Heartworms, Part 2
So now that you have learned all about why heartworm disease is so bad for pets, let’s talk about some ways to prevent it. For all the difficulty in treating heartworm disease, it is one of the easiest infections to prevent. You can either put your pet in a space suit forever so that it can never be bitten by a mosquito carrying the baby heartworms or you can simply give a tiny little tasty pill once a month. As a bonus they usually come with decorative stickers you can put in your calendar to remind you when the next dose is due. Your dog or cat doesn’t like tasty treats, well then put a blob of medicine on their neck once a month instead. It really couldn’t be any easier. So how do these medications work and why do they kill heartworms and not your dog? Well they are absorbed into the bloodstream, find the baby heartworms and literally stop these microfilarae in their tracts by paralyzing them. Yes it is very sad but these worms are evil and are hurting your pet! Are you are curious as to why these drugs don’t affect your dog or cat?
Well, these medications only bind to very specific receptors in the worms (GABA and glutamate.) While your pet DOES have these receptors in their bodies too, they are hidden away in the brain. The magical blood brain barrier (you can think of this like airport security) is very selective about what in the blood stream it allows to reach the brain and it is careful to exclude the drugs in these preventatives.
In addition, many of the heartworm preventatives have the added power of killing intestinal parasites. Roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms live in the intestines and can cause many problems for your pets (and roundworms and hookworms can make you sick too!) Heartworm preventatives are one of several ways that we are able to help stop the spread of these infections to HUMANS!
You should talk with your veterinarian about which heartworm preventative is best for your pet!