While rescuing dogs out of Dekalb County Animal Services I see a lot of heartworm positive dogs. The statistics for Georgia show that we’re the 4th highest state in the country for heartworm infection. The overpopulation and neglect of dogs here spreads the disease easily, while the southern temperatures keep mosquitos alive year round. Heartworm is easily preventable with a monthly heartworm pill, but a lot of owners don’t bother with it. Keeping dogs outside exposes them to the mosquitos that carry the disease.
Once your dog has heartworms you have two options- treat it with the traditional Immiticide injections, or go the alternative route with the “slow kill method”. Although rescuers have been using the slow kill method for years, it was only this year that the American Heartworm Society started endorsing this treatment.
Here’s what the American Heartworm Society recommends as an alternative treatment:
“In cases where arsenicals are contraindicated and the animal’s overall condition makes standard adulticidal therapy impractical, the use of a monthly ivermectin-based heartworm preventive along with doxycycline could be considered. It has been reported that ivermectin and doxycycline administered periodically over 36 weeks resulted in a 78% reduction in adult worm numbers. Moreover, microfilariae from dogs treated with doxycycline that were ingested by mosquitoes developed into third-stage larvae that appeared to be normal in appearance and motility, but these larvae were not able to develop into adult worms, thus negating the risk of selecting for resistant strains. The administration of doxycycline at 10 mg/kg BID for a 4 week period every three to four months should eliminate most Wolbachia organisms and not allow them to repopulate.”
If your vet hasn’t heard of this option ask them to review the data and let you know what the correct dose would be for your dog. Request a written prescription for the Doxycycline, which can be obtained for free from Publix pharmacies.