Background: The American Heartworm Society currently recommends the use of a monthly macrocyclic lactone, a 28-day course of 10 mg/kg doxycycline BID, and the 3-dose protocol of melarsomine dihydrochloride for the treatment of canine heartworm disease. Doxycycline is necessary for the reduction of the bacterium Wolbachia, found in all heartworm life-stages. Previous price increases and decreasing availability prompted us to evaluate alternative tetracycline antibiotics, i.e. minocycline, for the reduction of Wolbachia during canine heartworm treatment.
Methods: Thirty-two heartworm-positive dogs were randomized to receive 10 mg/kg or 5 mg/kg of either doxycycline or minocycline for 28 days BID, for a total of 8 dogs per experimental group. All dogs received 6 months of Heartgard Plus® (ivermectin/pyrantel) and the 3-dose protocol of 2.5 mg/kg melarsomine dihydrochloride. Blood samples were collected prior to the initiation of treatment, every 7 days throughout tetracycline treatment, and then monthly thereafter until the dog tested negative for the presence of heartworm antigen. DNA was isolated from circulating microfilarial samples and qPCR was performed on each sample.
Results: A greater number of dogs in the 10 mg/kg doxycycline and minocycline treated groups experienced gastrointestinal side effects as compared to the 5 mg/kg doxycycline and minocycline treated groups. All eight dogs in the 10 mg/kg doxycycline-treated group tested negative for the presence of Wolbachia DNA by 28 days post-tetracycline treatment. A total of two dogs in both the 5 mg/kg doxycycline- and 10 mg/kg minocycline-treated groups and three dogs in the 5 mg/kg minocycline-treated group remained positive for the presence of Wolbachia DNA by the end of tetracycline treatment.
Conclusions: No lung pathology was assessed in this clinical trial, therefore the clinical effect of the remaining Wolbachia DNA in the 10 mg/kg minocycline-, 5 mg/kg doxycycline- and 5 mg/kg minocycline-treated groups cannot be determined. Owner compliance in the proper administration of these tetracyclines may be impacted by the increased severe gastrointestinal side effects reported for the 10 mg/kg doxycycline- and minocycline-treated groups. We recommend that veterinarians prescribe the recommended 10 mg/kg doxycycline for canine heartworm treatment and reduce the dosage to 5 mg/kg in cases of severe gastrointestinal side effects in order to improve owner compliance in administration of medications.
Molly D. Savadelis, Katherine M. Day, Jenna L. Bradner, Adrian J. Wolstenholme, Michael T. Dzimianski, and Andrew R. Moorhead. 2018. Parasites & Vectors; 11:671. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13071-018-3264-z