment?

Although fatalities are uncommon, there is some risk involved in treating dogs for heartworms.

In the past, the medication used to treat heartworms had high arsenic levels, which frequently caused toxic side effects. More than 95% of dogs with heartworms can now be successfully treated thanks to a new drug that has fewer side effects.

When they are diagnosed, many dogs already have advanced heartworm disease. Consequently, the heart, lungs, blood vessels, kidneys, and liver have sustained significant damage as a result of the heartworms’ prolonged presence. Rarely, cases may be so severe that treating organ damage and providing comfort for the dog is preferable to risking the side effects of heartworm treatment. The lifespan of a dog in this condition is most likely limited to a few weeks or months. Your vet will give you advice on the ideal course of action for treating canines with advanced heartworm disease.

Treatment to kill adult heartworms. Melarsomine (trade name Immiticide┬«), an injectable medication, is administered to eradicate adult heartworms. Adult heartworms in the heart and surrounding vessels are killed by melarsomine. This drug is administered in a series of injections. Your dog’s condition will help your veterinarian decide on the precise injection schedule. Most dogs receive an initial injection, a 30-day rest period, two additional injections spaced 24 hours apart, and finally a third injection.

Many dogs will also receive treatment with the antibiotic doxycycline to prevent infection with the Wolbachia bacteria that live in the heartworm.

Complete rest is essential after treatment. Within a few days, the adult worms pass away and begin to decompose. They are carried to the lungs as they disintegrate, where they lodge in the tiny blood vessels and eventually get reabsorbed by the body. The majority of post-treatment complications are brought on by these fragments of dead heartworms, and this resorption can take several weeks to months. The dog must be kept as quiet as possible and must not be allowed to exercise for one month after receiving the final heartworm treatment injection because this can be a dangerous time. Because the worms are dying during the first week after the injections, this period is crucial. Many dogs with severe infections continue to cough for seven to eight weeks after treatment. Notify your veterinarian for treatment options if the cough is severe.

Even though such reactions are uncommon, prompt treatment is necessary if the dog experiences a significant reaction in the weeks following the initial treatment. Notify your vet right away if your dog exhibits depression, fever, severe coughing up blood, shortness of breath, or loss of appetite. These cases are typically successfully treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, cage rest, supportive care, and intravenous fluids.

Treatment to kill microfilaria. Your dog will also receive a medication to kill heartworm larvae (microfilariae) in addition to the medication used to kill adult heartworms. On the day that this medication is given, your dog may need to remain in the hospital for observation; this procedure may be carried out either before or after the injections for adult heartworms. Your dog will begin taking a heartworm preventative after treatment.

Various medications are used in more recent heartworm treatment protocols to kill the microfilariae. Based on your dog’s condition, your veterinarian will decide which medication to use and when to administer it.

Prior to receiving treatment for the heartworms, dogs with severe heartworm disease may need to take antibiotics, painkillers, special diets, diuretics to remove fluid buildup in the lungs, and/or medications to improve heart function. Some dogs might need lifelong heart failure treatment even after the heartworms have been eradicated. Diuretics, heart medications like beta-blockers, ACE-inhibitors, or cardiac glycosides, as well as specific low-sodium diets are all examples of this.

What is heartworm treatment in dogs?

The staff at Carolina Veterinary Specialists are adamant that prevention is far preferable to treatment when it comes to heartworm. If you haven’t already, we advise calling your veterinarian right away to create a preventative treatment plan for your canine friend. The most popular method of heartworm prevention is a monthly pill that your veterinarian can prescribe.

There are treatment options available for your pet if preventative measures fail to prevent infection, though they all carry the risk of serious side effects and health complications, though fatalities are uncommon.

Many dogs have advanced heartworm disease by the time they are diagnosed because heartworm is not detectable for at least 5 months after infection, necessitating quick and aggressive treatment. Rarely, the internal organ damage to the dog may already be so severe by the time the condition is discovered that treating the damage and providing comfort for the patient is preferable to taking the additional risks associated with trying to kill the heartworms. Only a few weeks or months are left in the life expectancy of dogs in this advanced condition.

Thankfully, a new drug has been created to eradicate adult heartworms with fewer harmful side effects. Melarsomine is an injectable medication that is given through a series of injections and kills adult heartworms. Usually, your dog will be given a 30-day rest period following their first injection, followed by two additional injections spaced out by 24 hours. To combat any infectious bacteria the heartworms may be carrying, antibiotics will also be prescribed. 95% of dogs with heartworms can now be successfully treated thanks to this new medication.

Before or after their Melarsomine treatment, your dog will additionally receive treatment to eradicate juvenile heartworms (microfilaria). On the day that this treatment is given, your dog might need to spend the night in the hospital under observation.


Can a dog die after heartworm treatment?

Although fatalities are uncommon, there is some risk involved in treating dogs for heartworms. More than 95% of dogs with heartworms can now be successfully treated thanks to a new drug that has fewer side effects. “.

How many dogs die after heartworm treatment?

Seven dogs (14%) died within the treatment period. Owners frequently reported altered behavior, possibly as a result of pain, including depression and lethargy.

Does heartworm treatment shorten a dog’s life?

If given the right care, dogs with heartworm disease can live fulfilling lives. The likelihood of any long-term effects is very low after treatment is finished and you abide by your veterinarian’s recommendations for heartworm disease testing and prevention.

How common are complications from heartworm treatment?

Heartworm medication can potentially be toxic to dogs and have serious negative effects on your pet’s health. A lot of dogs experience pain and swelling where they’ve had injections. The most detrimental side effects are those caused by a large number of worms passing away suddenly.