As with most parasite-borne illnesses, it is far easier to prevent heartworms than to cure an infection. Treating your dog for heartworms can be a costly and extended process. Without preventative drugs, there is a very high probability your dog will get bit by a mosquito carrying heartworm larvae and receive the disease.
How Do Preventative Heartworm Treatments Work?
Heartworm preventative medicines are available as spot on treatments, shots, or monthly pills. Many of these treatments will also protect your dog from other parasites, such as roundworm and fleas. Regardless of how the medication is given, there is no way to stop dogs from exposure to larvae following a mosquito bite. Rather than warding off the disease, the medicines act as an insecticide. The preventatives destroy the larvae, preventing them from growing to adulthood and reproducing.
Why Year Round?
Preventative medications are generally used year round, even in places where mosquito season only occurs for a few months out of the year. It's far easier to keep on schedule with medication when giving it on a routine basis. Keep in mind that preventative treatments do not destroy adult heartworms, so a yearly test is recommended to double check that your dog has not contracted heartworms despite the use of preventative medication.
There are several options available for preventing heartworms. The FDA regulated drugs are available by prescription only, which is partially due to the need to test dogs for the infection prior to giving a preventative. The following are the major preventative medications available:
Ivermectin – These chewable tablets are sold under the brand names Iverhart Plus, Heartgard, Iverhart Max, and Tri-Heart Plus and need to be taken on a monthly basis. In addition to killing the developing microfilia (baby heartworms), these drugs also protect dogs from roundworms and hookworms.
Milbemycin Oxime – Available under the brand names Inceptor, Milbemax, and Trifexis, these monthly tablets control adult hookworm and roundworm infections as well as destroying larval heartworms.
Selamectin – Sold under the brand name Revolution, this drug is a topical ointment that is applied on a monthly basis to the skin by your dog's neck. This treatment also kills adult fleas, mites, and ticks.
Moxidectin – This drug is sold under the names Advantage and Proheart. The Advantage treatment is given topically on a monthly basis and Proheart 6 is available as an injection, which is administered every six months in your veterinarian’s office.
If you miss a dose of a medication, give it to your dog as soon as you realize. Avoid giving two doses at one time, however, and if you miss two months, let your veterinarian know. The vet may want to test your dog for signs of heartworm in six or seven months when the infection would be detectable.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by,your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.