Can I buy heartworm pills at a pet store?

I have a mini Dachshund. I missed his last appointment at the vet. Now they tell me he has to have blood work to restart...


I have a mini Dachshund. I missed his last appointment at the vet.
Now they tell me he has to have blood work to restart his heartworm pills. Can’t I just buy heartworm pills at the pet store?


Let me start with a little background information on heartworm disease. Heartworms are blood parasites of dogs and cats. They are spread by mosquitoes. The risk of heartworm disease varies geographically, with greater danger in warmer and more humid areas. Dogs are at greater risk than cats.

When an infected mosquito bites a dog or cat, it injects microscopic heartworm larvae into the pet. Over time, the larvae develop into worms that live in the heart and the arteries leading out of the heart. In some circumstances, the worms can lead to heart failure or death.

Fortunately, it is very easy to prevent heartworm infestation. Pills (most commonly Interceptor or Heartgard) or topical treatments (Revolution or Advantage Multi) are used monthly to prevent the disease. In the United States these medicines are not legally available without a prescription.

Although they are safe and effective when used properly, there is a downside to the preventatives. If you miss a dose, your pet will be vulnerable to heartworm disease. And, in rare circumstances, pets that are infected with heartworm disease may have adverse reactions to some preventatives. Therefore, if you miss a dose your dog should undergo heartworm testing (a blood test) at an appropriate time. This will help to confirm that it’s safe to use the preventative.

In my experience, the above-mentioned adverse reactions are uncommon. However, that is not a reason to skip the test. If your dog is infested with heartworms, the situation could be life-threatening. I recommend that your dog be tested so that you can be sure he is free of the disease.

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