The truth is that heartworm disease is a very serious disease that is better prevented than treated. There is only one drug that is approved to kill adult heartworms and it is called Immiticide™ (melarsomine). Immiticide™ is a patented medication. It is expensive and difficult to manufacture. There are frequently shortages. It stands to reason that a drug that is patented, difficult to manufacture and in short supply will be expensive no matter who you are. There is nothing that veterinarians can do about this fact. Treating heartworms safely and effectively is just plain expensive, no matter how you slice it. Unless you can find a vet that can afford to give away this service (and no one can), it will cost a lot.
Because of the expense, there have been rumors that vets are trying to rip people off. There is a sense of denial about the (often over $1000) price tag and probably also some guilt over the failure to prevent the disease in the first place. Someone somewhere started a rumor that heartworms do not actually require adulticide treatment and that all you have to do is administer monthly heartworm preventatives and the worms will die.
This myth is just not true. Giving monthly heartworm prevention pills as a part of your dog’s treatment after he has been diagnosed with heartworm infection is part of the treatment protocol, but by no means is the prevention pill alone enough to kill adult heartworms.
This fable has to stop. The monthly pills can precede the Immiticide injection and are a part of the approved protocol, but when used alone they are not effective. It can take up to seven years for a worm only treated with monthly product to die. Can you imagine the damage that worm can wreak on your dog’s heart and lungs in such a long time? Irreversible damage and progression to congestive heart failure can and will occur.
Please stop this myth now! Giving prevention to infected dogs without veterinary supervision can hurt the dog. Letting resident worms see low doses of prevention all the time may permit them to develop resistance to the drug and then produce resistant offspring that live to infect other dogs, eventually making our preventives less effective. For your dog’s safety and the safety of everyone’s dogs, stop believing this false information.
The answer to “How Can I Treat My Dog’s Heartworms Without Paying A Big Vet Bill?” is that you can’t. Even if my own dog tested positive for heartworms, it would be costly to treat her. But your dog must be treated or he will die. If you need help with paying your vet bill, some veterinarians have a special fund just for these cases and still others accept Care Credit™ which allows an interest free grace period for medical expenses. There are many other non profit organizations to help with needed veterinary care. If your dog does not have heartworms, never miss a dose of preventative and never skip the tests suggested by your vet so that you can avoid this difficult quandary.