Disease Spotlight on Heartworms


Have you ever had a mosquito bite? You probably spray yourself with a mosquito repellent when you go outside for a period of time and especially at dusk when mosquitoes are very active. But what about when you just dash outside to get the mail or the paper? Do you think about protecting yourself then? Probably not. But it can take just one moment for a mosquito to target you. What can a single mosquito bite do to you? If that mosquito is a disease carrier, it can make you very sick – or worse.

Mosquitoes affect our pets the same way, and heartworms are a very real threat. There are more than 70 species of mosquitoes that have been shown capable of transmitting heartworms (D. immitis) and every region of the United States has one or more species from this list. Yet only half of our dogs receive heartworm preventive. Although cats are naturally resistant to D. immitis, they are still susceptible to heartworm infestations.


To determine if your dog is positive for heartworms, a simple blood test and ten minutes of your time are needed. Cats, on the other hand, are a challenge to diagnose. There is no simple test. Clinical signs vary from cat to cat, and may even mimic other conditions.


The best way to protect your pet is through prevention. A once-a-month pill or liquid application is all it takes. For dogs we must test them first to make sure they are heartworm negative. To give this medicine to a heartworm positive dog will actually make his or her condition worse. Annual testing is needed to monitor their status as owners sometimes skip a dose or give the medicine at irregular intervals. Cats can receive these preventives without fear of complications, so testing is not necessary.

The good news is that prevention is very affordable; and the medicine can also stop whipworms, roundworms, hookworms and even tapeworms depending on which prevention product you choose.


If your pet is heartworm positive, you still have hope. For dogs, we have had good results with a treatment using Immiticide. The drawbacks are the cost and forced inactivity of your dog for
weeks on end. For cats with heartworms, there are no current treatment recommendations. As mentioned previously, heartworm diagnosis is difficult in the feline patient. Therefore, we currently advise to use a feline approved preventive for cats who venture outside. Mosquitoes do come inside your home, so using a preventive for inside cats is a good idea as well.


Vaccinations aside, heartworm prevention is one of the easiest and more affordable ways to keep your pet healthy. Many people think that their pet won’t get heartworms because they aren’t outside much. But the next time you start scratching your mosquito bite, just stop and think….

For More Information

A very good (short) video to better understand how a mosquito bite can transmit worms to your pet can be seen at www.heartwormtoolkit.com and click on the Life Cycle Video tab.

Product Spotlight – Heartworm Preventives

We currently offer three heartworm preventives at Noah’s Friends: Sentinel, Sentinel Spectrum and Advantage Multi. They are similar in their functions and are labeled for preventing heartworms and three intestinal parasites – hookworms, roundworms and whipworms. Sentinel Spectrum has an added ingredient to prevent tapeworms as well. They also have flea control ingredients and are all labeled for use in dogs.

Description: http://www.sentinelpet.com/media/images/sentinel-product-packages.png                          Description: http://www.sentinelpet.com/media/images/spectrum-product-packages.png

There are three main differences in these products. The first difference between them is in how they are given. Sentinel and Sentinel Spectrum are a monthly oral tablet while Advantage Multi is applied topically (on the back) each month. A second difference is in their action against fleas. Advantage Multi has a flea killing ingredient while Sentinel and Sentinel Spectrum have a flea birth control ingredient which stops female fleas from producing fertile eggs. The third difference is that Advantage Multi is labeled for use in cats as well as dogs, while Sentinel and Sentinel Spectrum are not safe for use in cats.

Description: Advantage Multi for Dogs                           Description: Advantage Multi® for Cats

Advantage Multi is recommended monthly for all cats. Ask us which product is the best choice for your dog.