I am often asked about heartworm and flea, tick and mosquito medications, and despite careful explaining, I am surprised how many people still get confused about their choices, so I thought I would summarize some of the more common products.
Lets start with the understanding that these products are different. In general, flea and tick medications are topical liquids/sprays/products, and in general, heartworm preventions are pills/cookies or injections. However, there is some cross over!
As far as I know, there is no magic product out there that protects both your cat and dog from heartworm, fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. Therefore, in order to get full protection, expect to combine two products.
Starting with heartworm this week:
1. The classic heartworm medication is HeartGuard with ivermectin and pyrantel as ingredients. It comes in square, chewable, tasty cookies and kills heartworm microfilaria (infant heartworms- the first stage of infection) when given on a monthly schedule.
It also kills hookworms and roundworms. The manufacturer recommends yearly testing and year round prevention and if you follow these guidelines, they guarantee the product. If you tend to forget to keep up with giving the pills monthly, either chose a different type of product, be prepared to pay for additional heartworm testing if you are 2+ weeks overdue, or take advantage of the HeartGuard Reminder application that will send you a monthly reminder. It can be accessed on their website.
2. Interceptor with milbemycin oxime is another chewable tablet. It is just as good for killing the heartworm microfilaria, but is not quite as tasty per some owner’s observations. It has the added benefit of killing whipworms in addition the heartworms, roundworms and hookworms. It may also be more appropriate for animals that have ivermectin sensitivities (like collies or white footed breeds) or that have seizure disorders.
3. Iverhart Plus is a generic version of HeartGuard with the same ingredients but a lower price, but it doesn’t taste as good as HeartGuard so is not the choice for picky eaters.
4. Proheart 6 is an injectable heartworm medication that works for 6 months per injection. It is an awesome choice for people like me that forget to give the tablets! Cost is generally comparable to the chewables, or only a small amount more is your dog is large. It is not used in dogs less than 6 months of age, geriatric or sick dogs, or dogs that have known vaccine reactions. In my practice, we send out an email to have clients drop by for their injections in a timely fashion.
5. Natural options include Artemisia (wormwood and mugwort), black walnut, HSII, a product that supports the circulatory system and has hawthorn, capsicum and garlic, and mosquito preventatives (since mosquitoes transmit heartworm) like Tea Tree or Lavender oil.
Some Naturopaths do not like Artemisia and black walnut however, and are concerned about the immune system reactions to these elements. They advocate Garlic, Black Seed, Licorice, Hawthorn, Apricot pits, Grapefruit seed extracts and a variety of other products. Please be wary of untested products. Just because something is natural, does not mean it is safe or effective. However, many people are uncomfortable giving pesticide based medications like the ones I just listed, and these natural options are available.
6. The most important aspect to preventing heartworm disease is creating a healthy body via good nutrition and exercise, and reducing exposure to mosquitoes via repellants or avoidance.