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This article is not intended as medical advice, and should not be taken as such. It is simply a compilation of notes from my research to better maintain the health of my own dogs, and is shared for informational purposes only. The idea is to be much better prepared when one does consult with a veterinarian. :)
With the safe and Best Heartworm Prevention available today, no pet should ever have to endure this dreaded disease.
Heartworm infestation can be a severe and potentially fatal disease, infected dogs that go untreated may die. Even heartworm treatment can be very uncomfortable (sometimes requiring surgery in severe cases) and can be very detrimental to a pet’s health.
On the other hand, heartworm prevention may be just as harmful to an animal’s health in the short term and the long term, so it’s crucial that one knows enough to make the right choices based on his own conditions.
Heartworm disease is believed to be more common in dogs; however, dogs are more likely to be healed and treated from heartworm infection due to reduced pulmonary vascular capacity and associated pathologies.
What is heartworm disease?
Heartworm infection is caused by a filarial parasite, Dirofilaria immitis. At least 70 species of mosquitoes can serve as intermediate hosts, of which the most common vectors are Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex.
Heartworm infections may occur in dogs, cats, coyotes, wolves, and some other animals, such as ferrets, raccoons, and even humans.
It is called a “heartworm” since the parasite lives – in the final reproductive stage of its lifecycle – in the heart of its host where it can reside for several years, eventually killing its host.
How do dogs get heartworm?
The heartworm requires the mosquito as an intermediate host before it can complete its life cycle inside your dog. As many as 30 species of mosquitoes can transmit heartworms.
Small larvae, known as microfilaria, live in the blood and are sucked up by the mosquito when it feasts on an infected host animal. The larvae will grow through more stages once inside the mosquito, before it can infect another dog.
Within 8 to 30 days, the larvae will reach its infectious stage. When an infected mosquito bites a dog, the microfilaria in the heartworm is deposited on the skin, where it craws through the bite wound and enters the bloodstream.
In dogs, the natural host of the heartworm, the larvae migrate to the heart and eventually become an adult worm, reproduce, fill the blood with microfilaria and pass it on to the next mosquito. The maturation process takes 6-7 months.
Mature heartworms create disease by clogging the heart and major blood vessels. They also interfere with Heart valves. By clogging the main blood vessel, the blood supply to other organs of the body is decreased, especially blood flow to the lungs, liver, and kidneys, leading to defects and malfunction of these organs.
How long can a dog live with heartworms
According to the American Heartworm Society, “Clinical symptoms of heartworm disease may not be detected in the early phases, as the amount of heartworms in an animal continues to increase gradually over months or even years and after repeated mosquito bites.
It takes about 6 -7 months for microfilaria to develop into adults and start reproducing. Clinical symptoms are not seen before that. Adult worms can live in dogs for up to 7 years.
Symptoms of heartworm in dogs
Recently infected dogs may display no signs of the disease, while highly infected dogs may gradually exhibit clinical signs, noticeable symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs do not occur until a full year after being bitten by infected mosquitoes.
Dogs with typical heartworm disease may experience the following symptoms:
- Mild, persistent cough
- Reluctance to move or exercise
- Reduced appetite
- Weight loss
- Appear rough and not thriving
Additionally, Blood and worms from ruptured vessels may be coughed up.
Should I give my dog heartworm medicine?
Before you decide whether to put your dog on heartworm medication, you should take into consideration the implications of environmental factors in general and a dog’s state of health in particular.
For environmental factors, if the dog has spent the last year in a cold area and will continue to live there, there is no risk of infection, but if the dog has been in some comparatively warmer region or will be traveling to such, where there are mosquito populations, there is certainly a chance of infection.
As for your dog’s state health, you should know how healthy your dog is, and are there any possible immunological problems.
The real health status of a dog is not always noticeable. If a dog “seems” healthy, consider whether they have had the benefits of an appropriate diet for most of their lives, have a history of few or no vaccines and medicines, spent most of their lives in a positive emotional environment, had plenty of exercise and rest, as well as the necessary exposure to build their immune system.
I have to agree that giving year-round heartworm treatment for dogs in states where the year-round transmission does not occur is an injustice to both the animals being given medications they do not need, and to their owner’s wallets.
Generally, a veterinarian opinion of a dog’s health provides more insights.
Best Heartworm Prevention and Treatments
If you are ready to consider what preventive measures are suitable in your circumstances, here’s my overview of the Best Heartworm Prevention for dogs.
Heartgard Plus Chewable Tablets for Dogs
Heartgard Plus is one of the best heartworm preventives; It contains ivermectin and pyrantel pamoate as its active ingredients, Heartgard Plus is a monthly oral combination heartworm preventive and wormer. The added deworming agent is for the treatment and control of hookworms and some roundworms.
Interceptor Plus Chewable Tablets for Dogs
Interceptor Plus contains milbemycin oxime as its active ingredient, Interceptor is a monthly heartworm oral solution, and intestinal wormer. In addition to heartworm prevention, it is intended to control roundworm, whipworm and many hookworm infections.
Iverhart Plus heartworm Chewable Tablets for Dogs
Iverhart Plus can be applied to prevent heartworm disease by removing the tissue stage of heartworm larvae for a month (30 days) and treating roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms.
Iverhart Plus contains ivermectin and pyrantel pamoate as its active ingredients, is essentially the same as Heartgard Plus.
Sentinel Flavor Tablets for Dogs
Sentinel for dogs includes milbemycin oxime and lufenuron as its active ingredients; Sentinel is a monthly oral combination heartworm preventive, wormer, and flea control.
The milbemycin oxime is intended to prevent heartworms and help control roundworms, whipworms, and many hookworm infections. The lufenuron is intended to help control flea infestation.
Advantage Multi Topical Solution for Dogs
Advantage Multi contains moxidectin and imidacloprid as its active ingredients, in addition to heartworm prevention, Advantage Multi is intended to control roundworm, whipworm, hookworm, and fleas.
If your dog ingests the heartworm medicine or licks the application site, there may be serious adverse reactions, including salivation, incoordination, panting, and tremors.
Upon application, the dog’s Fur can appear stiff, oily matted, or damp. It may cause eye and skin irritation and may be harmful if swallowed.
Warnings for use on sick, pregnant, or nursing animals.
Revolution Topical Solution for Dogs
Revolution for Dogs contains selamectin as its active ingredient, is a monthly topical heartworm preventive that is also effective against fleas, flea larvae, ear mites, Sarcoptes eat and American Dog Ticks.
You can prevent your dog from getting heartworms by using a heartworm preventative. When a dog has been successfully treated for heartworms, it is necessary to establish a heartworm prevention program to prevent future recurrence.
My name is Walter, and I’m a huge dog lover, I have made this blog to share my experience and help dog owners make better decisions in term of improving the quality of their pet’s life. I have shared my life with pets since childhood, and I currently own a golden retriever named Bailey.