“The Good Word” by Dr. Carol Good – Rockford Animal Hospital

*Why does my dog need to take parasite preventative year round?*

     So, the most important reason to have a heartworm test every year is to catch heartworm disease before it causes permanent damage to your dog’s organs that might even kill them. “So what?” you say. “Heartworm disease can be treated. If my dog gets infected, I’ll just take them to the veterinarian and get some pills.” Well, it’s not that easy.

Unlike worms that infect the intestinal tract, it isn’t a simple process to rid your dog of a heartworm infection. There are loads of medicines to prevent heartworm infection but only one medication to treat it. This medicine only comes in an injectable form and it isn’t made in the United States. The product must be specifically ordered for each dog that needs to be treated.

Another consideration is that the medication doesn’t just kill adult heartworms; it’s hard on your dog as well. Tests need to be done to determine if a dog is healthy enough to be treated. Three injections are given at the veterinary office over a period of weeks and may require hospitalization. Follow up exams are needed to monitor your dog for post treatment complications like pneumonia. At the end of the treatment, there is a three month period of strict rest at your home and then another heartworm test is done to confirm that the infection is gone. During this time your dog will also be placed on preventative medication so he doesn’t acquire a new infection during the treatment process.

All of these things come at a price. Depending on the size of your dog and whether they have any complications, the cost could be between $800 and $1,500. Now, that is a significant amount of money. Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense to spend $8 to $15 a month to prevent this from happening?

But wait, there’s more! The parasite preventative doesn’t just prevent heartworms. The one I recommend, Sentinel Spectrum, also protects you and your dog from infection and disease caused by the four most common stool parasites in the Rockford area, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms.

It protects your dog directly by killing these worms every time your dog is given the medication. Consequently, your dog is less likely to contaminate the ground where they eliminate with worm eggs that can infect humans. Children are especially at risk because their immune systems are not well developed yet and they tend to have poor hygiene habits. (Think eating dirt or not washing before eating!) However, elderly persons, transplant patients, those being treated for cancer or have AID’s infection also have immune system issues which increase their risk of parasite problems. Coming in contact with dirt through gardening or walking barefoot in the yard can expose adults to worm eggs as well.

Besides, heartworm and stool worm protection, Sentinel Spectrum does one more, really important thing. It prevents fleas from infiltrating and establishing an infection in your home. The way that this is accomplished is pretty ingenious. When your dog eats the medication, a part of the treatment is absorbed into your dog’s blood stream and stays there for 30 days. If a flea happens to jump on your dog, the first thing it does is feed on your dog’s blood and now it’s ingesting the Sentinel Spectrum as well. If the flea happens to be a female, it is incorporated into the eggs that she lays. These eggs will not be able to hatch into new fleas. Voila, Sentinel Spectrum is flea birth control! No flea nursery in your house.

So let’s review. Heartworm parasites are common, can be deadly and are difficult and costly to treat. Stool worms make dogs and people sick. No one wants a flea infestation in their home and, last but not least, there is not a predictable time of year when we are safe from any of these parasites. Please, don’t give these parasites a chance. Use parasite prevention year round!

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