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How Do You Deworm Dogs and Puppies?

Put the Hurt on Heartworms

If your dog has heartworms, your vet will need to do blood work, take X-rays, and maybe do other tests to see how serious the infection is. Just the tests can cost $1,000 or more, but they're necessary. Initially, your dog will be started on monthly heartworm prevention along with an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory. A month later, the heartworm treatment starts. This is a strong medicine  -- made from a poison called arsenic -- and should only be given by a vet. Typically, your dog gets a series of three shots over a 2-month period.

But that’s not the end of the treatment. You'll need to keep your dog calm and quiet for several months after the shots. When heartworms die they break into pieces. These chunks can block blood from flowing to the heart or lungs. When that happens -- and there is a greater chance when blood pumps harder, such as during exercise -- a dog could die. Your vet will give you tips to make sure your sick dog gets rest so he can recover safely.

Six months after the heartworm treatment, your vet will do a blood test to check for worms. If they're still there, your dog will need another round of shots. If they're all gone, you continue the preventive medicine for the rest of your dog’s life and test for heartworms each year.

Prevention is the Best Medicine

The best way to protect your pet is to control the pests that carry worms, including fleas and mosquitoes, and keep your home and yard clean. You'll be doing yourself a favor, too, because you and your family can get worms if your dog has them.

Follow these simple steps to ward off worms:

  • Make sure your vet checks your dog for all kinds of worms at least once a year (two to four times for puppies).
  • Keep your dog flea-free. You can buy flea-killing shampoo, collars, or medicine to put on your dog’s skin.
  • Get a prescription from your vet for the drug to prevent heartworms, and give it to your dog once a month. Never skip a dose.
  • Practice the four Ps: Pick up (and throw away) Pet Poop Promptly. Clear your yard at least weekly and scoop up after your dog when you go for a walk.
  • Wash your hands often, including after you pet animals and especially after picking up their waste.

If you’re worried about catching worms from dogs, don't let them lick or kiss you or your kids. And make them sleep on their own bed -- not yours.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on October 02, 2014
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