If you’ve heard about heartworms and the pain and suffering they can cause a dog then you must know how important it is to give your dog a heartworm preventative. There are a lot of options out there, but one of the most well-known is Heartgard.
When it comes to our fur babies we all want to make sure they are getting the best of everything, right? I know I do and that includes making sure the medications I choose to give them are the best option for them I can find.
If you’ve been thinking about starting your dog on Heartgard as a heartworm preventative then I think I’ve rounded up all the information you will need to decide if it’s the right treatment for your dog!
What is Heartgard?
The simple answer is that Heartgard is a heartworm preventative for dogs. This medication is in the form of a beef flavored chewable tablet that you should give your dog once a month for continued protection.
Along with preventing a heartworm infection, Heartgard also works against common roundworms and hookworms as well – meaning you don’t have to worry about your dog having those nasty worms find their way into his system.
Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitos and is a danger all year round. This is why many veterinarians will suggest you use a heartworm preventative year round. Administering the dose on the same day each month will keep your dog’s protection uninterrupted.
How does it Work?
Preventative treatments like this one are not able to destroy an adult heartworm – which means if your dog is already infected you should not use a heartworm preventative. Instead, they kill the larva that turns into these awful parasites.
By killing the larva before they are able to mature into adult heartworms you can prevent your dog from having to undergo serious treatments by your vet. It can both be stressful on you, your dog and very costly as well to treat an adult heartworm.
This medication is most effective when it is given every 30 days exactly – meaning you should give it to your dog on the same day each month. If you miss a dose you should give your dog the proper dose as soon as you remember.
If it’s been over a month then you will want to talk to your vet before continuing the treatment as it is possible that your dog got infected during the elapsed time.
Is Heartgard Safe for Dogs?
When it comes to our pets we want to make sure they are as well taken care of as ourselves and our children. Heartgard has been proven to be safe in most breeds of dogs. I say most because there is a warning about giving this medication to herding breeds.
Herding breeds such as collies and shepherds are more sensitive to the active ingredient in Heartgard called Ivermectin. This is due to MDR1 gene. This is surprisingly not listed on the Heartgard website though they do have a lot of information on the 1-800-PETMEDS website.
If your dog falls into the category of herding breeds then you should consult with your vet before choosing Heartgard as your heartworm preventative. You may need to choose a brand that uses a different active ingredient.
When it comes to puppies you should know that Heartgard (and any of the generic forms) are not to be given to pups under 6 weeks of age. You should talk to your vet about continuing use if your female dog is pregnant or nursing.
Are there any Side Effects?
Assuming your dog is not in a breed considered a herding breed (see above section) then the chances of side effects is very low. It is extremely rare that dogs will see side effects from a heartworm prevention as long as the dosage is correct.
Now if you have a dog in a weight limit that exceeds regular dosage and you have to use multiple tablets things can get tricky. In dogs who received too large of a dose of the medication did show harmful side effects.
These side effects included tremors, dilated pupils, rapid weight loss and even death. It cannot be stressed enough that you be sure to give your dog the proper dosage of this medication. If you’re not sure how much to give then talk to your vet as they can advise you best.
Is there a Generic Alternative?
Years ago there may not have been, but today you can get a generic alternative called Iverheart. Both of these medications use the exact same active ingredients in the exact same amounts. On the effectiveness end, they should be equally matched from every angle.
On the other hand, the differences come in two areas – taste and cost. First off, instead of being beef flavored the Iverheart version is pork-liver flavored. Many dogs find it just as yummy, but it seems most dogs prefer the beef flavor.
Taste isn’t everything either – Heartgard is a soft chewable tablet and Iverheart is a crunchy chewable tablet. Dogs with sensitive teeth or who are missing teeth will probably have trouble taking Iverheart for this reason.
The other major difference between the two is the price. Iverheart is definitely a much cheaper alternative to Heartgard. For many people, however, it does seem that if their dog will willingly eat Heartgard and not Iverheart that they would rather pay more for the ease of use.
Heartgard or Heartgard Plus?
You might’ve noticed that when you Google HeartGard that most of what pops up is Heartgard Plus. The reason for that is simple: Heartgard Plus is a more complete preventative compared to the original formula Heartgard for dogs.
The big difference between the two different products is that Heartgard protects against heartworms alone.
Heartgard Plus, on the other hand, is able to prevent heartworms as well as treating roundworms and hookworms.
In most cases, the price is not much different and Heartgard Plus is recommended above the original formula by most vets. If you don’t want the “Plus” version you can talk to your vet about getting a prescription for the original version.
Heartgard Plus vs NuHeart
NuHeart is another generic version of Heartgard that is manufactured in Australia. In its origin country, it is one of the most highly vet recommended heartworm preventatives. Since it uses the exact same ingredients as Heartgard it is going to be just as effective.
If you’re looking for a generic alternative this is definitely one I would highly consider. It is a significant price difference in comparison to the name brand medication which makes it a very attractive option.
NuHeart actually does a better job than Heartgard at warning against the potential harm to herding breeds – especially border collies. In my book, this one earned NuHeart a couple of bonus points.
Heartgard vs ValuHeart Plus
ValuHeart is yet another generic heartworm preventative that uses the same active ingredient as Heartgard. This medication is also produced in Australia – however, it has not yet been approved for use in the United States according to onlinepetmeds.info.
If this product does become available in the US then there should be no harm in using this product compared to Heartgard. For the FDA to approve the use of this medication in the US it will have to be found to have the exact same amount of the active ingredient.
ValuHeart uses the same sort of system for dosage as the name brand Heartgard and is also administered through a chewable tablet form. The protection will last the same 30 days. This is because the generic form should provide the exact same effectiveness as the name brand.
Heartgard Plus vs Trifexis
One of the newer heartworm preventatives on the scene is called Trifexis. This medication uses a different active ingredient than Heartgard, which makes it an excellent option for herding dogs who are sensitive to the Ivermectin.
Not only does this medication prevent heartworms but it also fights off roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms too. This is where the medication starts to differ from Heartgard which does not prevent or rid the dog of whipworms.
The next big difference is that Trifexis will kill adult fleas within hours of being administered. This is great for an all-in-one approach for both heartworm and flea control. This medication lasts for 30 days just and also comes in a beef flavored chewable tablet.
Even though this is a newer drug on the market it is highly recommended by vets. If you normally have a problem with fleas and spot-on treatments don’t seem to be cutting it then Trifexis may be an option to explore.
Heartgard VS B-Mectin
B-Mectin is a medication that seems to be popping up a lot in forums based around the care of your dog. If I were you I would stay far away from this medication. When searching the page you will only see a Facebook pages, unofficial blogs, and forums.
This makes me very wary of the idea of recommending this product. I was unable to locate an official website for the product, let alone find out who supposedly manufacturers the drug. When there is so little information to go off of it’s a no-brainer to go with a reputable brand.
If your vet recommended B-Mectin as an alternative to HeartGard then I would honestly consider looking into changing vets. Your vet should never recommend a medication that has so little information readily available to the public!
One more time, I have to say it, I would not trust this brand!
Heartgard vs Sentinel
Unlike the B-Mectin, Sentinel is a very highly respected brand of heartworm preventative. This is a little more like Trifexis however in that it is a broad spectrum medication. Sentinel covers your dog against heartworm disease, roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms.
Unlike Trifexis Sentinel does not kill adult fleas. It does go a step above HeartGard however as it will prevent flea eggs and larva from developing. This will stop the flea cycle and if you live in an area with a low risk of flea infestation this may be all you need.
If you’re looking for a mediation that will cover a few more things than Heartgard Plus then Sentinel makes an excellent option. It has been proven safe to use with pregnant and nursing dogs at regular doses and it can be given to pups after 4 weeks of age and over 2lbs.
If your vet has given you a few different options then this guide should have given you a good idea of the difference between those medications. Many of them have very similar properties and effectiveness – especially the brand name Heartgard and the generic alternatives.
Other brands may be best for collie breeds and other herding breeds – however in most cases Heartgard is perfectly safe for your dog to take and they will readily eat it! This can make things so much easier when it comes to giving your dog his needed medicine.
I personally, would recommend Heartgard above all the other versions since it has been around for well over a decade. In these years they have proven that they will supply a high-quality product that does exactly what it’s supposed to do.