When to Start a Puppy on Heartworm Prevention

Medical articles
A puppy enjoying the woods, safe with his effective heartworm prevention

As pet parents, we all want our furry family members to stay healthy and happy, right? One crucial health aspect to consider is protecting our puppies and dogs from the risks of heartworms. These sneaky parasites can cause severe issues and even turn life-threatening if not taken care of. 

Let’s Talk Heartworm Prevention for Puppies & Dogs 

In this easy-to-understand guide, we’ll cover all things related to heartworms, from causes and effects to prevention steps, for both puppies and adult dogs. So, let’s dive in and learn how to keep our four-legged friends heartworm-free and wagging those tails with joy! 

What are Heartworms?

Heartworms are parasitic worms that live in the heart and surrounding blood vessels of an infected dog. They can grow up to one foot in length. It is common for many worms to be living in the heart at one time, which can cause damage to the heart and lungs and prevent the heart from pumping blood correctly throughout the body.

What is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm disease is the illness associated with heartworm infection. Damage to the heart and lungs can lead to heart failure and severe lung disease. Symptoms include cough, trouble breathing, trouble exercising, and a distended belly from backflow pressure of the failing heart. Death can occur if the pet is not treated.

Mosquitoes & Heartworms: Why Prevention is Key for Puppies & Dogs 

So, we know heartworms in puppies and dogs can cause some serious problems. But how do our furry buddies get infected? Mosquitoes are the culprits here, playing a big part in the life cycle of heartworms and making prevention especially important. 

Here’s how it works: when a mosquito bites an infected dog, it picks up baby worms called microfilariae. These little guys mature into infective larvae within the mosquito, and when it bites another dog or puppy, it transmits the larvae. Yikes! 

With mosquitoes as the go-between for spreading heartworms, guarding our pets with heartworm prevention becomes essential. We can’t keep our pups inside all the time to avoid mosquitos, and bites are inevitable for most of the world.  Luckily, there are very effective heartworm preventative medications on the market. Chat with your vet about the best prevention methods and keep your fur babies happy and heartworm-free. 

Can Puppies get Heartworms?

Yes. If a mosquito with infective larvae bites a puppy, he or she will likely develop heartworms. Once infected, it takes about six months for heartworm larvae to become an adult heartworm.

Is Heartworm Disease Common in Puppies?

Heartworm disease is rare in puppies because it takes such a long time for the infective larvae to develop into adults. That being said, heartworms live for 5-7 years once they reach adulthood, so once your puppy is infected, heartworm disease is likely with time if he or she is not treated.

How Can I Keep My Pet Protected from Heartworms? 

Preventing heartworms in your pet, whether it’s an adult dog or a puppy, is crucial for their health and wellbeing. Thankfully, there are effective heartworm prevention medications available to help guard your furry friend against these dangerous parasites. 

These medications work by targeting the infective larvae developing inside the dog’s body and killing them before they can molt and mature into adult worms, which can live in the heart and blood vessels. By using heartworm prevention medications consistently and following the appropriate dosage and frequency guidelines, you can minimize the risk of heartworm infection and keep your pet safe and healthy. 

When choosing a heartworm prevention medication, start by consulting with your veterinarian. They’ll be able to guide you in selecting the most suitable prevention method for your pet, taking into account factors like their age, weight, and overall health. Your veterinarian can also provide specific advice on the correct dosage and administration schedule, ensuring your pet remains protected year-round. With the right prevention strategy in place, you’ll be contributing to the long-term health and happiness of your beloved pet. 

Can I Use Heartworm Prevention to Treat My Dog if He is Already Infected?

No. Heartworm prevention medication only works on the infective larvae. In as early as 51 days, those larvae can develop past the point that prevention will kill them, and they will develop into an adult. After this, your dog will need to be treated with a more costly and extensive adulticide regimen to kill the adult worms.

What Will Happen if I Don’t Use Heartworm Prevention?

Your puppy could develop heartworms and heartworm disease. All it takes is one bite from a mosquito carrying infective larvae for your dog to become infected with heartworms.

What Types of Heartworm Medicine are Available for Puppies?

Numerous types of heartworm preventives are available. Most are used monthly. Some kinds of heartworm prevention are chewable or oral medications, while others are topical and applied between the shoulder blades. There is also an injectable form that can be used every six months. Be sure that you are using the heartworm medication that is labelled for heartworms. Flea or tick medications do not prevent heartworms, although some will have heartworm prevention medication included in the product.

Does My Puppy Need a Prescription for Heartworm Prevention? 

Yes. Heartworm prevention medication must have a prescription to be purchased. Your puppy’s regular veterinarian will be able to assist you with obtaining a prescription. He or she will also be able to help you decide which heartworm prevention will work best for your pet.

When Should a Puppy Get Heartworm Medicine? 

You should start a puppy on heartworm prevention (i.e., heartworm medicine) as soon as possible. The American Heartworm Society recommends starting a puppy on heartworm prevention no later than eight weeks of age. Each heartworm prevention product will have different ages and weights in which it is safe to start a puppy on heartworm prevention. Your veterinarian will be able to help you determine which heartworm medicine is safest for your puppy’s age and weight. 

My Puppy Is Older Than Eight Weeks and Has Not Been on Heartworm Prevention. Does He Need a Heartworm Test First? 

If your puppy is less than seven months of age, he can start heartworm prevention without having a heartworm test. It will take at least six months for heartworms to mature enough for a heartworm test to be positive if your puppy was infected while not on prevention. Your veterinarian will help you choose a safe heartworm prevention product to start him on and set up your puppy’s heartworm schedule. You should have your dog tested six months after this visit and again six months later to ensure your puppy has not developed a heartworm infection while not on prevention. Your dog should be tested yearly after this to ensure he continues to remain heartworm negative or free of heartworms. 

Does An All-Natural Puppy Heartworm Prevention Exist? 

Unfortunately, there’s no all-natural heartworm prevention that’s been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). So, for now, labeled heartworm prevention medications remain the only FDA-approved methods to protect our puppies and dogs from heartworm infections. We all want the safest and most effective options for our furry family members, so make sure to consult with your veterinarian to find the best heartworm prevention for your beloved pets. 

In Conclusion: Guarding Our Pets from Heartworms and More  

As pet parents, keeping our pets safe from heartworms while they’re puppies and dogs is crucial. While heartworm prevention is key, it’s also essential to ensure their overall health with dog insurance, that covers accidents and illnesses. 

Embrace Pet Insurance provides not only comprehensive coverage for unexpected health issues but also offers optional pet wellness plans can help you budget for preventive care, including heartworm medication, so you can do what's best for your pup without worrying about the cost. By combining a proactive approach to heartworm prevention with the right pet insurance and wellness plans, you're securing a lifetime of love, protection, and care for your dog no matter what the future holds.