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Heartworms and Your Pet

Treatment of Heartworm Disease

Here in the South, heartworms are a serious concern for all pets all of the time.  Technically all dogs and even cats can become infected with heartworms if exposed to a mosquito carrying infective heartworm larvae, but outdoor dogs are particularly high risk because of our hot summers and very mild winters.

Unlike northern states where heartworm preventatives are administered seasonally, we prescribe them year-round.  Even indoor pets can contract heartworms.  Studies with cats showing that heartworm disease is more common in inside cats than outside cats attest to the fact that mosquitoes can and do get into people’s house, highlighting a risk factor for indoor pets.

Dr. Burns sometimes jokes that people who don’t give their dogs heartworm preventative  are playing heartworm roulette.  Of dogs not on monthly heartworm preventive medication, she says, “There are two kinds of outdoor dogs–those that have heartworms and those that are going to have heartworms.”

For several years, Dr. Burns has been using what she calls her “modified North Carolina State University heartworm treatment protocol.”   Instead of rushing into treatment of the adult heartworms, she focuses on assessing the patient’s total health and lifestyle factors in a patient-owner centered holistic approach.  Reduced patient and owner stress, reduced risk of serious side affects and even sometimes reduced cost result.

For more information about our unique  approach to heartworm disease,  view Dr. Burns’ presentation:

Heartworm Preventatives and Your Pet

Our heartworm preventative policy is to prescribe heartworm preventatives starting in puppyhood.  Puppies under 6 months of age may safely be started on heartworm preventatives without having a heartworm blood test.  For their safety, puppies and dogs six months old and older must have a negative heartworm antigen test before starting heartworm preventative.

Regular heartworm blood testing for adult dogs is most often done during the annual wellness exam and is required on a regular basis for heartworm preventatives to be prescribed.  It is important to understand that heartworm preventatives are prescription medications that should not be given without having a negative heartworm test and close veterinary supervision.  While adverse reactions are rare, they can be disastrous.

We advise that you only fill your pet’s heartworm preventatives with your veterinarian.  Internet pharmacies’ television commercials and other advertisements mislead you into thinking that you will save money by purchasing prescriptions from them.  Actually,  our prices are very competitive and often are better than internet pharmacies.  Additionally, our products come directly from the manufacturer and are U.S. origin, subject to FDA-approval, quality control and proper shipping and storage.

Heartworm preventatives are recommended year round in this area.  Heartworm preventatives have the added benefit of controlling hookworms, roundworms and whipworms, which are all common in our area.  Among Dr. Burns’ most trusted products for dogs  are:

  • Heartgard once-a-month pill
  • Trifexis once-a-month heartworm and flea pill

There are many heartworm preventatives on the market, but Dr. Burns feels that there are advantages in using these milbemycin-based products over ivermectin-based products in the majority of dogs.  The only milbemycin-based product currently available to us is Trifexis.

Our preferred parasite control and preventative product for all cats is Advantage Multi.  Unlike dogs, cats do not have to be tested prior to starting a heartworm preventative product

Dr. Burns’ dog Robert Earl takes Trifexis.

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