What Type of Heartworm Medication to Use?

Heartworm medicine for dogs can be divided roughly into two types: those that prevent heartworm, and those that treat (or cure) heartworm. Obviously, prevention is simpler to deal with but they aren’t always 100% effective, unfortunately.

Preventive medicines have been around for quite some time and even though they aren’t 100% effective, they indeed do a remarkable job at keeping our pets safe, especially in areas known for high levels of infected mosquito infestations. Monthly treatments for problems like cat peeing on bed involve topical ointments that are usually rubbed onto the back of your dog’s neck where he can’t lick it off, and/or pills that can be taken daily or monthly.

Most medicines are multi-functional, meaning, they work on more than just heartworms. Depending on the medicine it could also be used to prevent roundworms, hookworms, and/or tapeworms, along with being able to kill eggs and larvae and perhaps even ticks.

Don’t reckon that keeping your dog indoors is preventive medicine! Mosquitoes are notorious for going where they aren’t welcome, and our homes aren’t immune from harboring at least one or two of these pesky critters. And that’s all you need to get your dog infected.

Depending on your vet, he may also recommend giving your dog’s pills in addition to using the topical ointments. In areas that are near water – where mosquitoes thrive – he may want your dog to be doubly protected. Do as he suggests, but make certain you don’t overmedicate or buy substitute prescriptions that may be cheaper without checking with your vet first.

If your dog has been diagnosed with heartworm, you will now need to give him the heartworm medications that are to cure/treat, rather than prevent. Once your dog has been diagnosed with heartworm, he’s already very sick, and these medications can make him worse. Some dogs have no side effects, others succumb to the side effects. Much like chemotherapy in human cancer patients, these medicines are poisons meant to kill the invading worms and larvae, frequently making the patient sicker before things get better.

It’s hard to get a right reading on how effective these drugs can be because frequently the deaths caused by the drugs are recorded as “death by heartworm” instead of the real culprit. If your vet suggests that you start an aggressive treatment schedule, you need to have a serious discussion with him about possible side effects – especially in your pet – vs. what would happen with no medical intervention.

Heartworm in dogs is not simple to diagnose, it’s not simple to cure, and dog heartworm symptoms can be even more hard and confusing to decipher.

The symptoms can mask other illnesses or they can be so general that most pet owners may not pay much attention to them. To compound the already serious problem of your dog being infected, symptoms don’t usually occur until your pet’s life is in danger.

The most common symptoms include coughing, vomiting, lethargy, difficulty breathing even when resting, weight loss, and a protruding rib cage. As the disease progresses undetected and untreated, these symptoms will progress in their severity to the point that either there is no doubt what is incorrect with your pet, or the animal collapses and dies without ever being properly diagnosed.

Dog heartworm symptoms can sometimes look like a cold and even when taken to the vet, he may not immediately reckon of anything more serious than a cold or even an allergy to the cleaning chemicals on the used garden tractors you were storing in your barn.

Even though heartworm is more prevalent with dogs who spend a considerable amount of time outdoors, in climates rife with mosquitoes, it’s not unheard of for indoor dogs to be infected as well. We all know that pesky mosquitoes can easily make their way indoors and all it takes is one bite from one infected mosquito and any dog can be immediately infected.

Smaller dogs are in even worse danger, and their symptoms should always be closely monitored. A cough or bout of diarrhea in a 3 pound teacup Chihuahua can be fatal with or without the added dangers of heartworm. Since heartworms can easily reach about 12 inches long, and dogs can be infected with many at once, smaller dogs have a higher death rate simply because owners and vets alike tend to ignore the coughs and general symptoms until it’s too late.

Since prevention is so aggressively touted and highly recommended, many vets and pet owners simply assume that because they have given their dog the appropriate medication as prescribed, nothing can happen and the dog won’t – or can’t – be infected with heartworm.

This just isn’t right. Even dogs who receive their heart worming medicine as regularly scheduled still are not immune to heart worm. Unfortunately, all it takes is one powerful mosquito bite that is infected with the worm, and the dog can become infected with or without the medication at work in his system.