Causes and Treatments of Heartworm in Dogs

Heartworm is becoming a significant problem in some areas, and consequently there are many pet owners wanting to find out more about the causes and treatments of heartworm in dogs.

Causes of Heartworm in Dogs:

The causes of heartworm in dogs are a combination of climate, the presence of mosquitoes which carry the heartworm microfilariae, and one (or more) of those mosquitoes biting your dog.

Many locations never have to worry about heartworm at all.  If you live in a consistently cold climate, this is more than likely the case.  But for many of us, heartworm is an ever present threat – those of us who live in warmer climates.  Causes of Heartworm in DogsHeartworm is now pretty much a worldwide problem. It is not limited to areas in North America. It is just as prevalent in South America, parts of Canada, parts of Europe, parts of Asia, Australia, and the Middle East.

How Does the Mosquito Become the Carrier?

The nature of heartworm disease is that the more prevalent it is, the still more prevalent it becomes.  This is because the mosquito ingests the heartworm microfilariae from biting a dog already infected with heartworm. This is no doubt one of the reasons why the veterinary profession invariably recommends heartworm prevention even in areas where heartworm is relatively rare. The  sceptics among us may think that vets in areas where heartworm is uncommon recommend heartworm prevention so as to line their pockets with more of your money, but it cannot be said that this is the sole motivation.

Once the mosquito has ingested the heartworm microfilariae, and an incubation  period has ensued, heartworm larvae will emerge, and the mosquito will then infect other dogs that it bites. Incubation of the microfilariae does require a sustained period of relatively high temperatures, so not every mosquito that ingests the microfilariae will be capable of infecting dogs.

Immature adult heartworms then develop from the larvae deposited under your dog’s skin, which then enter the bloodstream and migrate to your dog’s heart, where the adults mature and grow at an alarming rate. Within seven months from the date of the infection by the mosquito, the heartworms mate and reproduce microfiliariae – which in turn will need a mosquito to perpetuate the life cycle. Your infected dog, however, is likely to die from congestive heart failure if the heartworms are left untreated.

Treatments for Heartworm in Dogs:

Causes and Treatments of Heartworm in DogsTreatments of heartworm in dogs fall broadly into two categories – chemical treatments and natural remedies.

The most common treatments prescribed by vets seem to be Melarsomine (usually marketed under the brand name Immiticide) or Ivermectin (most commonly marketed under the brand name Heartgard). Both are chemicals. The former is said to kill the heartworms quickly and most effectively.  It is an expensive option.  The latter is said to kill the larval stages of the heartworm, but not adult heartworms. These may eventually die but this process can take up to 2 years.

More and more pet owners are looking to herbal heartworm treatment options. There are a variety of herbs that can be used to treat heartworms, and many pet owners who have used these will tell you that they worked to eradicate the heartworms without the need to subject their dogs to harmful chemicals.

Either way, you should keep in contact with your vet about your dog’s heartworm.  It is a very serious condition which can be fatal. If you choose a natural heartworm treatment method, you may encounter some resistance from you vet. But the important thing is to keep the lines of communication with your vet open, and that you consider all your options.  A good vet will listen to your views and concerns, and be prepared to accommodate them.  If your vet does not fit into this category, you may wish to consider changing to one who does. Don’t go it alone, though – make sure your dog is regularly checked by your vet during the treatment and recovery process regardless of which treatment option you choose.


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