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Question about Heartworms


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Can a dog get heartworms if he/she has been on heartworm medicine every month for years except for approximately two months?


I'm concerned.


For November and December both Combat and Recon were "visiting" for a few days each month at my mother-in-laws house. They were there both times on the 2nd-5th of the month and that is when I give the heartworm meds. Tammy assured me that she gave them to them (i left the pills with her), but after an argument with the husband last week I found out that she hadn't given them to them because dear sweet hubby told her not to.


I know she got hers in Jan, because I gave it to her.


But for the last several weeks she's been making these dry coughing type sounds. Almost like she's got something stuck in her throat, but i've checked...


She doesn't appear lethargic, or anyting really other than the "cough" but I'm concerned.


I'm taking her to have a heartworm test on Thursday to be sure.


What do you guys think, is it possible she has heartworms? I am so worried and I feel like, on top of everything, I've failed Recon once again.

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I am not a vet, but ISTM that although it is possible for Recon to get heartworm if not protected for a couple of months, I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that her cough is the result of HW. IMO, that would be awful soon after exposure to be showing symptoms. At any rate, you are having her tested so you'll soon know, but there's no sense in beating yourself up over it.


In the future, remember that there is a "window" during which you can give the meds, and if your dogs ever have to stay somewhere else during the time you normally give them the HW preventive, just give it a couple of days early or late instead of relying on someone else doing it for you. That will save you a lot of angst.


You just moved didn't you? And weren't you with your mom before that? It's possible there's something in the environment that's irritating her and causing the cough (mold, for example). Anyway, try not to worry while you wait for your vet appointment.



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Just so you realize, the life cycle of the heartworm is 6 months. So typically you won't see signs of heartworm infestation until the life cycle is complete.


Another thing is like Julie said, you do have a window of opportunity in which you can still give the heartworm medication if you're late.



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Here's a link to the American Heartworm Society Pet Owner's Info Page:



I'd make sure the vet does an antigen test, not just a test for the presence of microfilariae.


I'm not a vet either, but it's my understanding that it takes 2 or 3 months from the time the dog is infected for an adult heartworm to develop. Antigen tests determine the presence of adult heartworms. It takes about six months from infection before those heartworms produce microfilariae. In addition, HW preventative destroys microfilariae.


So I would think that since you've given preventative, and it's only been two months since the earliest possible time the dogs could have been infected, a microfilariae test would be negative whether or not adult heartworms were actually present.


I just have to ask: why did your husband tell your MIL not to give the preventative?


Hope all is well. I agree with Julie that the cough is probably unrelated.

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Thanks everyone. I feel -slightly- better, but not much. I didn't know about the window, I just tend to give them to her on the 2nd or 3rd of the month every month.


I think maybe I'm just so used to stressing about things at this point that I can't help but stress about this. I hope that things smooth out soon.


And...my husband told my mother in law not to give them the pills because his sweet girlfriend doesn't believe in "infecting" dogs with harsh chemicals.


I'm angry about that, but - it's my own fault. I shouldn't have relied on someone else to give the medicine to my dogs. That part is my fault and I feel bad about it.


Bah, well. Tomorrow we go to the vet and we'll know an answer soon after.

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Well here's hoping all goes well on the vetting front! I know how easy it is to worry about our pups when even the littlest thing seems off.


Also remember - even if your pup has heartworm, at this early stage many vets will just treat with an increased dose of preventative for several months rather than using the more hardcore treatments and there is less risk involved when the heartworm infestation is caught in the very early stages.



One other thing, your husband is taking Combat, correct? Is there anything you can do to ensure that Combat stays on heartworm preventative? In MS heartworm can be a huge issue as you know and I'd hate to see some moronic person's "advice" interfere w/ a dog getting proper healthcare.

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Well, I took Recon in today.


The test was positive; Recon has heartworms. We started treatment today. One treatment a month for four months and no hard play - no play at all. Have to keep her calm and quiet.


I feel like I have completely and utterly failed this dog.


I did ask the vet how she could have gotten them with such a small window and he told me she must have missed more than just those months, earlier in the year. All I can think of is when the dogs were living with Tammy because we were doing renovations on our house she didn't give the medicine. But when I asked her about it today, she said she did.


I got in contact with Mike to have him test Combat but he didn't seem interested in hearing what I had to say.


One thing after another after another. I feel so dang helpless and like I don't deserve to have Recon.


I don't know what I would do if she doesn't make it through this treatment.


The only thing making me feel even slightly optimistic is that we apparently caught it early enough that there hasn't been any lasting damage done to the tissues. Thank God for that.


Please pray for her, or say a good word for her, or whatever it is that you do.

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Aerie, you have not failed Recon, and you are not the first conciensious dog owner that something like this has happend to. When you noticed something was wrong, you took her in to get checked out. You have been throught the ringer this past year, so please don't beat yourself up over this.


Here's a success story. My brother adopted a 2-3 y/o HW+ GSD a little over a year ago. Logan (the dog) came from the local shelter. After finding his previous vet records, they found he was diagnosed as being HW+ over a year before. They started on treatment right away. Three months later, Logan was healthy and HW free. 16 months later, Logan is a strong, healthy, energetic dog with no signs that he had been so sick at one point.


I'll keep Recon (and you) in my prayers.

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My Ben was diagnosed HW+ last January. He went through the treatment regime and it was difficult but he came through it with flying colors.


The hardest part emotionally was seeing how sick he was when he came home from the vet's after treatment. The hardest part physically and mentally was keeping him on total rest (my vet prescribed 2 months of crate rest). We did a LOT of kong stuffing. After the crate rest was over and he was allowed limited on-leash exercise, he finally learned to walk politely on-leash.


When Ben came home from his treatments, he had a VERY rough couple of days. When you pick Recon up, she's not going to look good but she should bounce back quickly. Ben felt like himself within a week which maybe wasn't such a good thing since it made keeping him quiet very difficult.


I would worry about Combat being tested because if they were both treated/exposed the same way, he is at risk too. I hope you can get your husband to have him tested and treated as well.


You can't beat yourself up, what's done is done. Now you've got to make sure your pups are treated and can get on with living their happy, healthy lives.


Good luck and let us know how things go! Ben and I will be rooting for all three of you.



Nellie, Ben and Pip Squeak (doglets)

Cleo, Diesel and Stella Blue (cats)

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Oh, I am sorry. But HW treatment has come a long way since the bad old days. Nowadays, the hardest part really is keeping them quiet for the required period. She's going to be just fine.


BTW, did your vet not think just keeping her on preventative was an option?


Your ex's girlfriend sounds like an intellectual giant all right. :rolleyes: I'll bet he winds up getting exactly what he deserves.

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My poor baby is so sick :rolleyes: She's got no energy and just sleeps on my feet and doesn't even want to play. And the cough seems like it's getting worse.


I hate seeing her like this, it's killing me.


I've been trying for two days to get Mike to take Combat in to be tested. I'll continue trying and if not, my divorce papers say that I get all the animals, so I'll go back to court and tell them I want the dog returned to me so that I can get him medical treatment if it's necessary.


I am just so frustrated and feeling so helpless.


I guess it's good that she's not feeling like playing - just means less likely to have to keep her in a kennel for extended periods. Blah :D


Thanks for all the kind words, folks.

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This is the worst part of heartworm treatment. Logan was sooo misserable right after his treatment, too. It will pass, and she'll be feeling better in a coule days.


I've read the coughing does tend to get a bit worse as the heartworms die off, and the body gets rid of them.


The whole thing is awful to have to go through, but just keep reminding yourself of how much better she'll feel whent this is all over.

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Hi Aerie - just sending good vibes for you and Recon (and Combat too) from the land of Oz. I agree with the others - you can't beat yourself up over this. The good thing you've done is to catch it early, so the treatment as others have said, is likely to be more effective. It's really good to see the positive outcomes of the treated dogs owned by Board members.


Just take the opportunity to love your little Recon lots and lots - and have a rest and take care of yourself.

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My prayers are out to poor Recon. I hope she's better soon. God Bless

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