The best way to keep your dog calm after heartworm treatment is to keep things quiet and keep your dog’s mind busy. If you have kids, don’t let them run around while screaming, this will make your dog want to join in on the fun. To keep his mind busy, use Kong toys or puzzle games.
Heartworm treatment is a serious undertaking. A dog undergoing treatment must be kept calm to reduce severe complications from raised heart rate or blood pressure. This is especially difficult to do with a hyper dog.
The good news is that as long as you take the appropriate steps, there are a few things you can do to keep your hyper dog calm.
Cage Rest Versus Exercise Restriction
Although many people use the terms interchangeably, there is a difference between cage rest and exercise restriction. Make sure you’re clear on which one your vet advises, which will vary from dog to dog.
Cage rest means just what it sounds like: the dog must stay in a cage except for a few short potty walks each day.
If the dog is put on cage rest, make sure the cage is big enough for the dog to comfortably stretch out in. Also, make sure it has something soft to lie on.
Cage rest can cause anxiety in a dog that isn’t used to being locked up, which elevates the heart rate (something you want to avoid when on heartworm treatment).
Spend as much time as possible interacting with the dog and try to make the experience as stress-free as possible.
Exercise restriction means limited physical activity to keep the heart rate and blood pressure down, but the dog doesn’t necessarily have to stay in a cage or kennel.
It is a good idea to keep the dog inside though, away from stimuli such as other dogs, neighbors, birds to chase, etc. Put away all “fetch” toys and toys that tend to excite the dog.
Depending on the breed, look into getting stairs or a ramp for the bed and couch. A small dog that needs a running leap to get onto furniture should have assistance, so it’s not exerting itself.
Regardless of whether the dog is on cage rest or exercise restriction, most tactics for keeping him calm are going to be the same.
Keep Things Quiet
While the dog is being treated, limit the number of visitors to your home, especially if the dog is excitable when company comes.
Avoid interaction with other dogs altogether, either visitors or playdates. Don’t let the dog out except for leashed potty breaks a few times a day.
Keep His Mind Busy
If a dog is unable to expend energy physically, the best way to keep him occupied and tire him out is by exercising his mind.
Dog’s attention can be engaged in several ways:
- Teach the dog new low-energy commands like smile, shake, stay, or speak
- Give the dog kongs or puzzle games which dispense food or treats
- Buy or make a snuffle mat, which is a plush mat that treats are hidden in
- Bones or rawhide for chewing
Give the Dog Extra Attention
Although the dog shouldn’t be excited, that doesn’t mean it has to be left alone. In fact, it’s important to interact with the dog a fair amount to keep him from feeling lonely and anxious. Show the dog extra affection, petting, and cuddling to make up for the loss of activity.
The Cone of Shame
If the dog is especially hyper and stimulated by its surroundings, an Elizabethan collar (cone of shame) may limit the dog’s peripheral vision and cut down on sensory stimuli.
Keep the Dog Close
As much as you try to keep the dog’s surroundings relaxing and calm, some dogs will run around no matter what.
Leashing the dog to your belt will help limit an energetic dog’s movements. If your dog is restricted to cage rest and has an incredibly difficult time with it, ask your vet if this is an acceptable compromise for at least part of the day.
Typically, dogs undergoing heartworm treatment are restricted to 2-3 short walks per day for potty breaks.
In some cases, your vet might allow longer walks as long as you go slowly, so the dog’s heart rate stays in a safe range.
Of course, this isn’t usually the best idea for dogs who tend to pull and chase things on walks or are overly excited when they see people or other dogs.
Clear this option with your vet before trying it, as there are many factors to consider, which may make it unsafe for some dogs.
As a last resort, ask your vet about sedatives for the dog to help him relax. The dog doesn’t understand why their activity is being restricted suddenly, which can be stressful. Stress and anxiety raise the heart rate, so medication may help if the dog is really struggling.
Why is Rest So Important When Taking Heartworm Treatment?
During heartworm treatment, the worms in your dog’s bloodstream are slowly killed, after which they start to break apart. If one of these pieces travels into the dog’s lungs, it can result in death.
Keeping the dog’s blood pressure and heart rate low minimizes the chances of this happening, so it’s crucial for the dog’s safety.
Keeping this in mind during treatment may help you through the difficult times when the dog wants to play and you’re unable to let him.
How Long Does Treatment Last?
Treatment for heartworms can vary, but usually begins with antibiotics, then progresses to injections that kill the heartworms.
Treatment usually takes three to five months, one to two months of which the dog is usually put on exercise restriction.
Your vet should give you detailed information about the severity of the dog’s case and an idea of how long treatment is expected to take.
Heartworm treatment is a long and expensive process that can be stressful for both the dog and the owner. Heartworm prevention can help minimize the chances of needing treatment in the first place.
There are several oral, topical, and injectable heartworm medications that work to kill heartworms in the dog’s blood while they’re in their larval stages.
Technically, these medications don’t prevent heartworms, but prevent heartworm nymphs from growing into deadly adults.
These medications are given on a schedule, usually once a month for oral and topical treatments and once or twice a year for injections.
Because these treatments don’t work on adult heartworms, it’s important not to miss a scheduled dose before any nymphs present in the dog’s bloodstream turn into adults.
Getting your dog checked regularly for heartworms will help minimize the effects if your dog does contract them. Regular checkups will also increase the odds of a quick and successful treatment and full recovery.
Keep Mosquitoes at Bay
Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes, so keeping your yard and home free of them will lower the chances of your dog being bitten and infected.
Keep your doors and windows closed during mosquito season, and keep your dog inside during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
Make sure there’s no standing water near your home, and use repellants like citronella. Geraniums have been shown to repel mosquitoes as well, so consider planting some in window boxes or near doors. Just be sure not to over-water, as mosquitoes can breed in even small pools of water.
Getting a dog treated for heartworms can be one of the more stressful times in a pet owner’s life. Forcing a dog to limit its activities for such a long time is difficult, and it’s easy to get discouraged. Just remember that it is for the dog’s own good, and that eventually, the dog will return to a normal and happy life.
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