Heartworm Protection

Heartworm is a very dangerous parasite that can affect dogs, cats and many other types of animals. In some cases, heartworm can even affect people. The disease was first discovered in dogs about 100 years ago, though it was not documented in cats until the 1920s.

Heartworm has been found in all parts of the United States, though it is more common in some areas, such as the southeastern states. The parasite is spread through mosquito bites and can affect dogs and cats of any breed and of any age.

Though it is called heartworm, the parasite more often lives in the arteries of the lungs in animals than in the heart. However, in many cases it is also found in the right side of the heart in dogs and cats.

Heartworm Prevention

Heartworm prevention is much more effective than heartworm treatment. Currently, there is no approved heartworm treatment for cats.

Prevention methods are very simple. They include:

  • daily or monthly tablets
  • monthly topical treatments.

In most cases, the tablet or the topical treatment is used, not both. The prevention type depends on the preference of the pet owner and veterinarian. Generally cats will react better to topical treatments, while dogs may react well to either type of treatment.

Each type of treatment is very effective in preventing heartworm when used regularly and correctly. Typically, heartworm prevention is also inexpensive to the pet owner.

While some pet owners may view heartworm prevention as unnecessary or as a hassle, the treatment required should heartworm occur will be far more expensive, time consuming and painful for the animal. Therefore, it’s worthwhile to institute a heartworm protection plan.

Heartworm Protection for Cats

Heartworm protection is especially important for cats, as no treatment methods are approved for cats that already have heartworm. Many cats are resistant to heartworm, but it’s still important to do all you can to prevent the disease.

Before beginning heartworm protection treatment in cats, it’s important to test them for heartworm antigens and antibodies to make sure the parasite is not already present. Afterward, generally one of these prevention monthly treatments is recommended:

  • Advantage Multi for Cats (topical treatment from Bayer)
  • Heartgard for Cats (oral medication from Merial)
  • Interceptor (oral medication from Novartis)
  • Revolution (topical treatment from Pfizer).

All of these treatments are effective at preventing heartworm, so talk to your veterinarian to see if she has a preference on the specific medication to use on your cat.

Heartworm Protection for Dogs

Unlike cats, there are treatment options for dogs that have heartworm. However, prevention is far less expensive and far less dangerous. If heartworm progresses without treatment, it can become fatal in some cases.

Additionally, heartworm protection guards against parasites that can affect people, so protecting your pet can help to protect you and others around you as well.

Before dogs begin heartworm treatment, they should be tested for possible heartworm infection. Afterward, they can begin any number of treatments, including:

  • Ivermectin: This type of treatment can also block early infections of heartworm from progressing. Ivermectin is found in Heartgard and Heartgard Plus by Merial, Iverhart Plus and Iverhart MAX from Virbac and Tri-Heart Plus by Schering-Plough.
  • Macrocyclic Lactone: In addition to protecting against heartworm, ML also protects against intestinal parasites.
  • Milbemycin: Similar to Ivermectin, this treatment is found in Interceptor and Sentinelvcby Novartis.
  • Moxidectin: This treatment can be found in a combination treatment that also prevents fleas. It is present in Advantage Multi by Bayer.
  • Selamectin: Topical treatment found in Revolution by Pfizer.