PugHearts of Houston Blog

Heartworms. Is YOUR dog at RISK?

Friday, 19 August 2011 11:50 by robbic

Heartworms.  That word should strike fear into the heart of every dog owner.  They are insidious creatures, slowly and silently killing thousands of dogs in Houston and around the country every day.

PugHearts takes in an extraordinarily large number of heartworm-positive dogs every year.  It is especially prevalent in warm weather areas as they are excellent breeding grounds for mosquitoes who transmit the larvae to dogs when they bite them.  If we lived in Alaska, for example, your dog’s chances of contracting heartworms would be cut drastically.  But as we’re here in Texas, the chance of your dog contracting heartworms if it’s not on any preventative is extremely high. 

Think about how many times a year you are bitten by a mosquito or see one buzzing around you.  Your dog will encounter these little vampires every time it is outside as well.  We hear owners say “oh my dog lives indoors so they aren’t in any danger.”  Really?  Do you live outside? No. But do you get bitten by mosquitoes when you do go out? Yes.  Ever find a pesky mosquito buzzing around inside your house?  Wake up and find that one has been feasting on you during the night?

The same is true for your dog.  But you won’t die from the heartworms because they do not survive in your bloodstream.  It’s just a sad twist of fate that the dog’s bloodstream is so compatible for these horrible creatures.

And sadly, there is a severe shortage of the medication used to treat heartworms right now.  The manufacturer, Merial, has announced the medication is temporarily unavailable and they have none in stock.  Our vet (as well as all vets around the country) is unable to get anymore in right now to treat heartworms.  PugHearts has a small amount in stock and we will have to make decisions about treatment on a case-by-case basis.

However, the fantastic news is that heartworms are completely preventable!  With simple, once-a-month medication, you can help prevent your dog from ever contracting heartworms.

There are many medications to choose from.  Pills/chews include Heartgard, Tri-Heart, Iverhart, Interceptor and Sentinel.  Topical medications such as Revolution and Advantage Multi will also prevent heartworm infestation.  All of these medications are effective against some worms and many of these also prevent fleas.  Most of these come in multi-packs, so you can buy a 6-month supply in one box.

What is the cost?  Well, that depends.  These medications are all sold in dosages based upon your pet’s weight.  As pugs are relatively small dogs, if their weight is maintained at a healthy level you should be able to get away with the “under 25 lbs” dosage – which happens to be the cheapest.  If not, the next level up isn’t much more expensive and that will take care of dogs up to 50 lbs in weight.  If your pug weighs more than that – you should call Guinness World Records ‘cause that’s unbelievable!

A 6-month supply of Heartgard will run around $40 from your vet.  Iverhart will be around $30. Revolution and Sentinel will run just over $100 (but remember they also kill fleas and treat ticks, worms and ear mites.)  You can also order these online for a little less, but will have to have your veterinarian authorize that.  It is a prescription medicine because your vet wants your dog to have an annual heartworm test.  Once you get that negative result, they will write you a year’s prescription. 

Okay, so what happens if it’s time for your dog’s heartworm medication and you’re strapped for cash?  Please do not even think about “skipping” a month!  It is a monthly treatment because the effects of the drug only last for 30 days.  If you skip a month, your dog will NOT be protected, even if they had their pill every month prior for the last 2 years.  So please talk to your vet about how to get your dog covered.  Maybe your vet can offer a generic alternative to the more expensive brand name.  If not, your vet will be happy to let you buy the medication in a one-month dose instead of paying for 6 months all at once.  That means for less than the cost of a Happy Meal, your dog will be protected from heartworms for another month.  Now THAT’s a value!

Please, we cannot stress it enough, make sure your dog is on a heartworm preventative.  It really is a matter of life and death.

Robbi C
PugHearts of Houston

Categories:   Health | Heartworms
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