Pet Blog / Heartworm Prevention for Dogs: How to Prevent & Treat

Heartworm Prevention for Dogs: How to Prevent & Treat

What is Heartworm?

Heartworm is a parasite that can infect your dog. And heartworm disease can be deadly. Spread by mosquitoes, the worms, which look like spaghetti, are capable of growing and reproducing inside your pet’s lungs, heart, and blood vessels. This may result in heart failure and damage to other organs, such as the lungs, kidneys, and liver.

The good news is that heartworm prevention for dogs is possible thanks to preventative medications that help avoid a heartworm problem before it takes hold. And, if your dog becomes infected, there are treatments available. 

The Signs of Heartworms in Dogs

One thing to keep in mind about heartworm disease is that you may not know your dog has it until it’s already advanced. Some common heartworm symptoms to look out for include:   

  • Coughing
  • Fatigue or lethargy 
  • Shortness of breath, especially after playing or exercising
  • Disorientation or fainting
  • Weight loss
  • Swelling in the legs or abdomen

in the early stages, there might only be mild symptoms, if any. Once in its most advanced stage, heartworm disease can cause caval syndrome, which is deadly and can only be treated with a high-risk surgery to remove the heartworms. 

Without treatment, a dog can die suddenly and unexpectedly from heartworm disease. So, if you notice any symptoms at all, it’s wise to let your veterinarian know right away. 

Is There a Heartworm Test for Dogs?

Yes, a vet can run blood tests that will help detect the presence of heartworms. Whether or not your dog has symptoms, and even if you’re using heartworm preventives, you can do this at your pet’s wellness exam to be sure there aren’t any worms. 

A vet might also recommend getting chest X-rays to check the lungs and heart in a dog that has been diagnosed with heartworm disease. And additional blood tests might be used to figure out if the heartworms have caused any damage to the organs. 

How To Treat Heartworm in Dogs

Your veterinarian might work on stabilizing your dog before providing medications that will get to work on killing the heartworms. You’ll then need to focus on preventing your dog from being active during and after treatment so the dead heartworms won’t result in any blockages.  

Treatment options include injections and a topical solution. Your veterinarian will decide what’s best for your pet. Heartworm meds for dogs might cause side effects, so work closely with your vet and keep an eye out for adverse reactions. 

Note: A dog might also require additional support in the form of other medications, such as pain relievers, antibiotics, heart medications, and diuretics, throughout the course of treatment.    

How long can a dog live after heartworm treatment, and can the treatment shorten a dog’s life?

If the disease is caught before it becomes severe, treatment may be successful, curing your dog of the heartworms. However, the risk of complications may be higher if the disease has progressed to a more advanced stage. And if a dog develops heart failure, long-term medications may be necessary. Again, do your best to follow your vet’s instructions closely to help ensure the best results, and let them know if your dog develops any symptoms during treatment. 

Average Heartworm Test Cost and Heartworm Treatment Cost

The tests used to diagnose heartworm disease can be expensive. Prices will vary based on several factors, but here are some general ranges to give you an idea of what this might cost:

  • Heartworm tests to detect the presence of worms might cost anywhere from $35 - $75, on average.

  • To confirm that your dog does have heartworm disease, other tests may be used, and those might cost anywhere from $20 - $40, on average.

  • Chest X-rays might cost anywhere from $125 - $200, on average. 

How much does heartworm treatment for dogs cost?

  • Medications, such as antibiotics and steroids, might cost anywhere from $10 - $150, on average. The final price will depend on what your dog needs and how much medicine is required.

  • Injections to treat heartworm might cost $500 - $1,500, on average.

  • Tests to check on the progress of treatment might cost anywhere from $20 - $75, on average. If these show that your dog is still infected with worms, you’ll need to pay for more medications to continue the treatment. 

When you factor in the costs of vet exams, diagnostic tests, X-rays, and medications, you might end up spending upwards of $1,000. Plus, some dogs need to be hospitalized, which can drive your bill even higher.

How to Prevent Heartworm in Dogs

Is heartworm prevention necessary for dogs? Yes! If there are mosquitoes in your area, they can potentially transmit heartworms to your dog, and preventives are an easy and affordable way to help keep your pet safe. Remember, heartworm disease is hard to treat, the treatment is expensive, and it isn’t always effective. 

Preventives include options like topical solutions, tablets, and a heartworm shot for dogs. Your vet can help you decide which one is right for your unique canine companion, and they can give you the prescription you need to purchase these products. 

How much do preventives cost?

On average, the cost is anywhere from $35 - $80 annually. 

How often do dogs need heartworm prevention?

It depends on the product you go with. Products that are applied topically or given orally usually need to be given monthly, while injections might last many months. 

The key is to treat your dog all year long, and have them tested regularly to be sure there aren’t any heartworms. 

Where can I buy heartworm prevention products for dogs?

You can purchase heartworm preventives at your vet’s office and in pet supply stores with a prescription. Injections are given by your veterinarian. 

Does Pet Insurance Cover Heartworm Prevention and Treatment?

Pet insurance can certainly be helpful when it comes to keeping your dog happy and healthy, but plans vary, so read the details carefully. Check policies closely to determine if any of the tests, treatments, and preventives for heartworm disease are covered at all. 

You might need to purchase a wellness rider that provides coverage for checkups, medications that fight parasites like heartworms, and other routine care. This can be worthwhile if it helps pay for the cost of heartworm prevention for dogs, as you’ll save quite a bit in the long run. 

Also, pet insurance doesn’t typically cover pre-existing conditions, so treatment for heartworm may not be covered if your dog was diagnosed prior to enrolling in a plan. Just another reason to sign up sooner rather than later!

If you’d like to see which pet insurance plans are available in your area, and if they can help you access the best heartworm prevention for dogs more affordably, start by browsing the Direct Benefits Marketplace, where you can quickly and easily compare options that will give you peace of mind.