What Is the Best Treatment for Heartworms in Dogs?

Dirofilaria immitis or heartworms are parasitic roundworms that can infect your pup and kitten. Your pets are likely to get infected via a bite from an infected mosquito if they are not on heartworm prevention prescriptions.
But fear not, as several effective treatments are available to help dogs recover from heartworm disease. You only have to be diligent in administering the heartworm prevention medications that your vet will prescribe.


About Heartworm Disease

Your canine companion is a "natural" host for heartworms. Once your dog gets infected, the young heartworm parasite can complete its entire life cycle. As these parasites mature, they work their way into your pup's organs. These include their lungs, hearts, and accompanying blood vessels.

At this point, they can grow up to a foot long. Unfortunately, hundreds of heartworms can infect a single dog. Severe health issues or death might follow if heartworms in dogs are not treated properly. Keeping your furry friend on a continuous heartworm prevention program is crucial.

Diagnosing Heartworm Disease

The first step in treating heartworm disease is diagnosing it. For starters, blood tests will determine the presence of heartworms in your pup's body. Your vet might recommend additional tests if they come back positive. These may include chest X-rays or an ultrasound. This helps determine the severity of the disease. It also helps your vet understand the extent of the damage to your dog's heart and lungs.

Treatment Options

You have some treatment options if your pooch tests positive for heartworm disease.


The most common treatment for heartworm disease in dogs is medication. This treatment involves giving your dog a series of injections to kill the adult heartworms in their body. Vets typically use Melarsomine dihydrochloride, an arsenic-based drug that is quite effective at killing heartworms.

Prednisone and doxycycline are common oral medications that help reduce the risk of unwanted side effects. However, heartworm treatment protocols often require using multiple medications. Over the next several weeks, your dog will receive several injections. Throughout the process, your vet will closely monitor your pup's progress.


Severe instances of heartworm disease in your dog may call for surgery. It aims to eliminate the parasites from your pup's heart and the vessels in their lungs. This procedure is called an adulticide and is typically reserved for dogs with advanced heartworm disease.

During the surgery, your veterinarian will cut open your dog's chest to access their heart and lungs. They will then carefully remove the adult worms to avoid damaging any vital organs.

Combination of Medication and Surgery

A combination of medication and surgery may be necessary in severe cases of heartworm disease. It entails giving injections to kill the adult worms, then performing surgery to remove any remaining heartworms. This approach is typically reserved for dogs with advanced heartworm disease, as it is a more invasive and risky treatment option.

Heartworm disease is an extremely dangerous and lethal disease that affects dogs. The best way to prevent heartworm disease in dogs is to use a monthly heartworm preventative medication.

For more on the best treatment for heartworms in dogs, visit the Animal Hospital of Salinas at our Salinas, California office. Call (831) 346-0600 to schedule an appointment today. After regular business hours, call 831-899-4838 or 831-373-7374.

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