Heartworm Disease And Why You Should Suck It Up And Buy The Preventative.

Gross, Huh? That's a dog's heart with a serious heartworm infestation. Notice how swollen the heart looks? That's from the worms eating away at the walls of the heart. This is what happens when a dog with heartworms dies. It's not pretty. It's painful, it's expensive, and it's completely preventable.

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.
What is the treatment for heartworms?
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.

ProHeart Injection
This preventative was really popular
for a while, then it was taken off the
market for a while after a few claims of
the product killing dogs. I have yet to
meet a vet who has had an issue with this
medication. This preventative is great for
those of us who routinely forget to give the
dog their heartworm prevention. One shot
once every six months and you're set!
A lot like Sentinel, but more
readily available.
So, you may have noticed that not a single one of these products I have listed is a "generic" and there is a reason for that. Most name brand products (such as Revolution and Heartgard) will pay for heartworm treatment should your dog test positive while on their brand of preventative. Just prove that your dog was current on their supply of preventative and they spot the bill. Paying for a year's supply of preventative is a whole hell of a lot cheaper than paying for treatment of infection. How much cheaper?

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:
  1. Killing your dog from heartworm infection
  2. Costly treatment for infection
  3. Expensive medications and treatments for heart disease due to heartworm infection
  4. The headache and the worry of heartworms
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.