In our last blog post we talked about heartworm disease in dogs and cats. Heartworm disease is serious and life threatening for both species but is much easier to diagnose in dogs than in cats. For dogs, there is an approved treatment for heartworm disease, however in cats there is not.

Happily for both dogs and cats heartworm disease is very easy, safe and inexpensive to prevent. The preventatives also have the added benefit of helping to protect against some of the more common intestinal parasites (and the topical preventatives also help to prevent some external parasites as well, depending on the product).

Heartworm preventatives for dogs come in chewable, topical and injectable forms. Each has pros and cons. Our clinic currently carries and recommends Interceptor Plus, which is a monthly chewable tablet that is given year round. It prevents heartworm disease, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms. We also carry Heartgard Plus which offers similar protection but does not guard against whipworms or tapeworms. There are also topical preventatives on the market that protect against heartworm disease, some intestinal parasites and some guard against fleas. With topical preventatives, some animals may object to liquid put on their skin or have skin reactions. Make sure not to confuse topical flea/tick preventatives like Frontline with heartworm/intestinal prevention. Pet owners need to be careful to avoid bathing or swimming for a couple of days before and after application and need to keep children and other pets from touching or licking the topical preventative for a period of time. Injectable preventatives like Proheart protect against heartworm disease for 6 months. However Proheart does not offer any protection against intestinal parasites.

Prevention for cats is available in a monthly chewable or topical form. Our clinic currently carries and recommends Heartgard Plus which is a palatable, chewable treat that prevents heartworm disease and 2 species of hookworms in cats. Revolution, the topical preventative, protects against heartworms, roundworms, ear mites, fleas and lice. Like dogs, both forms may have pros and cons. Indoor cats are less susceptible to fleas, ear mites or lice, so the chewable tablet may be sufficient. Some cats though, like dogs, may object to liquid being put on their skin. However, for cats that won’t eat the chewable tablet, the topical preventative may be a better option. There is not currently an injectable preventative available for cats.

To be most effective, all preventatives (except injectable Proheart) need to be given once monthly on a year round basis. As our climate changes our seasons are more unpredictable. Mosquitoes can become active on unseasonably warm days. and can also be in the warm house when it is cold outside. It is not possible to predict accurately what winter months may be “safe”. The intestinal parasite protection should be a consideration too as they can be an issue year round. Manufacturers of most heartworm preventatives offer guarantees if your pet contracts heartworm disease or intestinal parasites that the product is labeled for if it can be shown through purchase history (when purchased from your veterinarian) that you give the preventatives year round. If you only give seasonal preventative, purchase history does not support monthly year round use, or if you are purchasing from random online sources, these guarantees will not apply.

The good news is that preventing heartworm disease for both dogs and cats is very easy and relatively inexpensive to do. Preventatives are very effective when given properly and have the added advantage of excellent guarantees. Our clinic keeps up on changes and improvements in preventative options to offer the most cost effective, safe and reliable preventatives available. Heartworm preventatives are prescription medications that should only be given at the advise of a veterinarian. Heartworm preventatives obtained without a prescription and from some less well known online pharmacies should be treated as suspicious and possibly counterfeit. Caution should also be used if giving preventative obtained from a friend or relative. Preventatives are dosed by weight and proper storage is important for product effectiveness. Always talk to your veterinarian before giving preventatives not prescribed by your pet’s doctor.