When your pup has a heartworm infection or is at high risk of one, it can be a scary experience. Ensuring that your dog takes their Heartgard heartworm prevention medicine can be an essential part of their treatment plan.
But how long does it take a dog to digest Heartgard, and what should you do if your dog spits out their medicine or throws up?
Read on to find out!
- First, What is Heartworm Disease?
- How Does Heartgard Work?
- How Do Dogs Take Heartgard?
- How Long Does It Take A Dog To Digest Heartgard?
- Preventing Heartworm Disease With Heartgard
- Is Heartgard Safe For All Dogs?
- Is Heartgard Right For Your Dog?
Heartworm disease results from parasitic worms called Dirofilaria immitis. The worms live in an animal’s heart, lungs, and arteries.
The disease itself is not contagious and cannot spread from one animal to another. The worms only spawn after exposure to an infected mosquito, the sole transmitter of this disease.
When a mosquito feeds off on an infected animal and proceeds to bite another, that’s where the transfer occurs.
Symptoms of heartworms include coughing, exercise intolerance, heaving, and poor body condition. Of course, prevention is ideal when it comes to dealing with heartworm.
Heartgard is a preventative measure for heartworm: it kills the infected larvae before they have the chance to mature into full-grown adult heartworms and cause heart disease and other damage.
Heartgard contains ivermectin, a pharmaceutical medication that can kill parasites.
It works by causing neurological damage to the parasites, in turn killing them off. Ivermectin doesn’t only kill the parasites found internally. It can take out the external ones as well, like lice, mites, and Demodex. So, Heartgard does double duty when it comes to parasites.
The medication is straightforward to administer.
You won’t have to cleverly deceive your dog (well, we hope not!). You have to give your dog a small amount (one chewable tablet) per month. And, the chews use real beef, so many dogs enjoy taking this medication!
If that’s not the case, you can take the creatively deceptive route and wrap the tablets in food to encourage your dog to swallow them.
According to Heartgard, pet owners should use the tablets during the seasons when mosquitoes are most active.
However, note that the initial dosage should be within 30 days of your pet’s exposure to potentially infected mosquitoes. The final dose should occur 30 days after the most recent exposure.
In general, Heartgard only takes a few hours for a dog to digest.
However, according to a study on the bioavailability of ivermectin administered orally to dogs, in order for a dog to fully excrete the drug out of their system, it will take about three full days.
That means the drug can remain in your pup’s system long after it exits their tummy!
Problems with digestion are not expected but are possible.
Research gathered from Heartgard’s clinical trials observed that vomiting or diarrhea within 24 hours of a dose was not common but did occur in 1.1% of administered doses of Heartgard Plus.
So, do be mindful of making sure that your dog successfully digests each dosage.
The best way to ensure a successful dose is to keep an eye on your dog after administering a chew.
That way, if by chance, your dog does experience vomiting or diarrhea soon after ingestion, you can expect that the drug has not been absorbed properly, and you can give them another dose.
If your dog has a habit of swallowing food whole without chewing, you can break up the Heartgard tablet into pieces to make it easier for them to take their medicine.
Heartgard is safe enough that you can give your pet a second dose without worrying about any harm to your animal’s health, so long as you’re adhering to the dosage recommendation for the weight-range of your dog.
The dosage of ivermectin in the product is relatively low, so most dogs will be ok with digesting an extra dose on the same day. Even if a second dose was provided accidentally, there is a large margin of safety so there is not too much to worry about.
Once digested, each dosage fully protects your pet for 30 days.
After those 30 days, the drug’s efficacy begins to decline. The ivermectin works by eliminating heartworm larvae that your pet may have acquired in the previous 30 days, so it’s essential to follow this dosing interval for maximum protection.
Heartgard Plus is available in three different dosage strengths. The recommended strength is dependent on the weight of your dog. The heavier the dog, the higher the required strength.
Heartworm disease is a severe disease that can affect your dog and can potentially be fatal. But with a little bit of due diligence, it is very easy to prevent.
According to data sourced by the CAPC, in 2018 alone, there were 137,340 positive cases of canine heartworms in the United States. All breeds and types of dogs are susceptible to this disease, and all it takes is one bite to lead to infection.
Aside from OTC preventative medicines, there is another form of treatment for Heartworm disease- but it is costly, traumatic for your pet, and will involve hospitalization.
It entails the removal of the worms from the organs via surgery. This is not advisable unless this is your only option due to the severity of the disease.
Heartgard’s website states that it is safe for all breeds of dogs.
However, according to the American Heartworm Society, collies and other dogs that are P-glycoprotein-deficient have been known to be very sensitive towards a variety of drugs, including ivermectin.
Their unique genetic makeup does not react well with ivermectin and can experience adverse side effects.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that the dose of ivermectin in Heartgard Plus is only six ug/kg. That makes up only 1/8 of the amount of ivermectin (50 ug/kg) known to cause toxicity in collies and P-glycoprotein-deficient breeds.
As backed up on Heartgard’s website, the consensus is that Heartgard is safe for all dogs, regardless of breed. Still, the safety margin is wide. So if you’ve got a dog of this breed, just take extra precaution and discuss it further with your vet.
Heartgard is also not safe for puppies that are under six weeks of age. It’s imperative to wait until your puppy is older to expose them to this medication.
If your furry friend tests positive for heartworms, consider putting them on preventative medicine as soon as you can instead of seeking other treatment. Ivermectin taken orally is the most reliable and comfortable way to rid your dog of parasites.
Be sure to follow the correct dosing schedule and keep an eye on your dog. That way, you can ensure they digest their Heartgard tablets properly.
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.