A reminder alerting me it is time for my dog’s preventive consistently appears on my phone screen at regularly scheduled intervals. Every time, without fail, I find myself feeling confused and uncertain. Does the preventive include heartworm or is it only for flea and tick? It turns out, I am not alone. A recent report discovered 1 in 4 dog owners believed they were giving heartworm preventive when in actuality the medication only protected against fleas and ticks.

The goal of the study was to determine why preventive products are not used consistently. According to the results of the research, only 25% of dogs receive heart worm preventives regularly. Another worrisome statistic:  27% of dog owners believed the preventive they were giving protected their pet from heartworm, when it actually only included flea and tick protection. Clearly, confusion about prevention products is a large scale issue.

Heartworm is a serious disease. It continues to be diagnosed in all 50 states. According to a study by the American Heartworm Society, more than one million dogs were diagnosed with heartworm in 2016. In addition, the average number of dogs diagnosed with heartworm per veterinary clinic increased over 22% in 2016 from 2013.

Cats are also at risk for heartworm. JAVMA completed a 2017 study which found hundreds of thousands of cats are likely infected with heartworms. Currently, no heartworm treatment is available for cats. The only approved heartworm treatment available is for dogs making prevention the only treatment available for cats. Therefore, giving your cat heartworm prevention medication consistently according to the recommended schedule is crucial.

It is vitally important to your pet’s health to give heartworm and flea and tick prevention regularly as recommended by the manufacturer. Talk to your veterinarian and staff about prevention. If you have a question about a certain product or need clarification on the correct schedule for administering the prevention medication, always ask.

Together, you and your veterinarian will determine the best product for your pet’s needs as well as develop a schedule for administering the medication. If you are confused about whether the medication you are giving your pet includes protection from heartworm in addition to fleas and ticks, please talk to your veterinarian. Communication and understanding will ensure your pet is properly protected against disease.