Heartworms in Dogs: Facts and Myths
WebMD separates the facts from fiction about canine heartworms.
Q: Is it OK to adopt a dog with heartworms?
A: It’s a very common problem in animal shelters today, and public shelters
rarely have the money to treat heartworm disease. It’s perfectly acceptable to
adopt a dog with heartworms, but you have to be dedicated to having the disease
treated appropriately, because it’s a horrible disease that can lead to a dog’s
death if left untreated.
Q: How can I prevent my dogs from getting heartworms?
A: For less than the cost of going to Starbucks for a weekly coffee, you can
prevent heartworm disease in your dog. There are monthly pills, monthly
topicals that you put on the skin, and there’s also a
six-month injectable product. The damage that’s done to the dog and the cost of
the treatment is way more than the cost to prevent heartworm disease. A year’s
supply of heartworm preventative will cost about $35 to $80, depending on a
Q: What are the symptoms of heartworm infestations in dogs?
A: Initially, there are no symptoms. But as more and more worms crowd the
heart and lungs, most dogs will develop a cough. As it progresses, they won’t be able to exercise
as much as before; they’ll become winded easier. With severe heartworm disease,
we can hear abnormal lung sounds, dogs can pass out from the loss of blood to
the brain, and they can retain fluids. Eventually, most dogs will die if the
worms are not treated.
Q: Once my dog has heartworms, what’s the treatment? How much will it
A: The drug that you treat with is called Immiticide. It’s an injectable,
arsenic-based product. The dog is given two or three injections that will kill
the adult heartworms in the blood vessels of the heart.
The safest way to treat heartworms includes an extensive pre-treatment
workup, including X-rays, blood work, and all the tests needed to establish how
serious the infection is. Then the dog is given the injections. With all the
prep work, it can run up to $1,000. But just the treatment can be done for
about $300 in some areas.