4 Safety Tips for Using Heartworm Preventive Medications on Dogs

4 Safety Tips for Using Heartworm Preventive Medications on Dogs

Summer is an exciting time for dogs. Warmer and longer days allow canines to enjoy their time outdoors. However, bugs also come out in the summer season. Fleas aren’t the only insects that annoy dogs. Mosquitoes are also a nuisance for canines. These blood-sucking small two-winged insects can bite your Fido and expose it to a host of illnesses. 

A serious illness in dogs caused by mosquito bites is heartworm disease. Over 100,000 dogs in the U.S. test positive for heartworm every year. Incidence of heartworm disease is on the rise in the previously known hotspots as well as unexpected locations. This is disclosed in the 2022 Heartworm Incidence Map from the American Heartworm Society. 

Protecting canines from heartworm disease is easy and cheap– all thanks to heartworm preventive medications. However, as a pet owner, you must use them properly to protect your Fido from this debilitating disease. 

That being said, here are some essential tips for administering heartworm preventives in dogs safely. But before that, we’ll briefly touch upon what heartworm disease is. 

What is Heartworm Disease?

What is Heartworm Disease

Heartworm disease is a severe and potentially fatal disease that can cause lasting damage to the lungs, heart, and arteries. A blood-borne parasite known as Dirofilaria immitis causes heartworm disease in dogs. 

The bite of a mosquito transmits this disease to canines. Mosquitoes carry the microfilariae (immature heartworms) from an infected animal host to a new animal host. Once transmitted to a new host, these worm parasites grow into adult worms in a few months and live in the blood vessels that serve the lungs and the heart. 

As microfilariae are about as wide as the small vessels, they block the blood flow to them. Thus, they injure the lungs and the liver. Damage to the lung tissues leads to coughing in canines. Injury to the liver leads to cirrhosis, causing anemia, jaundice, and generalized weakness. 

In severe cases, these parasites move to the heart. This leads to chronic inflammation, which thickens the surrounding lung tissues as well as constricts and scars the pulmonary arteries. As a result, the heart works hard to pump blood, which ultimately leads to heart failure. 

4 Tips to Safely Administer Heartworm Preventive Medication in Dogs

4 Tips to Safely Administer Heartworm Preventive Medication in Dogs

Symptoms of heartworm disease, such as occasional or persistent cough and trouble breathing, can be managed with medications. However, pet parents need to use the medicines responsibly. Otherwise, they could pose serious risks to canines. 

Here, we’ll share a few safety tips for administering heartworm preventives in dogs:

1. Consult Your Veterinarian First

A quick search for heartworm preventives in any online store of pet supplies will bring forth tons of options. But are all of those safe for your canine? Of course not. Veterinarians know which medicines are safe for use in canines. You must consult them before you give your Fido any heartworm preventive, even if it’s among the top-selling pet meds. 

The dosage of heartworm preventives varies from dog to dog, depending on the breed, age, weight, and health status. Seek advice from your veterinarian to determine the right dosage for your canine companion. Incorrect dosage can lead to toxicity and adverse effects. 

A negative heartworm test is required to obtain a prescription for heartworm preventive medication. Your furry companion will have to undergo diagnostic tests. The results of these tests will help your vet understand which heartworm preventive will suit them the best. 

Different formulations of heartworm medications– injectables, topical treatments, and chewables– are available. A veterinarian will guide you best in choosing the most appropriate option. 

Explore possible reasons behind your dog’s tremors before implementing these crucial safety tips when administering heartworm-preventive medications.

2. Follow Dosage Guidelines Carefully

Regardless of whether your veterinarian prescribes oral, injectable, or topical heartworm medicine, you must follow the dosage guidelines carefully. The medication will only be effective if you administer the correct dose at the prescribed intervals. 

Your pooch won’t benefit from the medicine if you give it lower than the recommended dosage. Even the parasites will become resistant to the drug, which will increase your canine’s chances of liver and lung damage and heart failure. 

Conversely, high doses will lead to adverse effects. An overdose of heartworm preventive medication can cause tremors, blindness, mydriasis, disorientation, and loss of appetite. 

Pay attention to your canine companion’s weight, especially if it is in the growing phase, when giving heartworm preventives. Any fluctuations in its weight will require you to adjust the dosage. 

3. Monitor for Adverse Reactions

Monitor for Adverse Reactions

Heartworm preventive medications are generally safe. But they can cause adverse reactions in certain canines. For happier, healthier pets, pet parents need to monitor their furry friends when administering the medication. You should do so even when you’re giving high-quality pet medications. 

Many canines, for instance, are sensitive to ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug. It is an active ingredient in many oral heartworm medications. While there are rarely side effects, some dogs experience incoordination, diarrhea, and vomiting. 

A pet supplies store, petcarerx.com, advises pet parents to use medicines with ivermectin with caution on collies and other herding dog breeds. Reportedly, these breeds have experienced adverse side effects to ivermectin at high dose levels. 

Whippets, Australian Shepherds, and Sheepdogs are other breeds at risk of reacting to this anti-parasitic drug. This is due to a genetic mutation that renders them unable to clear the medication from their brains. Thus, it results in seizures or even death. 

If your dog is allergic to ivermectin, it might experience itching, seizures, hives, itching, facial swelling, or shock. Consult a vet right away if you notice any of these side effects in your canine companion. 

4. Test for Heartworm Infection Regularly

Preventive medications reduce canines’ risk of heartworm disease to a great extent. But, even when your Fido is on a regimen of preventive drugs, it can develop this debilitating disease. That doesn’t mean the medication is ineffective. 

Sometimes, the resistance of heartworm larvae to the active ingredient present in the medicine can cause your Fido to get heartworm. Other times, dispensing errors and missed or late doses are to be blamed. 

As a pet parent, it’s essential to test your Fido regularly for heartworms so that you can detect potential infections early on. 

Your veterinarian will advise you best on the frequency of testing. Factors like the local prevalence of heartworm disease, your location, and your dog’s overall health determine how often you should test for heartworm infection. Early detection allows for prompt treatment and a better chance of successful recovery. 

Putting it all together, an essential aspect of responsible pet ownership is to use heartworm preventives properly. Follow these tips to ensure your canine companion receives adequate protection from the parasites that cause heartworm disease. 

Bear in mind that irregular schedules or missed doses will make your canine susceptible to heartworm infection. Establishing a regular schedule for administering the medicine will help. By taking proactive measures, pet parents can enjoy the companionship of their Fido for years to come without the threat of heartworm disease.