Heartworm Disease

by Sue Averill with Dawn Burke, DVM

Here in the Northeast, warm weather brings the mosquitoes out of hibernation. Infested mosquitoes transmit heartworms to dogs that they feed on. Untreated, heartworm is fatal, so prevention is vital.

Veterinarians will require an annual heartworm test prior to dispensing heartworm preventative. Administering a preventative to an infected dog can potentially cause death, so owners should NEVER try to find a way around this step.

There are different tests for heartworm. The test being performed is simply up to the hospital protocol. A dog can be tested at the hospital for heartworm only or heartworm and various tick borne diseases. If the dog is having other blood work done, the hospital may combine the heartworm test with the blood work. This may either be done in house or sent out to a lab.

If your dog is heartworm negative, discuss the different types of preventative available. Daily preventative is now used infrequently, but is still available. Milbemycin (Interceptor, Sentinal) and Ivermectin (several brands, plus generic) are monthly oral medications that control heartworm and some intestinal parasites. Salamectin (Revolution) is a monthly topical application that controls heartworm, fleas, one type of tick, and also treats sarcoptic mange. Proheart 6 is an injection administered by your veterinarian every 6 months. It was recalled for safety concerns and has recently been reformulated and put back on the market for a ‘limited release’.

Always follow the recommendation of your vet when it comes to stopping and starting the heartworm preventative. Your dog’s life depends on it!