Preventing your pet against heartworm disease is much easier, safer, and more economical than treating the disease, and also demonstrates your love and compassion for your best friend. Heartworm disease is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition caused by heartworms that have reached the adult stage and cannot be killed by monthly larvicides—you’re likely familiar with the heartworm larvicides, which are the topical or oral heartworm prevention products you regularly give your pet. The products must be given on a timely basis to ensure the immature larvae are killed before they become adults. Treatment for heartworm disease is costly and harsh on your dog. For cats, no heartworm disease treatment is available, and their signs can only be managed. 

Based on its severity, and because heartworm disease is potentially fatal, preventing the disease is in your furry friend’s best interest. But, how do you choose which heartworm preventive to use in your pet? Because you have so many options, consider the following criteria before stocking up. 

Question: How old is my pet?

Answer: Your pet’s age plays a role in your heartworm preventive choice only if they are young. For example, some products can be started as early as 6 weeks of age, while others can’t be given until 7, 8, or 9 weeks. If you’ve recently welcomed a new fluffy bundle into your family, check the age limit on your heartworm prevention product, to ensure your pet is old enough. Your pet should be started on heartworm prevention as soon as they reach the required age limit, to ensure they remain safe from disease.

Q: When was my pet’s last dose of heartworm preventive and did I give it regularly?

A: Heartworm prevention is not effective unless given properly on the correct schedule. These products prevent heartworm disease by killing off the immature worms before they reach adulthood, when they are much more difficult to kill. If you miss a month or two, the immature heartworms can bypass the susceptible stage, and turn into adults, which then requires heartworm disease treatment that is costly on your wallet, and your pet’s health and comfort. 

If your pet has potentially developed heartworm disease because of missed preventive doses, continuing to give your chosen prevention product may not be safe. Pets with high microfiliarial (i.e., heartworm larvae) counts can experience adverse reactions when given certain heartworm preventives. If you have missed heartworm preventive doses, contact our Mill Creek Animal Hospital team for advice. 

Q: Do I need to worry about other pets or small children when around a topical heartworm preventive?

A: After applying a topical heartworm preventive to your pet’s skin, you should keep other pets and children away, to avoid contact with the medication. Cats are especially sensitive to canine medication, so if your feline enjoys snuggling up to your pup, keep them separated until the preventive has been absorbed. Most products require a minimum of two hours to be absorbed, but read the product’s instructions to be sure. 

Q: Do I need to worry about my pet swimming after applying a topical heartworm preventive?

A: Pets should be prevented from jumping into water immediately after heartworm preventive application. Topical preventives take time to be absorbed by the skin’s sebaceous glands, and immediate water contact can wash the product off before taking effect. Read your product’s instructions regarding swimming and bathing, to ensure its efficacy.

Q: What should I do if my pet vomits after taking an oral heartworm prevention product?

A: If your pet vomits soon after taking an oral heartworm preventive, the treatment may not be effective. If your pet vomits after receiving the same product the following month, we will likely recommend switching to a product with a different active ingredient. Contact us if your pet vomits after taking their heartworm preventive, to see if they need another dose. 

Q: Does my pet need other parasite prevention, too?

A: Since all pets, including indoor-only pets, should be protected against harmful bloodsucking pests like fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes, combination products that also provide flea and tick prevention are an excellent way to ensure your furry pal is completely safe, and to protect your pet from multiple parasites with one easy application.

When you look at Mill Creek Animal Hospital’s online pharmacy, are you overwhelmed with the various heartworm prevention options available? Or, are you unsure whether all-in-one or combination products will work best for your pet? For help choosing the best heartworm preventive to keep your furry pal safe, contact our team.