Are heartworm pills necessary for my dog?

Every month, as custom today dictates, I give my 20 pound dog a heartworm “Hartz” pill, designed for her weight size.

And some months it seems to make her sick in the digestive system – crazy diarrhea she can’t hold in, leading to disasters on the carpet.

ARe these pills necessary? Or am I being suckered by Vet/Drug company propaganda? Are these symptoms ‘normal’ side effects?

It really depends on where you live and how you live. Heartworm is spread by infected mosquitos. If your dog is indoors most of the time and mosquitos are not very bad in your area you could probably take the chance.

That said however heartworm is a horrible disease and if the risk factors are present I’d keep up with the pills or find another option. I use the skin permeable oil for my two. Break the capsule once a month between their shoulder blades so they can’t easily get to it to lick it off.

If you live in an area with any mosquitos heartworm medication is a pretty important thing. I avoid Hartz products, they have a bad reputation for selling products that are actually toxic to the animals they’re supposed to treat.

Have you considered topical applications like Advantage Multi or Revolution? It might be easier on your dog’s digestion than a chewable.

A few years ago, my now departed dog answered that question. I got maybe a little loose with giving him the pills (I didn’t put the little stickers on the sheet, but I got them from somewhere besides my vet and forgot to give them a few months) and cost myself a few hundred bucks in treatment and my dog almost died. Maybe it contributed to his death a year later from kidney failure, who knows?

He didn’t die from it, but if he had, it would have been a horrible death. I didn’t realize that, and as he was quite elderly I handwaved it a bit - some people on the SDMB disabused me of that idea. It would have been awful for him. Give your dog the damned pills.

First, get educated. Everything you wanted to know about heartworms (and more) from the American Heartworm Society. Even better, the main page related to canine heartworm.

Second, I didn’t know Hartz company makes a heartworm pill, or are you just using that brand as generic stand in for whatever brand makes the pill? Do you know what the active ingredient is? I haven’t been able to find a heartworm medication in Hartz website.

Third, if you look at the maps shown in the second link, you can see where your location falls in terms of prevalence of the disease. You can then see how much your dog is at risk for it.

Fourth, I don’t think you should consider those normal side effects, and if your dog keeps getting them again and again, I would advise a visit to your vet and consult her/him about this. THIS is the type of questions you should bring and discuss with her/him. Perhaps talk about switching brands/active ingredients.

Heartworm prevention IS necessary. Heartworm IS a real, chronic disease. It is also costly and difficult to treat, especially if it progresses to later stages. Just a reminder about mosquitoes and indoors. They get in. No matter what you do to keep them out, the damn little pests get in.

Moon, are you using Revolution or AdvantageMulti?

Ok, it is “Heartgard Plus Blue for Small dogs”

Generic ivermectin, and GI signs are listed as possible side effects in the product insert package. I would recommend a talk with your veterinarian about it and perhaps trying other products. There are other options. I wouldn’t stop the medication without consulting with your veterinarian first, though. Especially now that summer is just around the corner!

I used to treat my dog with liquid ivermectin purchased at the local feed store. And yes, I consulted my vet first and was told I was giving the proper dosage for my dogs weight. The stuff must taste awful because anytime she saw me get it out she would hide. I simply filled an unneedled syringe with the proper amount and squirted it down her throat. She hated it but where I live in the south it is almost certain a dog will get them if not treated. It is very important to have your dog tested for heartworms before beginning a heartworm regiment. And it’s also important to have them tested annually. Heartworm treatment doesn’t prevent a dog from being infected it kills any new infection. So if you treat a dog infected with mature heartworms it will kill them and release them into the bloodstream and usually result in death if the worms are large enough. A bottle of ivermectin will last one dog easily to the expiration date of the bottle (usually a couple of years) and costs about $45. Compared to $50+ for a 6 month supply from your vet. There are known breeds that are sensitive to the ivermectin so the best advice is what has already been stated. Talk to your vet!

I use Heartguard for my 50 lb dog, and she never exhibits any symptoms that you describe, although as with lots of things, symptoms tend to vary.

My current veterinarian recommended that I stop her Heartguard, because there’s no heartworm where we currently live (but there are lots of mosquitoes). I’m going to keep her on it anyway. At less than 6 bucks per month, it’s good insurance.

My smaller dog loves the livery taste of Heartguard so much that she wolfs it down and often throws it up later. She’s on the smallest edge of the weight class for the dosage. So we cut up the pill and give it to her in four pieces throughout the day. (Our vet knows and approves.)

The bigger dog gets treats when she gets the other pieces, to make up for the shortfall in nommage.

If you broke up the dosage, it might reduce the tummy upset.

:eek: Thanks for reminding me by posting this thread, sassyfras! I think we missed her April 1 one. Gotta check that tonight.

We have two large dogs. We gave both of them HeartGard. It did bother one of them and we switched her to Interceptor at the vet suggestion. This one doesn’t seem to bother her at all, so I’d suggest asking your vet for alternatives.

I don’tbelieve that at all. If you live in Mexico City I can promise you there are indeed heartworms. To suggest it has been eradicated there even though there are still mosquitoes is ludicrous at the very least. Perhaps if DDT where in widespread use and NO MOSQUITOES EXISTED would be one thing, but heartworms have existed in mosquitoes in the Americas for at least 150 years. Your vet is an idiot.

I am a veterinarian and I recently moved to Washington state. For reasons that are still not well understood, cases of heartworm in dogs here are very, very rare, despite plenty of mosquitoes. To date, the 1 or 2 cases we find every few years are invariably dogs who have spent time outside of the state. It is a matter of very active research.

Still, most vets here will tell you that, ideally, all dogs should still receive heartworm prevention even if they never leave the state. But, they sure emphasize it less than vets who live in other parts of the country.

Balthisar: Did your vet recommend stopping heartguard just because or was there some financial constraint or other conflict that you guys were trying to work around?

That heartworm has existed and is widespread, there is no doubt about it. But I do remember (and went back to confirm) that development of the heartworm to the infective stage in the mosquito depends on temperature. If it is too cold, growth of larvae slows down or stops.

Now, I know little about Mexico City, but I know this… It is not a tropical paradise. Perhaps with the high altitude/lower temperatures, the parasite does not develop there as well as it would in other parts of Mexico?

Not that I’d think of taking the dog off the preventive, just giving an idea as to why another vet would recommend it.

Besides, many heartworm medications also carry with them low doses of dewormers, effectively cleaning your dog’s gut every month.

My temporary vet indicated that there is indeed heartworm in other parts of Mexico, and that it could potentially spread to our area, just as it could spread anywhere, and that in all liklihood, it probably did make it into Mexico City from time to time, but just doesn’t spread here. As you say, for some reason, it’s not well understood why.

As mentioned above, Mexico City isn’t a “tropical paradise.” We’re at 7200 feet in my workplace, and a bit higher in the neighborhood that I live in. There certainly are mosquitoes, but not nearly as many as in my back yard at home (in Michigan). It’s pretty temperate and arid, even by Michigan standards.

No, I think she just thinks that we’re going to be living here permanently, and figured that there was really no reason to keep her on the Heartguard. On the other hand, there are some types of parasites in the local area that I never had to worry about at home, and so we’ve given her vaccinations for that (I’d have to go home and look at her records to see what the medication was).

I tend to trust medical professionals to have a better understanding of what the local threats are versus un-cited comments on the 'net. Of course, anything that goes to prove my vet wrong really, really would be appreciated. Not because I’m stopping the Heartguard (I’m not), but because maybe I would have to look for another vet.

According to two articles I could find, one from 2005, and the other from 2007, from Veterinary Parasitology, heartworm in Mexico was prevalent in 5-10% of dogs surveyed, but one also mentioned (as personal communication) that the prevalence is probably higher in coastal states (reaching 20%).

Trying to find correlation in the US is a bit harder, but 6% prevalence appears to be the norm in some states, at least.

By the way, one of the comments made in the later article is that part of the reason they attribute lower rates is that the population they used consisted of abandoned pets, many that were owned and probably had some sort of care before ending in the shelter.

Ok, found an article that cited a book about Dirofilaria, published in 1988, and that mentions prevalences of heartworm ranging anywhere from 0% to 55% in the United States, at least in the different populations examined.

Did you know that a dog on heartworm pills can still get it? The pills are only 85% effective (as of 1995, perhaps it’s improved), and we found that out when my dog got heartworm anyway. The cure kills half of the dogs who get it too, but in that case she was one of the luckier ones and lived another six years.

Also, the incidence of cats getting heartworm is on the rise. I have my four on Advantage Multi, but I’ve used Revolution, too. Even though they’re indoors only, they could still get it from the stray invading mosquito.