This article will discuss the canine heartworms and how you can keep them from infecting your Beagle at the absolute lowest cost.
If you live in the United States, you have heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) in your area. This parasite is present in all fifty states, but most common in the more temperate parts of the country. The heartworm larva (Dirofilaria immitis microfilariae) is spread from dog to dog by mosquitoes. When an infected mosquito feeds off a dog, it passes the infection into the bloodstream. The larva or microfilariae stay in the bloodstream for a period of time and then attach themselves to the inside of the heart and can also be found in the blood vessels of the lungs. When they mature in the heart they add their own microfilariae to the blood stream. The adult worms cause debilitating disease, reduce performance, and may cause death. Click on the hyper linked text and view a picture of "The Life Cycle of Heartworms". The dog can usually be cured if the heartworm infestation is diagnosed early enough. The cost of this cure can vary from a minimum of $175 to as much as $350 or more. After treatment, the dog must be laid up for a minimum of 30 days -- that is the bad news.
Merck Heartgard TM The good news is that heartworms can be prevented for less than one cent per day for a 20 pound dog (Beagle size). Yes, I said less than one cent per day (30 cents monthly). Myself and other Beaglers have used a prevention (that I will describe in this article) since the early 1980's, with no heartworm infestations. Once again, I want to remind everyone that I am not a Veterinarian, but rather a long time Beagle kennel owner. I'll tell you what I use and do, you can use your own judgment whether you want to follow in my footsteps. This article is presented only as a documentation of how I prevent heartworms in my Beagles at a fraction of the cost that a Veterinarian will charge for the Merck Heartgard ™ (Ivermectin), chewable tablets. Also, the law restricts Heartgard to use by or on the order of a licensed Veterinarian; therefore, if you use the prescription tablets you will be paying $15 - $45 for a box of 6 tablets (six month supply) plus the cost of an occasional office visit.
I use the same chemical that is in those expensive (prescription only) pills at a fraction of the cost. The prevention that I use is given once every 30 days (monthly) the same as the pills. In parts of the country during the coldest times of the year when no mosquitoes could survive, the prevention can even be suspended until the weather starts warming up again. If you suspect a dog may already have heartworms, before putting a dog on the following prevention it should be checked by a Vet to be sure it has no heartworms. The cost of this exam is generally between $5 - $15. It is a lot cheaper to have the exam to make sure your dog is not already infected, than it is to have a Vet save an infected dog during the advanced stages of heartworm infestation. This prevention (describe below) is only good to prevent an infection from ever occurring, once a dog is already infected then it must be given the very expensive treatment described in the first paragraph of this page.
The exam consists of a vet drawing a small amount of blood, putting a smear of it on a slide and looking at it through a microscope. The microfilariae look like tiny wiggler fishing worms. This prevention is not to be given to collies or part collies. What I use is Ivermectin. It is a 1% injectible cattle wormer with the trade name of Ivomec ™ . You can purchase it (without a prescription) for $40 - $50 at your Veterinarian Supply Store or through a catalog from a Vaccine Wholesale Supplier. The bottle comes in a 50cc size. I give it orally which means by the mouth. I use 1/10th of 1cc for each 10 pounds of body weight. The syringes I use are 3cc and are marked off in tenths of 1cc.
The way I do it is to draw out 2cc of Ivomec. Then I inject what is needed into an empty syringe (without a needle) with the plunger pulled down on the 1cc mark. I dribble it into the empty one until I have the proper amount. I will have a few ounces of soft drink or orange juice in an open container. I will draw in 1½ - 2cc of the juice to mix with the Ivomec. I put my finger over the end of the syringe and shake up the mixture. The reason for this is to give me more volume to work with and to make it taste better for the dog. I put my hand across the dog's nose with my thumb on one side and my fingers on the other side. Then I put pressure on my thumb and fingers to force open the dog's mouth. I then tip its head up and squirt the contents of the syringe in the roof of its mouth. Finally, I then close the mouth and hold it closed until the dog swallows. This is the only correct way to orally administer all types of liquid medications to dogs so that you do not accidentally squirt the liquid into the dog's windpipe and/or lungs.
I do this treatment to each and every Beagle once every 30 days. The Ivomec kills all those little microfilariae (larva) in the bloodstream so they never have a chance to mature into heartworms. Microfilariae will circulate in the blood for more than 30 days before attaching to the heart, so if you give this prevention on schedule there is "NO POSSIBLE WAY" for your dog to get heartworms. Even if a drug is labeled as safe for pregnant and/or lactating bitches. Personally, I don't recommend you give any kind of medications to a pregnant bitch unless the life of the bitch is in grave danger; however, I will give medications to lactating bitches. The difference is the pups are already born and not in their developing and forming stages in the womb.
The cost is very minimal for each dog. If the 50cc bottle of Ivomec costs you $40.00, this is 80 cents per cc. Given 12 months in a row, a 20 lb. dog will take 2½cc per year. That is a cost of $2.00 for a one year prevention. The shelf life for the Ivomec is about 3 years if kept refrigerated. Therefore, this method is feasible to use even if you only have one Beagle (dog), and it is by far the cheapest and most effective prevention against heartworms. If you have two or more dogs this can save you hundreds of dollars per year.