Heartworm Extraction Video

It’s taken me a while to track this down.  I’m sharing a video today that’s kind of gross.  It’s a stern message about why heartworm prevention is so important.

The dog in this video has so many heartworms that the veterinarian seeing him has decided to remove them surgically.  Remember that adult heartworms live in the right side of the heart.  The upper right chamber is the atrium.  The jugular veins and vena cava connect to this chamber to return blood to the heart from the rest of the body.  This dog has a literal tangled ball of worms in the atrium, some in the ventricle, and undoubtedly some in the vessels that then go to the lungs.  Without some form of treatment, my guess is that this dog would probably die of his infection.

The video depicts the vet using a very long pair of forceps (alligator forceps) to reach down through the jugular vein and pull the heartworms out.  There’s a fair amount of blood, but there’s not a ton of anatomy to see.  The patient is covered in a big drape.  The patient has a good recovery (included in the video), so there’s a happy ending here.

In keeping with my “Do” philosophy, please DO keep your dog on heartworm prevention YEAR-ROUND.  If you’ve not given it through the winter, get a heartworm test done and get the prevention started ASAP.




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4 responses to “Heartworm Extraction Video

  1. That was fascinating! I’m curious about how the vet knew when he’d gotten the very last heartworm out. Did an ultrasound give the all clear? Did he fail to extract any more with the forceps? How did he know when he was done?

    I’m so glad this dog has a happy ending! Every pet owner should see this video. It really brings the message home.

  2. These are good questions!

    I believe that the ultrasound would show whether there were any worms left, yes. On the outside chance that a few were left behind, the dog could be treated in the traditional way (the injections of melarsomine), or the few remaining worms could be allowed to die on their own over 2-5 years. Giving the monthly heartworm preventions that contain ivermectin will slowly kill adult worms over 2 years, too. My guess is that after several empty tries with the forceps, they closed up and called it ‘done.’ Ultrasound or a heartworm test in 6 months would have been the ways to make sure all was truly finished.

  3. Valerie Lewis

    Thank you, absolutely fascinating video. I didn’t know heartworms could be removed surgically. Wonderful ending, reminded me of Clover.

  4. I don’t think this is a particularly common procedure, but it made all the difference for this dog. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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