NEED YOUR ADVICE: What to expect during heartworm treatment?

This forum is for dog lovers seeking everyday advice and suggestions on health-related issues. Remember, however, that advice on a public forum simply can't be a substitute for proper medical attention. Only your vet can say assuredly what is best for your dog.


Barked: Thu Mar 24, '11 10:04am PST 
I adopted Cassie without knowing she's heartworm positive (not that it would have made a difference). I have to travel for work, and I'm trying to get all of the treatments scheduled and a pet sitter set up.

Can you please help me understand what's involved for me to help her get well fastest? I bought a crate she hates--I've been confining her to the laundry room when I'm at work (and have managed to work from home 4 of the last 8 days....) I have two other dogs with the run of the place, and she's understandably upset about being confined.

We're currently on doxycyline for 30 days. That's done 6 April. Then what happens?

Sarah, CWSR,- CWG1, CGC

Million Dollar- Mutt
Barked: Thu Mar 24, '11 11:12am PST 
It all depends on the course your vet decides to take and how severe the heartworm is. The best thing to do is talk to your vet and ask them questions, but I know it helps to hear from other owners.

Will your vet be doing the Immiticide injections next? I can tell you about that. Sarah had Grade I heartworm disease when I adopted her. Her treatment was two injections of Immiticide 24hrs apart. The injections will make your dog sore and tired for a few days. Sarah stayed at the clinic so that they could monitor her.

For the next 2 months it is CRITICAL that the dog be kept quiet and not active. They should not do anything that will allow their heart rate or blood pressure to become elevated. This is because the dead worms break apart. If a dog's blood pressure/heart rate becomes elevated, it can force big pieces of the dead worms out into the lungs, which can cause a pulmonary embolism. This is life-threatening. Some vets will even tell you to keep their activity restrained for four months. Sarah was allowed to be out in the house when I was home, but she had to be a couch potato. If she got crazy, I gave her a Kong, shut her in the crate, and left!

After the treatment, Sarah was put on heartgard plus for 6 months straight (even though it was winter and their were no mosquitoes). This was to kill any 'baby' heartworms in her blood stream and prevent them from reinfecting her.

Sarah and I had one scary time. I had her crated while I mowed the lawn. She was very scared of the lawnmower (didn't know that at the time!). I came back in from mowing and let her out- she started gagging and coughed up a small amount blood. The vet had me put her on aspirin to help thin the blood out. It never happened again. If I had known more about heartworm, I probably would have had her at the e-vet, but the aspirin worked!

The good news is, is you would never know Sarah was so sick if you were to look at her today. Now that she's heartworm free, she runs and plays, wrestles, and just plain goes nuts whenever she gets the chance!

Hope all goes well for Cassie! To help her get used to the crate, try feeding her in there, giving her chewies or other special, long-lasting treats. It really helped Sarah learn to like her crate.

Barked: Thu Mar 24, '11 3:59pm PST 
Sarah's mom: Thanks for sharing your experience. My vet is going to do THREE shots--one on 7 April, the next two (like yours) on May 5 and 6. I'm TERRIFIED of the "keeping her calm" part, because I have two other dogs who can be downright nuts at times.

I bought a crate that Cassie doesn't want to go in. I've been shutting her up in my tiny laundry room, and while she liked it at first, now she fights going in there because she knows the other two have full run of the house.

Can you give me any tips about helping her acclimate to the crate. That would probably be my best bet. I just don't know what to do.


Sarah, CWSR,- CWG1, CGC

Million Dollar- Mutt
Barked: Thu Mar 24, '11 4:47pm PST 
The doxy and the two rounds of shots is actually the safer way. Sarah was my foster dog when she went through treatment, and the vet they used was very much a country vet! Had I known more, and had she been officially mine, I would have taken her elsewhere.

As far as crate acclimation, I would post in behavior and training for more ideas. I did the following:
Always fed her in the crate- this makes the crate a 'good place'
Gave her treats and other chews in the crate. Take a Kong or similar toy, stuff it with canned food, freeze it overnight. Makes for a great crate treat. Bully sticks, antlers, bully springs, etc. work great.
Took my other dogs away! I would come home from work, walk everyone down the block for potty time, then put Sarah back in her crate and leave with my other dogs. I felt guilty about that, but it was the only way to keep her calm sometimes. I would let her out to hang out on the couch and watch TV with me, but if she started playing crazy she had to go back in the crate. Hope this helps!

Barked: Fri Mar 25, '11 8:09am PST 
Sarah's mom--thanks in particular for telling me that you think the three shots is the "safer" way. I hadn't considered that before--I only knew I was going to have to subject this sweet girl (who's already had a crummy, painful life) to more pain. Two seemed better than three, you know?

I think I'm going to just confine her to the laundry room and give up on the crate. At least in the laundry room she won't be able to see what the other two are doing. I hope that with enough goodies (Kong, marrow bones, other stuff like you listed), she'll forgive me when all of this is over.

I took her for microchipping yesterday, and my heart broke when she cried out--and this is nothing compared to what's going to happen. I'm just grateful my vet is researching the best "pre-emptive" pain killers we'll start taking a week before the first shot.
Sarah, CWSR,- CWG1, CGC

Million Dollar- Mutt
Barked: Fri Mar 25, '11 8:15am PST 
She'll forgive you! She probably won't even remember smile
Keep us posted!
Tsuki, Kit,- Kiba &- Buckley

Barked: Fri Mar 25, '11 8:16am PST 
One of my fosters had the two shot method, and another had the three shot one.

The one that got the three shots didn't have the doxy first, but he was fine. He was a young, otherwise healthy dog.
He did develop sarcoptic mange mid-treatment (about 2 weeks after the first shot) that I can only assume was due to his low immunity at the time.
We gave him prevacid and prednisone during his recovery the
first month after the first shot, and then two weeks after the last two shots.
He was also really sore for about two days following each shot.
He was heartworm negative about 2 months after treatment.

The one that got the two shot method had the doxy first, he was fine otherwise. Sore after the shots, didn't want to eat for at least a day. No other issues came up and he too is heartworm free now.

Keeping them quiet wasn't easy... it really really wasn't. They both hated to be crated, so keeping them gated in a small room was the only other option. Leashed outside time and LOTS of bully sticks, stuffed kongs, nylabones, etc.
After HW treatment, they had super clean teeth smile

I am the Sock- Bandit!!!
Barked: Fri Mar 25, '11 8:34am PST 
I am also caring for a foster pit bull who is heartworm positive. His treatment began the last week of Nov. and he will be tested in May to see if he's in the clear.

It is so true that your dog must be kept quiet and limit stress. I was told emphatically by the vet short potty walks only! I also have another dog in the house. I did not let them interact at all until the intensive part of his treatment was over. Just a brief walk intro for the quick sniffing. Lucille is still a very bouncy young dog, and would not understand 'you can't play with this guy right now'. So the foster has a crate in a spare room. Like Sarah, I fed him in it every time. All treats were given in it including his fave, frozen yummy kongs. He didn't like the crate much despite my efforts, though, so it was more stressful to keep him closed up in it. Thankfully, I have that spare room so that I could keep him quiet and the dogs separated. I left the crate door open, and he would go in there willingly that way and sleep or chill out in it.

Don't underestimate the power of your affection to help her heal. big grin If the dog needs reassurance or seems to be getting too active, just go in there and sit with her and give her the extra loving. I spent time just sitting near my foster, stroking him with his big old head in my lap. He would let out a big contented sigh, and I don't care how corny it sounds wink...I could tell it was helping him. There wasn't much else I could do with him in terms of training/activity during the early stages of treatment, anyway.

Keeping him very quiet and calm was actually easy for the first couple months. He was simply worn out from the treatments and was underweight, so his body was in recovery and putting on the pounds. He's now very strong and apparently healthy, although we'll find out for sure when he's tested. Thank you so much for putting the extra effort into caring for your sweet rescue pup! Sending best wishes to you for a speedy and full recovery! hughug

Can't Stop The- Wiggle Wiggle
Barked: Sat Mar 26, '11 10:15am PST 
Cassie, Bella just went through heartworm treatment, she was declared heartworm free two months ago. smile She did the three shot method w/30 days of Doxycycline prior, as her heartworms were severe and it is the safer method. Keeping her calm for three months was not an easy task. She was sore and lathargic for a day after her shots, then back to her normal bouncy self. We used a lot of frozen Kongs, bully sticks and Himalayan dog chews to keep her calm. She was crated when I was not home and was on strict couch potato rest when I was. Potty breaks were done on a short leash and I spent many an evening sitting with her cumforting her and telling her that it will all be over soon.
Cassie will forgive you. Just remember that it is hard in the moment but after all is said and done she will have a much better quality of life. She will be back to herself in no time. I can't imagine trying to keep Bella calm with another dog roaming the house all day. Is there any way you could contain your other dogs? Don't think of it as punishing them, you are doing it for Cassie's best interest. It is a temporary arangment that in the long run they will all forget about as soon as it is over.

Never met a- squirrel I- didn't like
Barked: Tue Jul 12, '11 9:31am PST 
I greatly appreciated reading this info as my dog is currently in the recovery stage from heartworm treatment. It's been one week and I have a long road ahead, but am determined to get him through it and am going to buy a kong smile