Cost of Treating Heartworms in Dogs

by Susan Leisure, Demand Media
    Left untreated, heartworms are fatal to a dog.

    Left untreated, heartworms are fatal to a dog.

    Heartworms are present in every state in United States. If your dog contracts heartworms, the treatment is expensive and the recovery time is long and risky. Preventing heartworms is critical to your dog's health and to your bank account.

    Heartworm Transmission

    Heartworms live in the heart and lungs of dogs. They are transmitted by mosquitoes. When a mosquito bites an infected dog, the larvae develop in the mosquito and are transmitted to a new dog when the pest bites. Adult heartworms develop in the dog within three to four months of being infected; symptoms of the heartworms may appear as early as six months.

    Heartworm Risk

    The risk of heartworms is greatest in areas of high mosquito concentration and duration. In the southeastern United States, where warmer weather often means the presence of mosquitos year-round, some veterinary clinics report more than 100 cases per year. The number of stray and untreated dogs also increases the risk, as more dogs may be heartworm positive in a particular area. In every area of the country, there is a risk of contracting heartworms whenever mosquitoes are present.

    Cost of Conventional Heartworm Treatment

    Conventional heartworm treatment is expensive. The typical protocol for treatment includes bloodwork and x-rays to measure the infection load, antibiotics to kill the parasites that live in the heartworms, pain medication and sedatives, in addition the actual Immiticide, which kills the heartworms. The full treatment protocol generally takes three to four months and costs between $1,000 and $2,000, depending on individual vet fees. Low-cost or charity clinics may offer the treatment for up to 50 percent less than traditional veterinary clinics.

    Cost of Slow-Kill Heartworm Treatment

    For owners who can't afford the conventional treatment, the slow-kill treatment method may be an option. Instead of an intensive killing process, the slow-killl method uses monthly Ivermectin doses and quarterly antibiotics. This process can take up to two years to completely kill the heartworms. In the end, the cost may be the same as the conventional treatment, but will be spread out over several months at a cost of approximately $50 per month. However, not all dogs are good candidates for the slow-kill method, so never start your dog on this protocol without supervision from your veterinarian.

    About the Author

    Susan Leisure is the director of an animal welfare organization and owner of a holistic pet supply store in Atlanta, Georgia. She has a master's degree from Emory University, and is currently completing a degree in clinical pet nutrition.

    Photo Credits

    • Collie Dog on Dog Bed image by Janet Wall from Fotolia.com