Heartworms are a kind of parasite that enters the body of a healthy pet through mosquito bites. These parasites live in the heart or lungs of the host. The mosquito is the transmitting agent of the parasite from an infected dog to a healthy dog.
Your golden retriever is more prone to developing heartworm infection as compared to other pets like cats or ferrets. The infection itself is like cancer – spreading throughout the body and harming the vital organs, before turning fatal.
Preventing Development of Heartworm Disease
Medicines for the prevention of heartworm disease are manufactured by a number of pharmaceutical companies. Medicinal preventives prove to be effective in prevention by killing the larvae in the blood and interrupting the reproduction cycle.
There are a number of non-medicinal methods to take against heartworm disease too.
Since the carriers of the parasite are mosquitoes, the easiest way to avoid getting infected is to avoid mosquitoes. Obviously, this is not that easy, since mosquitoes are hard to get rid of. However, mosquito-repellants have made things a lot easier. The repellants produce odors around the skin that repel mosquitoes.
The sooner you diagnose the disease, the better. The larvae take months to mature, so even if your golden has been infected, there are still chances of survival. It is recommended to take your pet for a routine check-up every six months, including regular microfiliarial concentration tests and antigen tests. These tests are used to diagnose the presence of larvae in the blood. X-Rays can further give information about the infestation in the organs.
Heartworm infection is easily treatable at the early stages, so you should make sure diagnosis is made as early as possible.
How are Heartworms Treated?
In dogs, heartworm infection is usually treated by injecting drugs into the bloodstream to kill the adult worms. This has to be done regularly to monitor the intensity of infection or harm caused to the dog.
After the injections, the recovery period may stretch to about 4 to 6 weeks or even longer. While your golden retriever is recovering, regular preventives are also given to stop the reproduction of the worms and avoid any more from being formed. Some dogs also have to take additional medicines like antibiotics.
After six months, the vet lets you know if the worms are dead, and if not, the procedure is repeated. Though your golden retriever may not like it too much, their health obviously becomes the top priority.
Though this is rare, sometimes in very extreme cases, your golden may have to undergo surgery to extract all the worms from the body.
If your golden retriever is infected, the vet may sometimes prescribe arsenic-based drugs. However, arsenic medicines have their own side effects. They may cause inflammation because of the excessive killing of the worms, and may even cause respiratory failure.
Because there are so many risks associated with treating such a disease, it is better to prevent the infection in the first place. Prevention is better than cure!
The Best Medicines to Prevent Heartworm in Your Golden Retriever
Hearing that your dog is suffering from heartworms can be devastating, so it is best to prevent it as much as possible.
There are different methods available for heartworm infections and prevention, including homeopathic or natural treatments. However, there is no 100% guaranteed cure. However, medicinal treatment has managed to prove its effectiveness over time.
Medicines for heartworm prevention come in three types:
- Chewing pills to be given on a monthly or seasonal basis
- Topical medicines that are to be applied to the skin
- Injections that are only administered in severe conditions.
Here are the best medicines to prevent heartworms in your golden retrievers.
This medicine has been rated very high for the effectiveness with which it protects dogs from all sorts of parasites including heartworms, roundworms and hookworms. The medicine comes as a chewing pill that tastes like pork liver, so your dog will take it as a treat.
Iverhart contains ivermectin and pyrantel. Ivermectin is used to kill the worms in the body by paralyzing the parasites. Pyrantel is a drug that prevents the worms from growing and multiplying within the body.
The tablet is meant to be given on a monthly basis, and you don’t need to ask your vet about dosage.
Heartgard Plus is another popular medicine for preventing heartworm infections. It comes as a chew tablet and often acts as a substitute for Iverhart Plus due to the similar ingredients – ivermectin and pyrantel.
The tablet comes in beef flavor and pets tend to eat it gladly as a treat. Heartgard Plus also treats other parasites.
Another medicine used commonly for heartworm prevention is Tri-Heart. However, it is more of a generic substitute for Heartgard Plus. It is significantly less pricey, and provides the same amount of protection against heartworms and other parasites.
The two ingredients of Tri-Heart are also ivermectin and pyrantel.
The effectiveness of the above three medicines has not shown any significant difference. The surety of protection against heartworms is 100% for all of them and are all considered highly effective.
This is a topical medicine that is also commonly used for heartworm treatment. This is mostly for dogs that are not very easily fed oral medicines. Although application may be difficult, it is a necessity.
This medicine comes with the ingredients imidacloprid and moxidectin. Moxidectin kills parasites by disrupting neurotransmission and paralyzing the parasite. Imidacloprid is an insecticide that is also interferes with neurotransmission but it is much less toxic to mammals so you can be sure that your dog will be safe.
Though the medicine is somewhat pricey, it is essential for your dog.
This is a popular injectable medicine used by those owners who cannot provide their dogs treatment on a monthly basis. It is given only once a year and the main ingredient is moxidectin which kills heartworms and other parasites.
Though injectables are not ideal because of their side effects, sometimes there is no other option. However, it is important to make sure you follow dosage schedules very strictly or your dog might suffer from severe consequences.
Injectables are also not suitable for elderly dogs, so if your golden retriever is old, you may want to consult your vet for the treatment of heartworms.
Drugs for pets never come without their risks, particularly when it comes to dosage and regularity. Since the drug ingredients are also toxic to a certain extent, you should keep an eye out for any side effects in your dogs. Milder reactions include nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. There are also some severe reactions like tremors, seizures and lung failure. Severe conditions may also result in death.
However, these reactions are often only associated with overdose.
Our Final Thoughts
At any rate, despite these medicines being the best ones out there, it is always best to get a professional opinion from your vet before you administer anything. After all, your dog’s safety is the top priority!