I Can’t Afford Heartworm Treatment

heartworm treatmentBecause April is Heartworm Awareness Month, Dr. Anna Coffin will discuss a common scenario seen when diagnosing dogs with heartworms.  Heartworm treatment can range from $500 to $1500 depending on the size of the dog.  Because of the expense, some people are unable to afford treatment.


Adult heartworms are twelve-inch-long worms that live in a dog’s heart.  They are transmitted from dog to dog by mosquitoes.  Heartworm treatment is 15 times more expensive than it is to prevent them.  There are monthly oral and topical medications and one six-month injectable preventative available.  Monthly preventatives range from $8 to $25 per month depending on the size of the dog.

Dr. Coffin follows the guidelines specified by The American Heartworm Society for heartworm treatment.  The other alternative is called the “slow-kill” method.  The slow-kill method uses continuous monthly administration of heartworm preventatives.  This method is NOT RECOMMENDED by The American Heartworm Society.

Reasons slow-kill is not recommended for heartworm treatment:

  1. Heartworm preventatives alone are not effective at killing adult worms.  Older worms take longer to kill.  In fact, studies have shown that it can take more than two years of continuous monthly preventatives to kill and eliminate 95% of the adult worms in the heart.
  2. The longer adult worms are in the heart, the more damage they do to the heart. Left untreated, adult heartworms can cause irreversible damage which leads to congestive heart failure.
  3. Exercise restriction is a part of the recommended heartworm treatment. With the slow-kill method, we do not know the timing for rigid exercise restriction.
  4. Scientists believe that the slow-kill method has led to heartworms becoming resistance of these monthly preventatives in certain regions of the United States. If this continues, it may be more difficult or more expensive to try and prevent heartworms.

If you are unable to afford heartworm treatment, Dr. Coffin recommends a combination of continuous monthly heartworm prevention along with doxycycline every three months.  Positive dogs using this method of heartworm treatment should be tested every six months.

Need help paying for heartworm prevention or heartworm treatment?  Ask your veterinarian or the staff at Guthrie Pet Hospital about wellness plans, in-house payment plans, Care Credit payment plans, and pet insurance.  These are options which allow you to make monthly payments to help you afford your pet’s health care.

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