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Fwd: New Heartworm Treatment Information
Fwd: New Heartworm Information
heartworm treatment with adjunct therapy with doxycycline. The more
technical part is toward the end.
-------- Original Message --------
Important new information regarding heartworm infection and treatment.
This info is very new.* Here is a brief explanation.
(permission is given to crosspost):
Recent research has led to the discovery of a parasite called Wolbachia
that lives symbiotically inside heartworms. Studies
indicate that this parasite contributes to the adverse effects of both
heartworm infection and heartworm treatment, including inflammation,
embolism and allergic reaction. Treatment with
doxycycline for 30 days to kill the Wolbachia parasite weakens the
heartworms and makes them unable to reproduce, and greatly reduces the
chance of adverse reaction during heartworm treatment.
Any dog that currently has heartworms should be treated with doxycycline
for 30 days. If the dog will be treated with Immiticide (fast-kill
method), it is best to treat with doxycycline prior to beginning
Immiticide treatment, as this should make the treatment much safer, by
greatly reducing the potential for embolism and allergic reaction to the
death of the worms. If anyone has dogs currently undergoing treatment
with Immiticide, I would still give doxycycline, as even concurrent
treatment may have some benefit.
Doxycycline should also be given to dogs that are being treated with
monthly Heartgard (slow kill method) or any type of alternative
heartworm treatment method, as it will weaken the heartworms, prevent
them from reproducing, and reduce the chance of adverse effects caused
by the heartworm infection itself, and by the worms dying.
It appears unlikely that the Wolbachia parasite persists in the body
after the heartworms have been cleared, though we do not know for
certain at this time. To be safe, it may be best to treat any dogs that
have completed heartworm treatment in the past with doxycycline for 30
days, to clear any possible remaining Wolbachia.
I was unable to find any information on the recommended dosage of
doxycycline in dogs. Because Wolbachia is a rickettsial organism,
similar to those that cause tick disease, it may be advisable to use the
higher dose of doxycycline that is recommended for treatment of tick
disease, which is 10 mg/kg twice a day.
Veterinarians may contact Merial, the manufacturer of Immiticide, for
more information on this topic, if needed.
Additional info on the topic:
"Wolbachia is a genus of rickettsial organisms (sort of like bacteria,
but not exactly). They live inside the adult heartworm.
These organisms seem to be protective or beneficial to heartworms and
treating the dog with the antibiotic doxycycline seems to sterilize
female heartworms (meaning they cannot reproduce). Wolbachia is also
thought to be involved in the embolism and shock that result when
heartworms die. The role of this organism is still being investigated.
If your veterinarian wants to pre-treat your heartworm positive dog with
doxycycline, it may be because of concerns regarding this organism. As
new information emerges, we will post here."
"Wolbachia are intracellular bacteria that infect numerous species of
filarial worms including heartworms. Many contend that these friendly
inhabitants (endosymbionts) play a role in the pathogenesis of diseases
caused by heartworms and other filarids. Contention is that host immune
responses directed at Wolbachia can actually go awry and enhance the
disease process in heartworm infections. Some also contend that
elimination of Wolbachia spp. from heartworms may affect the survival of
adult heartworms and may decrease the host's errant immunologic
responses when adult worms are killed or die."
"Dirofilaria immitis [heartworms] the cause of heartworm disease in dogs
and cats harbours an endosymbiont intracellular bacteria of the genus
Wolbachia (a Rickettsia). Studies performed recently indicate that these
bacteria may play an important role in the pathogenesis and immune
response to filarial infection (Bandi et al, 2001)."
This article goes on to say that Wolbachia may contribute to many of the
side effects of heartworm disease, including inflammation, kidney
disease, lung problems and allergic reactions.
"Furthermore, preliminary data from our laboratory indicates that
antibiotic treatment before adulticide therapy in dogs with heartworm
disease leads to a decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokines, particularly
This site has numerous other studies on human treatment, indicating that
doxycycline, oxytetracycline (of which doxycycline is a derivative) and
rifampicin (sometimes use in conjunction with doxycycline) are all
effective against Wolbachia.
"Bacterial relatives of Wolbachia include a number of agents that have
arthropods as vectors and cause serious human diseases such as typhus,
scrub typhus, erhlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Studies of
these bacteria require special containment facilities. In contrast,
Wolbachia have so far been found only in invertebrates and are not known
to cause mammalian disease."
And I got this in response to my posting the above on my local rescue
We have been following this protocol for a few months now, after
speaking with Dr. Nelson, the Prez of the American Heartworm Society. We
are not only giving them the Doxy 30 days in advance (or as much time as
possible), but continuing them on the Doxy throughout the treatment.
Believe me, there is a marked difference in the health of the dogs. I
currently have three high-risk dogs undergoing treatment, and they are
showing virtually no adverse side effects from the treatment! It is
incredible to think that a parasite such as heartworms, actually have
parasites themselves. How wild is that! And to think that those
parasites contribute to the adverse reactions, and sometimes death, in
heartworm-treated dogs - well, it just boggles the mind!!!* But I am
now a huge proponent of the Doxy protocol - we are ordering it by the
I am currently trying to find out if there are any beneficial effects to
giving doxy post hw treatment. I urge everyone to crosspost this info
and to also discuss it with your vet if you have a dog that needs to be
treated for heartworms. I am sure many vets know about this, but not
And it never hurts any of us to be further educated on this terrible
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