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Pet Patter - Catrina Skepper's Blog

Heartworm Medication for Dogs

Posted on: 10/3/2011 4:52:38 PM under Dogs

While your veterinarian is no doubt the best source for everything you need to know about heartworm medicine for dogs, its a good idea for every pet owner to stay informed about the essentials of their dogs health. Heartworms can be deadly for both dogs and cats, and depending on where you live, the majority of viable hosts would contract it without protection. Symptoms of heartworm disease are often not apparent until the later stages, and even then, only those people who pay close attention to their pets behavior may notice.  Your dog will likely develop a cough and become lethargic at which point is may already be too late to treat the dog.  For these reasons, preventative treatments are essential.

Methods of Prevention
Heartworms are relatively easy to prevent, yet difficult to treat successfully once they have infected your dog.  Prevention ideally starts with the first round of puppy vaccinations and then continues periodically throughout the dogs life. Different types of medications have different dosing frequencies, so consult your veterinarian for the best heartworm prevention schedule for your dog.
Oral prevention medication is typically administered once a month during heartworm season.  This occurs during the warm weather months, although depending on where you live that could be all year round.  Dogs in constant contact with other dogs should be provided year round protection.

Heartworm Medications
Heartworm medicine is typically given orally or through an injection by the veterinarian, though topical treatments are now available as well. Though these external treatments have to be re-applied more often than other types of medicine, they are usually formulated to kill and prevent other common canine pests, such as Fleas, Ticks, mites and mosquitoes.
Among the most popular preventative treatments are Heartgard and Advantage. Heartgard Plus comes in chewable treat form.  It is among the most widely prescribed heartworm preventatives and the drug of choice for both prevention and treatment of heartworms. Advantage Multi is a topical solution that offers comprehensive protection from heartworms and various other parasitic worms, as well as fleas.  There are also Herbal Remedies available for pets that are sensitive to traditional medicine.
Treatment for Heartworms
The earlier heartworms are diagnosed, the better chance your dog has of being returned to full health.  Most veterinarians will check for heartworm during mosquito season and regular checkups can help ensure that any heartworm infestation is detected early, before symptoms appear. If your dog tests positive for heartworms, treatment must be started immediately to eliminate parasites before they advance far into their life cycle. Treatment for heartworms is poison-based and therefore toxic for your dog’s overall health meaning an infected dog will have to undergo a thorough evaluation to determine the strength of internal organs including the heart. Two rounds of treatment will ensue, one to kill the adult heartworms and the other to kill larvae and eggs.
Post-infection treatment can be very hard on the dog; the medicines used are derived from arsenic, and dead heartworms may clog up arteries and veins in the heart and lungs. Once a dog is infected, a prescription treatment from your veterinarian is the only proven method for destroying the parasites.

The Bottom Line
Heartworms can appear in dogs in any part of the world, and there is little difference in risk between indoor and outdoor dogs. Stray dogs should always be taken to a vet for heartworm tests and prevention, and you should always ask about the heartworm status of any dog before adopting or purchasing. Of all the things that you can do to ensure that your dog lives a long, healthy life, keeping up on their heartworm prevention is a top priority.