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Heartworm medication for pets: Is it worth the cost

When money gets tight it seems like routine pet health care is a place where people cut back. Heartworm preventatives are expensive. Even with newer medications that combine flea protection with heartworm, dosing a single medium sized dog can cost a couple of hundred dollars over the year. Is heartworm prevention worth the cost? The answer is a resounding yes. It may not seem important, but if you have had a pet suffer from heartworm, you will never skimp on prevention again.

Sophie’s story

My dog, Sophie, was adopted from a shelter. She came to us at age five with a severe case of heartworm. The infection had enlarged her heart and treatment was questionable. We took the risk and had her treated. The cost of treatment was $800. She will always suffer as a result of this infection. Sophie cannot exercise and run around like my other dogs. Her stamina is lacking and she struggles after long walks. This will never change. It is the price she paid for years of neglect.

Heartworm prevention

Heartworm is preventable. It is just a matter of taking your pet to the vet and having them tested. If you keep your pet on heartworm preventative year round, the test only needs to be done once. It is a simple blood test. It only takes a few minutes to determine if there is an infection. When the blood test comes back negative, your pet can proceed with heartworm preventative. The price of the test plus year round treatment is well worth the investment. Treating heartworm is expensive, and the treatment could kill your pet.

If the blood test comes back positive for heartworm, there are several options available depending on how advanced the infection is. A mild infection is much easier to treat. Pets with severe infections have limited options and the risk of treatment to your pet has to be carefully weighed. You and your veterinarian must decide what the best course of action is for your particular pet.

Contrary to popular belief, cats can get heartworm too. It is not only a canine disease. Indoor cats have fewer instances of heartworm. Cats that are allowed to roam outdoors have an increased risk. Talk to your vet about the best heartworm preventative for cats.

It is important to have your pet tested before starting a heartworm preventative. Certain preventative medications cannot be given to animals that are infected. Other preventatives can be used while the animal is infected. Only your vet knows for sure.

Heartworm prone areas

All 50 states have reported cases of canine heartworm. It is transmitted by mosquitoes. If there are mosquitoes in your area, most likely there is heartworm. Infections are most prevalent in warm, humid climates that breed mosquitoes. Not surprisingly, the humid south and mid-Atlantic states have the highest incidents of heartworm. No matter where you live in the U.S. it is possible for your pet to become infected. It is well worth the money to prevent this from happening. After watching what Sophie endured, I would not risk another pet’s life by skipping on heartworm prevention.

Lynda Altman loves animals and is “mom” to three rescued dogs; Izzy, Sophie, and Romeo. Sophie, the Chinese Shar-Pei, and Romeo the Bedlington Terrier, were adopted from Lone Pine Animal Shelter. Izzy, a coonhound mix, was adopted from a shelter in North Carolina. Get notices when this page is updated by clicking on the subscribe link, by email, or contact Lynda @fusgeyer on Twitter.