Heartworm disease is a fatal disease caused by a blood-borne parasite. An infected dog will serve as a host to the larvae-carrying mosquito which will then infect the dog.
By the time the heartworm larvae have matured, they are found in the heart, in particular, the pulmonary artery and large blood vessels. These adult heartworms have a lifespan of up to five years, in that time the female heartworm would have produced millions of larvae that live in the small vessels of the bloodstream.
The bottom line is, any sort of treatment will need a veterinarian’s involvement. There are risks associated with heartworm treatment, however, fatalities are rare. . The risk was much higher in the past due to the medication containing high levels of arsenic. When treating full, onset adult heartworms, the dog is inoculated with the drug mesalamine which kills the heartworms in the heart and infected vessels.
After the first dose, your vet will tailor an injection schedule to suit your dog’s condition. Another drug used to treat heartworms is the antibiotic, doxycycline, which combats the infection with a bacteria that settles in the heartworm. After receiving treatment, it is strongly recommended that your dog rests, because over the course of days that the heartworms die and decompose they are taken to the lungs where they congest the small blood vessels and wait to be reabsorbed by the body.
The reabsorption phase can take months and it comes with its own set of complications. This means your dog shouldn’t bark harshly or exercise during this critical period. Any out-of-place incidents should be reported to your vet as soon as possible.