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So I came across this article yesterday that promotes purchasing Heartworm medication without a prescription, and it really urked me enough to set the record straight.  The individual who suggests doing this obviously doesn’t understand the dangers, the seriousness of heartworm disease, and the importance of giving your dog the proper protection against it.

Heartworm disease is a serious condition that can take the life of your dog if left untreated, and every dog should be administered protection against it every month.  They cannot protect themselves, and need us to be an advocate for their health.  There is a reason that a veterinarian suggests performing a quick and simple blood test to determine if your dog is harboring the parasites that cause heartworm, and it should be done once a year, every year.  That reason is because giving your dog a prescription medication if they are positive for the disease, can prove to be extremely harmful, and even possibly cause death, therefore, should NEVER be done!

Transmitted usually by a single mosquito bite, heartworm disease can dangerously reside in your dog for up to six months before you’ll ever see any symptoms, and when they do they’re often easily be ignored.

Symptoms of heartworm disease are:

  • Soft cough
  • Difficulty breathing during activities, or loss of breath
  • Lethargy
  • Reduced appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Extended belly
  • Anorexia
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shock
  • Brown urine
  • Blindness
  • Lameness
  • Seizures

(If you’re dog is exhibiting any, or a combination of these symptoms, I would highly recommend scheduling an appointment with a veterinarian immediately for an exam, and possibly a heartworm test.)

I have seen what this horrible, yet preventable disease does canines, and it can be terribly painful.  The treatment for heartworm involves killing the adult worms and the microfilaria that have made a home in your dog’s heart and bloodstream with a large dose of a medication called Ivermectin.  It needs to be injected into the back, in the muslces not once, but twice (done in two days, on both sides).  It involves a large needle, can be extremely painful, and often leaves your dog restless and uncomfortable as the worms begin to die.  The stress of treatment on the heart can also sometimes be fatal.  As a dog parent you’ll also be asked to keep your dog as quiet as possible, and to limit the amount of walking and activity, which can certainly be difficult as we all know.  And the cost can run anywhere between $500 to $1,000.oo.  Definitely a hefty chunk out of the pockets if you don’t carry pet insurance, and most clinics and hospitals do NOT accept payment plans.

No dog should have to undergo such a painful procedure because his/her owner couldn’t afford the monthly preventive.  If you are on a tight budget I don’t recommend purchasing heartworm prevention from some website that is offering prescription free medication.  I went to both of those websites listed in the article, and never in my right mind would I suggest anyone go their either, let alone buy their product.  You don’t know where they got that medication, for all we know it could be fake, expired, or even tampered with.  Never buy heartworm prevention WITHOUT a prescription from your vet!

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Here are some suggestions on how you can still stay on a budget and have your dog protected.

  • Purchase a month’s worth.  Most vets offer single doses, you don’t HAVE to buy a six months supply.  Yes, in the long run it is cheaper to buy six months worth, but it still much cheaper to purchase the prevention then have to pay $1,000 or more to treat the disease if it has been contracted.
  • Communicate with your vet. Let them know your situation.  They may suggest that you can do other vaccines later when you can.  Rabies is required by law, so you’ll definiately have to be sure that your dog is currently vaccinated, but other vaccines may not have to be administered and can wait.  You can come back next week, or next month to have those administered.  Don’t assume that you have to do everything all at once, nor do everything that is recommended.  You are the owner and have the right to say what is given to your dog, your vet is simply there to guide you and help you make the right decisions.  If you can’t do it, don’t feel bad!
  • Call around. Check other veterinarians and ask about prices.  I’ve worked at several offices that did not require a fee for peforming a heartworm test.  It’s an outpatient procedure, takes a few minutes to draw a small amount of blood, and results can take as little as ten minutes to get (some send theirs out to a lab and can take about a week).  I know that Banfield’s (in Petsmart) have hours on Saturday’s where you can walk-in and get vaccines and a heartworm test, and not have to pay an office call.  Some vet’s, if they have never seen your pet before, may require an exam just to be sure that your pet is healthy and no other problems be present.  Don’t assume because they require an exam that they are trying to get your money, they are only looking out at the best interest of your pet, and it’s required by law that no veterinarian can prescribe a medication without having a patient-doctor relationship.  Just something to keep in mind.
  • Remember. Heartworm tests are performed only once a year, and you are allowed to purchase prevention for an entire year.  If you have had a test performed in the last year and can’t make it to the vet’s office, or don’t want to go, you can order online from an established pharmacy like 1-800-PetMeds, or Drs. Foster’s and Smith, Inc.; however, they will make sure that you are current on the test and will fax a form for your veterinarian to fill out and sign before mailing it to you.  Heartworm prevention is a medication and requires a prescription just like us.  And sometimes if you’re lucky, the online store will be running a promotion or discount, and they often do.
  • Guarantee. Most animal health pharmaceutical companies back their products with a guarantee. If you purchase Heartgard® Plus or an Iverhart® product through your veterinarian, it comes with a guarantee.  If your dog becomes heartworm positive and you have proof that you’ve been giving their medication that was prescribed by a veterinarian, they will pay for the treatment. Purchasing a product from a website stating Prescription Free heartworm medication won’t be covered.

Here are a list of products that are recommended by most vets to prevent heartworm, require testing before you can purchase, and should be given monthly all year-round:

There are other options available when times are desperate, and you should never have to resort to some website offering a product that comes with no guarantee.  Those websites both appear to be the same person or company, and apparently are out there trying to make a buck offering you a product you have no clue where it’s coming from, what’s in it, or even if it works.  It may even cost you more in the long run if you THINK you’ve been administering a medication, but instead you’ve been giving something else and you’ll end up paying the price. It’s a scam and it really does show that you should NEVER believe everything that is written on the web.

In short, don’t attempt to cut corners because it could turn around and end up biting you in the tail!

For more information on Heartworm Disease, go HERE; and to watch a brief video, go HERE.

What form of heartworm prevention do you give to your dog?

7 Thoughts on “Canine Heartworm Prevention Should Be Taken Seriously

  1. Thank you for posting about this. I don’t think most people realize how serious this is. That there dog may be in pain and that it could take their life away prematurely. Every dog owner should know about it.

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