HEARTWORM TREATMENT PROTOCOL
STEP 1 // Pre-Treatment
After diagnosis, heartworm positive dogs are prescribed Doxycycline, an oral tablet, for 30 days. This medication helps to decrease inflammation in the dog's body and can prevent adult heartworms from reproducing during the treatment process.
Heartworm positive dogs are also placed on an Ivermectin-based heartworm preventative (Heartguard/Triheart) for 3 months to kill the juvenile heartworms. Dogs will get the first preventative at the time of diagnosis, typically at the vet’s office. The two additional preventatives are given over the next two months.
After diagnosis, dogs must continue to get regular exercise to maintain muscle tone. But this exercise must be limited to normal play, and walks. No jogging/ running or extended periods of play with other dogs/humans.
STEP 2 // Treatment
The treatment of the adult heartworms is required in all cases. Adult heartworm treatment is initiated a minimum of 2 months after diagnosis (thus providing the dog with 3 doses of an Ivermectin-based heartworm prevention before treatment).
Heartworm treatment consists of a series of Melarsomine injections which kill the adult heartworms. Treatment occurs at one of Lab Rescue’s designated veterinarians.
Asymptomatic Dogs (the majority of our dogs)
Two injections of Melarsomine will be administered 24 hours apart. Dogs will remain overnight at our vet for a minimum of 1-2 nights, but the length of stay is ultimately determined by the treating veterinarian. Following the injections the dog must remain on strict rest for 30 days.
Symptomatic Dogs & Older Dogs
A split treatment will be administered. Dogs will be given 1 injection of Melarsomine and observed for 24 hours. Following this first injections the dog must remain on strict rest for 30 days. At the end of the rest period, the dog will return to our vet. Two injections of Melarsomine will be administered 24 hours apart. Dogs will remain overnight at our vet for a minimum of 1-2 nights, but the length of stay is ultimately determined by the treating veterinarian. Following the injections the dog must complete another 30 days of strict rest.
The treating veterinarian may make changes to this protocol as needed for the medical well-being of the dog.
STEP 3 // Rest Period
Once the adult heartworm treatment at our vet has been started it is imperative that the dog be STRICTLY confined. Keeping the dog’s heart rate and respiration low is essential for ensuring a safe and uneventful recovery.
No running, jumping, or playing
Crate confinement is ideal
No walks longer than 5 minutes; ideally, they do their business and go back into the crate
These strict restrictions are necessary for 1 month following the final adult heartworm treatment.
STEP 4 // Post-Rest Period
When the 30 days of rest are completed, gradual return to normal exercise is recommended. Increasing intensity and duration of activity over several weeks is the most effective way to ensure the dog does not overdo it right away.
STEP 5 // Re-Testing for Heartworm
Dogs are to be retested 9 months from the date of injections. Testing sooner often results in false positives. This re-test will roughly coincide with the annual heartworm test each dog would receive. Adopters are responsible for this follow-up test, as a part of the normal course of care.