by Dr. Charlie Faircloth
As a veterinarian, it is very easy for me to see the benefits of having all dogs on yearly heartworm prevention, as I have seen first hand the devastating effects of the disease. When a 5 year old dog who should be perfectly healthy comes into the clinic dying of heart disease from a severe heartworm burden, it becomes quite obvious the benefits of prevention. While not every unprotected pet will develop heartworm disease, one must understand that mosquitoes (who transmit the disease) are out there! I even see mosquitoes inside my house very regularly. Therefore any unprotected pet is at risk for contracting heartworm disease. If they do contract disease, not only does it cause irreversible heart damage, but the treatment to kill the worms is lengthy and expensive (you could have your pet on heartworm prevention for life and still not spend as much as the treatment for a heartworm infestation). Thus in my mind it is a no brainer. If you would like to minimize the risk of your pet dying at an early age from a preventable disease, make sure to keep them on heartworm prevention year round. I can confidently say that I keep all my pets on heartworm prevention, as well as flea and tick prevention, year round.
There are many heartworm prevention products on the market today. It can become a bit mind boggling trying to sort through it. In my mind, these can be broken down into 3 categories: injectible, oral, and topical. Otherwise the difference between the products boils down to coverage against other parasites as well, as some products protect against intestinal parasites, and some also protect against fleas.
- Injectible – The only product of this kind is proheart 6, which is an injection that protects against heartworms for 6 months with a single injection. This product does not protect against fleas or ticks, so adding a flea/tick prevention to the plan is typical for pets that are on a proheart plan
- Oral – Heartgard, interceptor, sentinel, and trifexis are good examples of oral prevention. All of these products prevent intestinal parasites as well, to varying degrees. None of these products protect against ticks, but Trifexis does protect against fleas.
- Topical – Revolution and advantage multi are examples of topical prevention. These are good for pets that don’t tolerate or won’t eat the oral preventions well.
The bottom line is that all dogs need to be on heartworm prevention year round. I do recommend keeping pets on a flea and tick prevention as well, but the specific product you choose will depend on the specific characteristics of your pet and the area in which you live. Your veterinarian will be happy to discuss all of your options with you and determine the best approach for ensuring a long healthy life for your pet.