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MilitaryMom asked in PetsDogs · 5 years ago

Can I skip heartworm test/preventative?

Don't mean to sound hard-hearted, but my 90 lb collie mix is going on 12 yrs old. He is in good health, current on vaccinations, and gets 3 walks a day. Since at his age we are living on "borrowed time" could I skip the expense of heartworm tests/preventatives at this stage?

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  • 5 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    The risk of heartworm infection can vary drastically by where you live. Generally speaking, if you live in the Southeast or Midwest, that entire region, heartworm preventative is essential... the risks from medication as significantly lower than the risk of infection. If you live in the Northeast, it's a little iffy... Generally heartworm preventative during peak mosquito season, but not the rest of the year. Still, low enough risk that you could more than likely get away with never giving them a preventative with very minimal chance of infection. In the Northwest, Rocky Mountain region, and Southwest/desert region, and *most* of the West Coast, incidence is so low that there isn't much need (and most reported cases are confirmed to have been contracted from elsewhere - ie: visiting other parts of the country, or someone who lived in the SE/Midwest then moved to those regions, with their dog already infected). It does vary a bit on a micro level, within regions - do a search for "US heartworm map" to get a more detailed glimpse (ignore Banfield's map, though).

    Point being, if you live anywhere except the Southeast or Midwest, it's probably not a big deal for him to go without with. If you do live in those places, keep him on the preventative. However, though the preventative is guaranteed for 30 days, realistically (per studies, even by the companies in question), it's more often than not effective for 60-90 days. So if you're really concerned, give it to him every other month (instead of every month).

    That said, as someone else mentioned, heartworm medication is generally low risk - lower risk than vaccinations. According to studies, Distemper/Adeno/Parvo vaccines last MUCH longer than a year. Generally, once a dog has had their first year booster, they're protected for life (minimum of 7 years). Yearly vaccinations are unnecessary and risk of side-effects increases with each booster they get. If you want to be sure, you can get titer tests done. Rabies, though legally required, is slightly different... but even that actually offers protection for at least 4-5 years, and *possibly* for life, but it's not as certain (and rabies is so rare anyway... even if a dog were never vaccinated, it would be a bizarre fluke for them to catch it). Bordatella isn't really a threat (it's basically a cold/cough) and is easily prevented by not keeping your dog in a confined area with other dogs who may have it (ie: boarding). Leptospirosis has a lot of side-effects that dramatically increase with each booster, and the vaccination only protects against some strains. And of the over 200 known strains, only 6 cause infection (and the infection is treatable if caught early)... and by exposing a dog to those ~194 non-pathogenic strains, they naturally develop immunity to those pathogenic strains (ie: lepto is really only a risk to dogs whose exposure is a fluke... dogs who are regularly swimming, in the woods, etc... tend to have an immunity and aren't very susceptible). And if a dog does have immunity (from natural exposure), they're more likely to have serious side-effects from the vaccine (sounds backwards, I know).

    In summary... depending on where you live, keep up with the heartworm preventative (it is necessary), but stop getting vaccinations (they aren't necessary).

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  • 5 years ago

    No, if you are in an area where heartworm preventative is suggested you should keep your dog on it. Keep in mind that elderly dogs are MORE likely to contract heartworm and other parasites. As dogs get older, their immune systems fall which leaves them more susceptible. It's not worth losing your beloved family pet to heartworm over not wanting to spend the money on preventative, especially when he probably doesn't have much time left to begin with. Think of it this way, what's another year or two of preventative?

    Source(s): BA in Veterinary Medicine Employed at animal shelter Chapter Leader for dog rescue
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  • J C
    Lv 7
    5 years ago

    You need to balance the risk of developing heartworm with the risk/cost of the preventative. How prevalent is heartworm in your area? What does the vet feel his risk is? At his age, I'd be inclined to skip vaccines but not heartworm preventative if it's a big risk in your area.

    • MilitaryMom
      Lv 5
      5 years agoReport

      You and bluebonnetgranny are right. Our apt. complex sprays regularly, year-round, and I rarely see a mosquito. The risk is minimal. Thanks for the input.

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  • 5 years ago

    If you live were there are lots of mosquito's, I would continue it. I don't use a heart worm preventative cause I live where they spray on a regular bases for them. I live near a river & an irrigation ditch, They spray both for mosquito's.

    I don't think I would use it on him. but it is your choice. It does take quite a while for a heart worm infestation to get so bad the dogs needs a Vet to get rid of them.

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  • 5 years ago

    When you are 70-75 + are you going to stop seeing your doctor because you are on "borrowed time" and skip that expense? Give your old companion the same consideration. Make his last years as good as you can.

    • MilitaryMom
      Lv 5
      5 years agoReport

      Did you do ANY research before you made that comment? Heartworm takes around 7 months to develop, and even then the dog feels fine for sometimes years prior to damage being done. And where did it say I quit taking him to the vet?

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  • 5 years ago

    you could, but i wouldn't. i get the whole borrowed time thing, but don't you want to have him as long as possible? i know its costly too, but it could keep him here a lot longer

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