Keeping your dog quiet and calm is crucial during heartworm treatment. If your dog’s heart rate rises during treatment, you put him at risk of developing potentially life-threatening blood clots.
You may be wondering how to keep a dog inactive during heartworm treatment- after all, dogs are rowdy and rambunctious creatures!
The best way to keep a dog still is to make sure your dog’s mind is engaged even when their body can’t handle active play. You can do this through a number of methods, such as by providing chew toys or keeping the dog in a peaceful, serene environment.
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The 3 Stages of Heartworm Treatment
Heartworm treatment is a long process, and during all stages of heartworm treatment, the dog must stay calm and quiet as much as possible. Once you confirm the initial diagnosis, your dog will need to receive additional testing to determine how severe the infection is.
Veterinarians place heartworm infections into four categories ranging from lowest risk to a high-risk infection known as Caval Syndrome.
Even a low-risk infection is something that should be taken seriously. It would be best if you started treatment right away once your vet decides on the best treatment plan.
The first stage will be to attack the immature larva and baby heartworms and kill them before they are fully mature.
It is essential to do this first because the younger the worm, the lower the risk of damage to your dog’s health. As larvae mature they can still cause damage even as they die.
Next to be addressed will be the older larva. Your vet will treat the larva with heartworm preventative products that you will give to your dog monthly for up to 3 months.
Only after the larvae die off can the adult heartworms be addressed.
The treatment to get rid of adult worms requires 2 to 3 intramuscular injections. If the vet is following a 2-dose procedure, the dog will receive two injections 24 hours apart. If the dog needs a 3-dose treatment, they will get one injection initially and then the two additional doses a month later.
The severity of the heartworm infection, and the intensity of the treatment program required to get rid of the infection will determine how long a dog should stay inactive after heartworm treatment.
As soon as your dog receives a heartworm diagnosis, you will need to restrict the dog’s exercise.
Most veterinarians recommend that the dog stays in a crate or kennel for the first four weeks of treatment at a minimum.
After treatment is complete, the dog will also have to remain inactive for another month before you can slowly begin reintroducing activity. Your veterinarian can explain how to safely reintroduce exercise into your dog’s routine after treatment and the initial month of inactivity.
Keeping a dog confined and inactive during this time will reduce the risk of them getting overexcited and overexerted, so their heart and lungs stay safe from blood clots caused by the decomposing worms.
However, this also raises the risk of them getting bored and engaging in destructive activities.
There are 3 simple ways to keep your dog entertained while also helping it to stay inactive:
One way to keep a dog inactive during heartworm treatment while also helping to reduce boredom is to invest in some quality long-lasting chew toys. Chewing helps a dog ease their stress and helps circumvent destructive tendencies.
Chewing is a natural behavior for both wild and domestic dogs. It helps reduce stress and anxiety, but it is also fun for dogs to chew, keeping their minds stimulated.
Make sure you give them a variety of appealing chew toys, so they can switch if they tire of one and move on to another.
Chewing is a great way to help a dog blow off steam and helps them safely release energy without putting them at risk of elevating their heart rate or breathing. As a bonus, chewing also helps keep their teeth and jaws healthy, so they don’t have dental problems in the future.
In addition to chewing toys, toys that require your dog to solve problems mentally will also help keep him busy while he is unable to exercise.
Food distributing toys like the Bob-a-Lot will keep your dog motivated and interested in the toy. Select toys that only release a few pieces at a time rather than a lot at once to extend your dog’s play and also keep him from having digestive issues.
During heartworm treatment, your dog won’t be burning off calories because he won’t be exercising regularly. You will most likely need to reduce the amount of food your dog gets to avoid weight gain.
A food distributing toy can be filled with your dog’s food so that their food intake can be slowed and controlled during treatment. It is especially important for a dog that tends to eat quickly to slow down eating during treatment to avoid further complications.
If you are wondering how else to keep a dog inactive during heartworm treatment besides offering quiet toys, consider the environment where you will keep your dog during treatment. Dogs are very sensitive to their environments and will react accordingly.
During treatment, keep your dog somewhere in the house that is calm and quiet and where there isn’t a lot of foot traffic.
If your dog tends to bark and get excited by things going on outside, or people walking by, it is good to keep the dog somewhere he can’t easily access windows or doors to see out of them.
If possible, discourage visitors while your dog is undergoing treatment. Make sure everyone in the household knows the dog cannot be played with and made excited.
If there are small children in the house, it may be wise to keep them away or only allow them near the dog with adult supervision.
Even though your dog has to stay calm and quiet, it is essential to make sure you give him plenty of gentle affection and quiet companionship.
As dogs are extremely social creatures, if your dog does not receive appropriate interaction with you he can become depressed. This could negatively impact his health and his reaction to the treatment.
Sit calmly on the floor with your dog since the last thing you want is for it to jump or run around after you. Talk to him quietly, pet him gently, and try your best not to get him excited.
You can sit with your dog as you read a book or watch TV. Doing this will help reduce your dog’s stress, while still safely providing him with the companionship and comfort he needs during this stressful and often uncomfortable time.
It is vitally important to keep your dog inactive when he is undergoing heartworm treatment. Not doing so properly could result in serious health risk and endanger the life of your pet.
Utilize chew toys and puzzle toys to keep his mouth and mind busy. Make sure that your dog is confined in a comfortable, quiet area of the home where he won’t be exposed to external stimuli which might excite him.
While the journey to a full recovery from heartworms is long and difficult, keeping him calm and peaceful will allow your dog to get back on his feet as quickly as possible.
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.