Hello, friends and pet owners!
Welcome to the second episode of a mini-blog series I am hosting called Veterinary Myth Busters. Today, we will be talking about heartworm prevention, and how most veterinarians in the US recommend it for all dogs, monthly, year-round.
I have this conversation at least once a day:
“My niece has been around dogs all of her life, and she told me that she’s never had a problem with heartworms and that I don’t need to spend money on heartworm prevention. Do I really need to be giving my dog that pill every month?”
The short answer: Yes, unless you feel like gambling.
This subject is a big matter of debate. Between veterinarians, dog people, and snake oil salesmen who spout “holistic” remedies and preventions, it can be hard for well-meaning pet owners to decipher the truth. Different areas of the country have different levels or risk, but heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 of the United States. So, the truth is: no matter what state you live in, heartworm disease is a real threat to your pet, and you can prevent it for less than $10 per month.
“Well, I don’t need heartworm prevention because…”
These excuses are endless (and infuriating)! The pattern and spread of heartworm disease is highly variable and unpredictable based on a myriad of factors. I’ve seen indoor dogs, outdoor dogs, small breed dogs, large breed dogs, pets with rich owners, pets with poor owners, and even cats come up positive for heartworm infection. The fact is- weird, improbable things sometimes happen. If you have an indoor pet, he is unlikely to get heartworm disease, but he is not immune. Heartworm disease is easy to prevent, and difficult to treat and predict. Don’t gamble with it!
“But I don’t want to put toxic chemicals in my pet’s body…”
Heartworm prevention medications are safe, effective, and extensively tested before they hit the market. These products have been licensed by the FDA and have been through testing as rigorous as the testing human medications must go through. Health problems due to heartworm disease are much more likely to cause illness in your dog. Once an animal gets heartworm disease, the treatment is a course of expensive and painful injections. These injections must be given deep in the epaxial (back) muscles, and can come with significant side effects. Personally, I would much rather give my dog a meat flavored chewable (that she enjoys taking) once a month than subject her to a series of three painful injections, over two months of “cage rest,” and possible life-long side effects from having heartworm disease.
“But, Doc, I can’t remember to give a pill every month!”
You’re in luck! There is even an injection licensed to prevent heartworm disease. One injection, given by your vet, under the skin of your dog every 6 months is all that is needed. If you’re dog doesn’t like taking pills, there are even topical products which prevent heartworms (as well as intestinal worms and fleas).
In summary, there is really no good excuse for your pet to not be up to date on heartworm prevention! The benefits definitely trump the risks, as heartworms (much like the mosquitoes that harbor them) SUCK!
Thanks for reading this blog post. Join us on Sunday, where we will be busting myths and talking about all the reasons why YOU need to spay your dog.
Want to get in on the conversation? Tweet @KatieHoganDVM or comment below:
Have you ever had an experience with heartworm disease?
Do you feel like your veterinarian has thoroughly explained WHY your dog needs heartworm prevention?
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. However, I am an employee of Noah’s Ark Animal Clinics, which sells heartworm test and prevention products to pet owners. Regardless, I strive to only recommend medical services and products whose indications are evidence based and that are necessary to ensure the health of your pet. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Resources for pet owners:
- An educational handout from the American Heartworm Society