Addressing The Cost Of Heartworm In Dogs

Heartworm disease is a serious condition that can lead to heart failure, lung disease, and organ failure. It usually affects cats, ferrets, and dogs.

Heartworm occurs when a parasitic worm, known as Dirofilaria immits, spreads from a mosquito bite. A dog would be the host for the parasite, allowing the worms to grow into adults and create offspring still inside the dog.

Addressing the Cost of Heartworm in Dogs (1)

These worms are known as heartworms as the adult worms live inside the heart, blood vessels, and lungs of an infected animal. In the US, heartworm disease is seen mostly along the Mississippi River and the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

Nevertheless, heartworm has affected dogs in all 50 states.

Heartworm is a terrifying condition, but it can be prevented and treated. Despite this, heartworm treatment can be expensive, so you may need pet insurance to help with the costs.

You’ll learn more about heartworm by reading this article. We’ll cover the symptoms to look out for, the potential cost of treatment, and aftercare below.

Heartworm Symptoms In Dogs

It can be hard to know if your dog has heartworms, as there are few signs to look out for within the early phases. Symptoms will start showing once the heartworms have time to grow and increase.

As the condition progresses, the symptoms will start becoming more intense.

Some of these symptoms in dogs include coughing, high blood pressure, fainting spells, heart failure, and a rapid heartbeat. Look out for any changes in your dog’s behavior, particularly any changes that resemble heartworm symptoms.

If you notice any heartworm symptoms in your canine, see your vet as soon as possible.

Identifying Heartworm

A dog may be infected with the parasitic worm, but it can take several years before the dog displays infection signs. Heartworm disease symptoms take time to develop, which is why it’s easier to diagnose the condition in dogs around 2-8 years old.

Recovery chances increase if your vet detects heartworms earlier. This is usually done with a blood test to find out if the dog has or hasn’t received the parasite.

The vet will test your dog’s blood to see if it contains antigens. Heartworm displays few initial warning signs, so it’s important to conduct a test as early as possible. If the blood test indicates that the dog has heartworm parasites, the vet will conduct more tests to confirm the diagnosis.

These tests will also find out if it’s safe to treat your dog for heartworm so they can recover quickly.

Heartworm Medication

Prevention can help stop heartworms from forming in the first place. Your vet may advise monthly tick, fleas, and heartworm medication. This may be delivered as an oral pill or applied topically on the dog’s fur.

If the dog is infected with heartworm, treatment will require many types of medication, such as injections designed to kill the worms. The dog’s owner may also have to deliver doxycycline or prednisone orally.

This medication will kill off the parasites and reduce the chance of negative side effects.

Fully grown heartworms need to be treated with a melarsomine dihydrochloride injection. This will be delivered into the epaxial muscles along the dog’s spine.

This may also require an additional heartworm preventative to kill off any younger heartworms to avoid infection later on.

Heartworms do contain bacteria, so your vet may also prescribe antibiotics to stop the bacterium affecting your dog. This medication will also help to reduce inflammation.

Limiting Exercise And Activity

Regular exercise can be good for healthy dogs, but it’s important to limit activity when your dog suffers from heartworm. Dogs shouldn’t undertake any exercise before, during, and after treatment.

Activity needs the heart and lungs to work harder, but heartworms live within these organs. Any exertion can increase the chance of damage to the heart and heart.

You may need to place your canine within a cage to stop them from moving too much.

When Can Dogs Restart Activity After Heartworm Treatment?

Lowering the risk of heartworm treatment complications involves restricting physical activity, exercise, and confining dogs when they are unsupervised to prevent them from moving.

Successful recovery involves steps to make sure the dog is safe, mentally stimulated, and maintains regular social interaction.

In most cases, it’s safe to walk your dog during the recovery period. You can give them suitable chew toys so they use any pent-up energy.

If your dog is still in confinement, reading to dogs can lower their stress levels. You can research easy and low-cost ways to entertain confined dogs. Use feeding times to deliver mental stimulation, as this will help keep the dog’s mind healthy.

How To Care For A Dog After Heartworm Treatment

Addressing the Cost of Heartworm in Dogs (1)

Effective heartworm treatment will ensure the heartworms die over a few weeks, but complete recovery can take several months. Keep monitoring how your dog responds to medication and make a note of any changes that occur during recovery.

When heartworms start to die, they break down, so pieces of them may stick inside other body parts within your dog. If your dog is too active after treatment, the broken worm pieces can lead to unwanted complications.

You still need to limit exercise and movement until your vet says activity can resume.

If your dog needs to go outside, keep them on a leash, as this can prevent energetic dogs from moving too much. It’s best to keep your canine inside or in a cage whenever possible.

Once six months have followed the treatment stage, take your dog to the vet. They will conduct a test to make sure all of the heartworms have been killed.

Look out for blood in urine or bowel movements, strained breathing, low appetite, and persistent coughing. Tell your vet if any of these symptoms occur.

Cost Of Heartworm Treatment

Heartworm treatment is expensive. In most cases, treatment for dogs can cost up to $1000. This may decrease or increase depending on the stage of the condition, the size of the dog, and the vet’s bills.

The cost of heartworm treatment should cover X-rays, antibiotics to kill the parasites inside the heartworms, bloodwork to determine the stage of infection, sedatives, Immiticide medication, and pain relief.

General heartworm treatment, along with standard veterinary care for dogs, can be costly within the United States. The veterinary bills for your dog will cost a lot if your dog has heart disease.

However, no matter the cost, you should never skip monthly heartworm treatments. This can harm your dog, but it can lead to more expensive vet bills later on. Keep taking your dog to the vet for a checkup every year.

Vaccinations, medication, and heartworm treatments are smaller expenses, but these are important, as they prevent your dog from experiencing serious conditions later. This will help prevent any pricey bills later on.

It may be beneficial to consider buying pet insurance. This can help you cover the cost of any treatment your pet will need for the course of its lifespan. As you try to find different insurance providers, contact your vet and do your research to find the best options.

Here are some things to consider.

  • See if they have an open network so you can choose your vet.
  • Check if the insurance plan is a reimbursement plan or not. Reimbursement plans involve you paying first, then they will send you money to cover this later.
  • Always read the fine print, as providers can sneak in add on options and exclusions in the contract
  • Check if the insurance plan covers your dog. Some breeds may not be covered, as they are considered ‘high risk’.

If you have an expensive veterinary bill and don’t have pet insurance, any prior conditions won’t be covered so you’ll need to find a different source of money.

You can always ask your vet about potential options, like payment plans for vet bills. Some vets have additional financial agreements that give pet owners more time to pay their bills. These may be delivered over a year instead of a few months.

Crowdfunding can also help you raise money for veterinary care. Over 68% of US households have pets, so they may be willing to help your cause. Lots of people sympathize with animals, so you may raise more money than you think.

You can also start a campaign to help your dog and share it on social media. Your friends and family may be willing to help you. Five or ten-dollar donations may seem small, but they can do a lot to cover vet bills.

If you do decide to go the crowdfunding route, consider doing so from a pet-dedicated platform. These link with known veterinary providers to avoid fraud.


Heartworm disease in dogs happens when parasitic worms enter the canine’s organs. This can lead to serious health issues, but it can be treated. Heartworm shows few early signs, but the symptoms start to show when the disease has progressed.

Look out for the symptoms mentioned above and see your vet if any of them occur. Medication is expensive, but things like pet insurance, payment plans, and fundraising can help you cover the costs.

Prevention is also better than a cure, so keep taking your dog for yearly checkups. Never skip regular vaccinations and medication, as this can help you avoid the expense of heartworm treatment later on.

Megan Turner