Heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states and is a growing problem everywhere in the US. Heartworms are spread when a mosquito bites an infected animal, ingests an immature heartworm, then bites a non-infected animal and injects a mature heartworm parasite.
It has become standard practice to recommend heartworm preventative year-round, since these medications also treat and prevent a variety of other internal parasites (including hookworms and roundworms) that are present in the environment all the time.
Even in New Mexico, heartworm infection is a real risk, and it is much easier, safer, and less expensive to prevent than it is to treat. Heartworm treatment involved a series of monthly intramuscular injections of an arsenic-based drug and may cause lethargy as well as swelling at the injection site. The cost of this treatment varies depending on the size of your pet, and may cost over $1,000.
By comparison, heartworm prevention is relatively inexpensive and requires only monthly doses of an oral or topical medication. We will need to draw a small blood sample to test for the presence of heartworms before starting the medication, but if you keep your pet on this medication year-round as recommended, we only need to test him or her every two years.
We offer several different options for heartworm preventative medication.
For dogs: Sentinel (chewable tablet), Heartgard Plus (soft chew), and Revolution (topical medication).
For cats: Revolution (topical medication).
Frequently asked questions
What happens if I miss more than one dose of preventative?
Pets who miss two or more doses of heartworm preventative can only be prescribed six months of the medication, then must be tested before more of it can be prescribed.
What if I only have my pet on heartworm preventative during active mosquito months?
Since we're not able to accurately predict when the threat of heartworm transmission is gone, we have to re-test patients every spring before prescribing a new course of heartworm medication.
Is it dangerous to give heartworm preventative medication to a pet with heartworms?
It definitely can be. Killing heartworms in the body with preventative medication may cause them to block the vessels supplying blood to the lungs, which may be fatal.