People often think "Oh, my dog only goes outside to go to the bathroom. He's not at risk for heartworms." Or "I only use the preventative in the summer months." I think my personal favorite is "I don't like using all those chemicals on my dog." If your dog gets heartworms, you'll be using a lot more chemicals on them than you would have if you had kept them on prevention. These are all really dumb, really sorry, excuses for not having your dog on year-round heartworm prevention. Every month, people. EVERY MONTH.
How the disease starts...
It all starts with a cough. It may be mild and not noticeable at first, but the cough will be persistent. Then a reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure commonly recognized by an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen giving the pet the appearance of a "swollen belly." Dogs infected with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockage of blood flow within the heart leading to a life threatening form of cardiovascular collapse called "caval syndrome." Signs of caval syndrome include a sudden onset of labored breathing, pale gums and dark bloody or "coffee-colored" urine. Without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage, few pets survive.
How do dogs get heartworms?
They get bitten by a mosquito that is carrying the infectious larvae.
This can happen at any time of the year. This can happen indoors or outdoors. All it takes is one bite and a dog not on a preventative will get heartworms.
|Notice how there aren't any states with NO positive heartworm test results? That's because heartworms can infect any dog anywhere. Where you live and the time of year will not protect your dog.|
Currently, only one product is approved by the FDA for this purpose (Immiticide®- melarsomine hydrochloride). It is given by deep injection into muscle. A series of injections are given, either over a 24-hour period or two treatment periods, one month apart. While treatment may be administered on an outpatient basis, hospitalization for the procedure is often recommended. Other medications may be given at the time of treatment depending on the stage of heartworm disease. This is really, REALLY expensive. We're talking base cost of $400 and then it just goes up from there. And here's another bonus: On December 1, 2009, Merial published an open letter to veterinarians, announcing a shortage of Immiticide (melarsomine dihydrochloride), the only drug licensed for use in treating heartworm infestations in dogs. The shortage is due to a manufacturing site transfer. In 2011, the FDA announced they had limited availability to the drug. As of Janruary 2013 there is still a shortage.
What kind of preventatives are out there?
|Heartgard and Heartgard Plus|
|One of the cheapest and most reliable,|
|many dogs take this medication very well.|
|This is a beef flavored chew that will prevent|
|heartworm, hookworms and roundworm|
|**This is also the medication most frequently|
|used for the "slow kill" treatment of heartworms.|
|Currently the best seller at most clinics.|
|this topical treatment prevents fleas,|
|ticks, some ear mites and skin mites,|
|most hookworms and roundworms,|
|and heartworms. It is, however, one of|
|the most expensive.|
|Also inexpensive, but may not be available|
|due to manufacturing problems.|
|This is a pill you give once a month|
|that will prevent flea and tick|
|infestations as well as heartworms.|
|A lot like Sentinel, but more|
To buy a year supply of preventative for a dog weighing 30 pounds ...
Revolution......................................$159.98 + tax (where applicable)
Proheart Injection...........................$90.00 + tax (where applicable)
HeartGard Plus..............................$76.00 + tax (where applicable)
Trifexis...........................................$191.98 + tax (where applicable)
Sentinel..........................................$175.11 + tax (where applicable)
To treat the same dog for a mild to moderate case of heartworms: $500.00
To treat the same dog for a moderate to severe case of heartworms: $700.00 (and up)
The long and the short of it is this, folks: Keep them on prevention, year round, and you won't risk:
- Killing your dog from heartworm infection
- Costly treatment for infection
- Expensive medications and treatments for heart disease due to heartworm infection
- The headache and the worry of heartworms
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.