What exactly is Heartworm Disease?
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition in dog. It is transmitted through infected mosquito bites. Dogs of all ages are susceptible to infection. Different signs range from no sign at all to persistent cough, fatigue, fainting, and weight loss.
After a bite from an infected mosquito, heartworm larvae migrate through the tissue. once in the tissue, the heartworm life cycle begins with the presence of infected larvae. Left untreated, larvae can grow into adult worms in just over 6 months. Once larvae arrive in the heart and lungs, they can cause damage as early as 70 days. Heartworm disease is usually detected with a blood test at your Veterinarian office. Treatment is expensive for the owner, and a painful, prolonged ordeal for the dog.
Heartworm prevention is exponentially cheaper than treatment. As we’ve talked about before, cats are also at risk for heartworm disease and there is no treatment available for cats. It is just at important for our feline friends to be a on a monthly heartworm preventative as it is for dogs.
That’s why both the Companion Animal Parasite Council and the American Heartworm Society recommends year-round treatment with a broad-spectrum parasite control product without interruption, regardless of where you live.
There are several different products available to prevent heartworms on the market. Here at TLC Animal Hospital, we carry ProHeart6, Trifexis, and MilbeGuard for dogs. We carry Revolution Plus for cats. We also offer Heartgard Plus and Revolution through our online pharmacy.
Before starting any preventative, talk with your veterinarian about your pet’s past and current health, including: general health, any issues with vaccines or medications, changes in behavior, allergies, current medications, supplements, or special diets. This information is crucial to picking out the right preventative for your pet.
Don’t forget about flea and tick prevention! Not all heartworm preventatives contain medications for those pesky parasites. Learn more about the importance of Double Defense against mosquitoes here!
Canine Heartworm Preventatives
ProHeart 6 (moxidectin) is the only preventative that can prevent heartworm disease for a full 6 months with just 1 injection given by your veterinarian. This can be used in dog 6 months of age and older. This is for heartworm prevention only and does not do anything for fleas or ticks.
ProHeart is convenient for owners because it is done just twice a year instead of every month. Worried about forgetting when it’s time to come back in? We call you a month ahead of time as well as two weeks before the due date if you don’t already have an appointment scheduled. If you’re signed up for email reminders, you’ll receive an email as well. No email? No problem – you’ll receive a postcard reminder instead.
When first starting your dog on ProHeart 6, a heartworm test will need to be performed with the first two injections. This is to ensure that there is no underlying heartworm infection that could have happened before using Proheart 6. After that, the heartworm test is performed just once a year like usual.
MilbeGuard (milbemycin oxime) is a once-a-month flavored chewable tablet for dogs, puppies, cats and kittens. While this can be given to cats, our doctors would rather have our feline patients on Revolution or Revolution Plus because of the added protection against fleas and other parasites that those products offer for them.
For dogs, MilbeGuard prevents heartworm disease, controls adult hookworm infection, removes and controls both adult roundworms and whipworms. MilbeGuard can be given to dogs and puppies four weeks of age or greater and weighing at least 2 pounds.
Heartgard Plus (ivermectin and pyrantel) is a beef chew that kills heartworm larvae and helps to treat and control roundworms and hookworms. It kills the heartworm larvae before they have the chance to mature.
Heartgard Plus can be given to puppies as young as 6 weeks of age. This tasty chew is given once every 30 days. It can be given just as a treat as well. However, if your dog has the MDR1 gene they should not take certain medications, including Ivermectin. (You can learn more about MDR1 and DNA testing here). Because of this, we have decided to only carry MilbeGuard in clinic. Heartgard Plus is still available through our online pharmacy.
Trifexis (spinosad and milbemycin oxime) is a monthly, beef-flavored chewable tablet that kills fleas and prevents heartworm disease. It also treats and controls adult hookworm, roundworm and whipworm infections. It does not protect against ticks.
It is best to give Trifexis after your dog has had a full meal. This helps prevent any stomach upset as well as helps the medication to be better absorbed. This can be used in dogs and puppies 8 weeks and older and weighing at least 5 pounds.
Feline Heartworm Preventatives
The majority of cats are described as “indoor-only”, yet 2 out of 5 indoor cats are NOT getting the protection that they need. Parasites are NOT “outdoor-only”! Fleas, ticks, ear mites, intestinal worms, and mosquitoes can get into any home. Parasites hitchhike indoors on other pets or creatures, on shoes and clothes, or get inside through doors and windows.
Revolution Plus (selamectin and sarolaner) is the only 6-in-1 preventative with broad-spectrum action against parasites. It is a simple-to-apply, quick-drying, monthly topical solution that protects against fleas, ticks, ear mites, roundworms, hookworms, and heartworms. It can be used on cats and kittens as young as eight weeks of age and weighing 2.8 pounds or greater.
Revolution (selamectin) is just like Revolution Plus, but it does not protect against ticks. Because of this, we’ve decided to carry only Revolution Plus in clinic. But don’t worry – Revolution is still available through our online pharmacy! Regardless of which one you choose to use for your cat, they are still going to be protected against heartworms.
In conclusion, heartworm disease is everywhere and it is extremely important to keep your pet on a year-round preventive.
By: Mi’a Smith