One of the most important things we do for our dogs and cats in Florida is to provide a heartworm preventive. The heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) is now recognized as a major, global parasite affecting dogs, cats, wolves, coyotes, and foxes. From its discovery in dogs more than a century ago and the documentation in cats in the 1920s, researchers have devised diagnostic tests, preventives and treatments, but the disease still spreads.

Heartworm prevention is simple. It involves a blood sample be drawn to determine whether the parasite is present and regular dosing with preventive medication. Heartworm infestation is dangerous; untreated dogs may die, and treated dogs may be too seriously infested to be treated. In addition, treatment can be expensive.

In other words, prevention is the name of the game. In this case prevention is simple. Before 1988 the only heartworm preventives that were available had to be administered on a daily basis. This was, frankly, a pain and there was non-compliance from the best of us. Now, with once a month dosing the task is easy. You put a little sticker on your calendar to jog your memory and it’s done. You can write the date you intend to give each monthly dose on the packaging itself, so that you will become immediately aware if you have skipped a month. Not only does this save you a lot of money that you would have to spend on heartworm treatment but most importantly it saves your pet from an enormous amount of suffering. If you are really bad about remembering to do this, or are too busy to remember, a 6-month preventive injection is available for dogs from many veterinarians. Now up this point I am sure I have a consensus. The following are some facts that you may not be aware of.

  1. Only the heartworm preventive you buy from your vet is 100% guaranteed from the manufacturer. This means if there is any product failure, they will pay for the treatment of your pet.
  2. The only authorized vendors of these products are veterinarians. Unauthorized retailers have obtained many of these products from overseas sources. These products may have been subjected to extreme temperature changes during shipping that can dramatically impact the effectiveness of the products. Internet and catalog goods are second, third, or even fourth hand products. During the process of reselling they may have been stored in a shed or in the bed of a truck. There is no temperature control and there is no regulatory agency to inspect how these products have been handled. Veterinarian’s products are shipped directly from the manufacturer under the proper conditions.
  3. Internet companies are not getting their products from the manufacturer. The heartworm medication manufacturers maintain a strict policy of selling products exclusively through practicing licensed veterinarians. The issue here is that a professional veterinarian-client-patient relationship exists to help ensure that patients receive proper medical care.
  4. Some of the medication being sold through catalogs or internet companies in the US was made for foreign markets; these foreign medicines are not approved by the FDA for sale in the United States. They may be materially different from the US products in a number of ways, including their purity, potency, and their instruction for use. These are not the same products.
  5. The last issue is price.

  6. If you compare your veterinarian’s price with the price of the medication plus shipping you will realize you are not saving that much money. In some cases catalogue sales end up being more expensive or the same price as that charged by your veterinarian.

As a pet owner the health of my pets is of utmost importance. I consider us lucky to be able to purchase these life-saving preventive medications. I also consider the importance of the veterinarian-client relationship.

Cyndi Lenz RNC

Cyndi is a RN living in Boca Raton with her husband Skip and their two Golden Retrievers, Machiavelli and Casey. She also founded The Tropical Dawg Golden Retriever Rescue.


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