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Is Heartgard And Heartguard Plus Safe For Dogs

Updated on May 9, 2011

What is Heartgard?

Heartgard is a medication used to prevent your pet from getting heartworms. Unlike many pet meds, this one is preventive in nature as much as it is a cure. Also, this is one of the few pet meds you can safely give to your pet without a prescription. However, before rushing out to buy this med you might want to familiarize itself with it a bit.

In this article we will discuss the usage, the recommended dosage, and the side effects for Heartgard Plus. We will also talk about where heartworms come from and why it is wiser to prevent them now, rather than to cure them later. And finally, we will also discuss how this pet med can benefit your cat as well.

As always, being a knowledgeable pet makes you a worthy one, so we will do our best to give you all the facts necessary before treating your pet.

This is what heartworms look like
This is what heartworms look like

Where Do Heartworms Come From?

Heartworms are carried by mosquitoes and have been seen in all fifty states. If your pet is ever exposed to the outdoors - which all dogs inevitably are, as that is where they do their business - then they are susceptible to being bitten and having heartworms transferred into their body.

While these worms are of little consequence to the mosquito, they can be life threatening to your pet. One worm becomes many, as they reproduce around the right side of the heart and filter through the bloodstream into the arteries of the lungs.

You pet can be infected for years without you knowing it, but when the symptoms finally manifest themselves the prognosis is rarely good. For, by this time, the worms have had time to multiply to a point where surgery is often needed to remove them, and any major surgery is dangerous to your pet - and thankfully, in this case - preventable.

By providing your pet with heartworm medication year round, you virtually eliminate the risk of your pet contracting heartworm. As an added benefit, this medication also aids in killing a current infection, provided it hasn't progressed too far.

What are the Signs of a Heartworm Infection?

Your pet might have a slight cough periodically, but this often goes ignored. Another sign to look for is a lowering of activity in a dog that normally is highly active. Of course, there are those dogs that aren't so active, and for them the heartworm is most dangerous, as they are the most difficult ones to see as having this condition.

Prevention is the best cure with heartworm. Periodic and regular dose of Heartguard, followed by regular veterinarian visits, will help insure your pet does not fall ill to this unkind organism. Knowing that a heartworm infection can easily go on for months with no visibly seen signs should be enough to convince you that a regiment of prevention easily beats out the cost of possible surgery later - and perhaps - the loss of your pet's life. 

Unlike many pet maladies, heartworm is preventable.

Side Effects of Heartgard

Heartgard is very safe, but there are some known side effects. As always, if your pet exhibits any of these symptoms, take them to the vet to have them checked out:

  • hypersalivation
  • diarrhea
  • convulsion
  • vomiting
  • lethargy

Note: collies are a bit more sensitive to this med, so they should be watched over carefully after the first few doses.

Can I Buy Heartgard Online?

In this rare instance I will recommend buying this pet med online without a veterinarian's prescription, as this is a pet med made to be purchased and administered directly by pet owners. As always, read all precautions before administering the dose and watch over your pet carefully for a few days after doing so for any allergic reaction.

I recommend buying for a year at a time and administering each monthly dose on a regular schedule. Just mark the calendar and consider it a date with your pet, all in the name of keeping them healthy. Also, I recommend a heartworm screening once a year, to insure that the meds you are providing are doing their job. Remember, your pet counts on you to remain healthy!

More heartworms, but this patient was less fortunate than the first
More heartworms, but this patient was less fortunate than the first

Is Heartgard Safe for Cats?

Yes! However, know ahead of time that they make a special version for felines, and that's the version you should purchase. Dogs and cats often experience the same problems but have different medicinal needs. This is one of those instances.

How is Heartgard Prescribed?

Heartgard is given to your pet via a chewable tablet. However, if your pet is not much of a chewer, you will want to break up the table into smaller pieces, as it doesn't work as well if it's swallowed.

Also, be aware that Heartgard and Heartgard Plus aren't the same product. Heartgard plus provides added protection against roundworms and hookworms, which is actually a good idea. Why prevent one, when you can prevent all three? Right?

So, if you love your pets, as I know you do, protect them from heartworm!

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    • Paulart profile image


      7 years ago from 2510 Warren Avenue Cheyenne,Wyoming 82001

      I like your hub.It is very informative.

    • yoshi97 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from a land called 'what if?'


      Vets are much like doctors - there are good ones and there are bad ones. And I started these hubs to help provide warnings for the reason you cite - some vets don't disclose everything when prescribing meds for pets.

      Even as I wrote many of my pet hubs I learned a few things that I hadn't known before. In fact, in one case I had written about how to help a dog that was experiencing a seizure (I researched the procedure on several sites) and I still got it wrong. However, when I was shown the error I immediately corrected it.

      Much like human health advice, there is tons of wrong pet advice out there, and the cost for being wrong can be the life of someone's beloved pet. It's a lot of responsibility, and if we won't carry the torch, who will?

      Thankfully, my pets have lived long live as well, and that's a strong wish I have for all pet owners.

      And there is no need to apologize for disagreeing with me. Your words are as much valid as mine. :)

    • SavannahEve profile image

      Suzi Rayve 

      9 years ago from California

      There is nothing "safe" about following your vet's advice. I'm sorry, but I have to disagree. Vet's have their place, but most of them are all about chemicals, steroids and surgery. My dogs do get regular vet visits. Holistic vets. Which is why my Basenji lived for 21 years, my Greyhound for 17 years and my Shepherd, who was born with numerous health problems (made worse by heartworm meds that almost killed him) and then abused and abandoned, is just now hitting his 17th year and may soon leave us. "For example, what if a particular herbal cure caused issues only in shelties, and I proclaimed it to be safe, as it worked on all other dogs?" The exact same can be said for all vet meds, only we are expected to take the vet's word on it. Not gonna happen. Thank you for this hub as you obviously care for animals, but I will still have to disagree. Sorry.

    • yoshi97 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from a land called 'what if?'


      That's why I noted collies should be watched over carefully. My collie of 18 years never had a problem with this med, but I've read too many horror stories of those who were less fortunate. What upsets me is the fact that few sites online mention this sensitivity.

      The reason I used the words 'a bit more sensitive' is because I knew if I didn't I would get the countless stories of collies that had no trouble with the med, and I didn't want those responses to taint the message that it's important to watch over them.

      As for herbal cures, I have heard of - and used - many that work, but I'll never recommend anything that isn't thoroughly tested by veterinarians, as there could be countless interactions and situations I could be unaware of.

      For example, what if a particular herbal cure caused issues only in shelties, and I proclaimed it to be safe, as it worked on all other dogs?

      When it comes to the health of a loved one, playing it safe is always the best recourse, and regular vet visits are par for the course. No information I offer should ever be substituted for a visit to the vet, but rather, it should be seen as more information, to help further explain the things a good vet would tell you. :)

    • SavannahEve profile image

      Suzi Rayve 

      9 years ago from California

      Really? Collies are "a bit more sensative"? I know of at least 5 that almost died when given this poison, including mine. There are herbal cures and preventatives that are PROVEN to work. I know. I used them and now my Shepherd who was positive is negative for heartworm. Repeatedly negative. For two years.

    • yoshi97 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from a land called 'what if?'

      Not quite right ... Heartguard is not recommended for dogs under 6 months of age.

      Also, the reason some sites say to talk to your vet first is because a lot of people don't start treatment until they see signs of a heartworm infection, and yes, that's definitely the time to take your dog to the vet for a checkup.

      The rule of thumb is to never play doctor on a pet you already believe to be ill ... allow the vet to do his job.

      However, if you have a vet do a heartworm check at six months and your dog is cleared for heartworms, you can feel free to start your dog on a monthly protective regimen and then keep giving him (or her) a monthly dose of heartguard.

      The package includes dosage instructions which are set by the weight of the dog. So, as long as you know how much your pet weighs, you can administer the doses yourself.

      Giving Heartguard to a dog that already has heartworms won't harm the dog, but it also won't cure him if the infestation has grown beyond the capabilities of the medication. As such, giving that first dose without a screening can be playing with fire, as it could lull you into a false sense of security.

      I also recommended above a yearly screening for heartworms, as not all pets respond to proper medication. As such, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

      And I do thank you for asking, as others might have had the same questions and I like to get all the facts straight where I can. :)

    • missalyssa profile image


      9 years ago

      Correct me if I;m wrong, but according to my vet, you MUST test your dog for heart worms before starting the treatment unless it is a puppy under 3 months old...Otherwise, great hub!


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