Category : Care & Healthy Living

How to Get Rid of Fleas, Fast

Nobody wants fleas crawling around on their pets or in their home. But if you do see fleas, there’s no need to panic. You can get rid of fleas quickly using several different methods.

It’s important to remember that not every method is safe for every type of pet, so be sure to read labels carefully, and if you have any questions, ask your veterinarian.

Try an Oral Flea Treatment

Oral flea treatments can be very effective options for cats and dogs, and since they’re designed to taste good, they’re simple to administer. As an added bonus, this type of treatment typically acts very quickly.

There are several different brands of oral flea treatment.


Capstar is available without a prescription, and it starts killing fleas within just a few hours. It’s generally a safe option for cats and dogs at the appropriate dosage.

However, it doesn’t have any residual activity, which means you’ll need to use something else (or keep redosing Capstar frequently) to prevent more fleas from hopping onto your pet.

Capstar is good for treating infestations on your pet quickly, or for instance, if you rescue a stray and need coverage before you can get long-lasting prescription flea and tick medication.

Prescription Flea and Tick Treatments

Prescription medications are better options for long-term use; many last for a month or more. Comfortis is commonly prescribed for cats but is also available in canine formulations.

There are numerous options for dogs, including Trifexis, Sentinel, NexGard, and Simparica, just to name a few. Many of these products kill other types of parasites than just fleas.

Your veterinarian can help you choose the one that’s best for your pet.

Use a Spot-on (Topical) Treatment

Spot-on treatments are generally applied on the back of your pet’s neck to prevent them from ingesting the medication while it’s wet. Once the medication has dried, it isn’t much of a danger.

Certain topical treatments for dogs and cats, like Frontline Plus, are available over the counter.

Prescription options like Revolution, Revolution Plus, Advantage Multi, and Bravecto will be more effective in these cases.

If your pet’s skin is very irritated from fleas, this method might not be ideal, as it can cause further skin irritation. You also don’t want to apply spot-on treatments to broken skin.

They also may not be ideal in homes with small children or curious pets who are hard to keep apart, as you don’t want anyone to inadvertently get these products in their mouths while the treated pet’s fur is still wet.

Use a Flea Collar

Old-school flea collars have fallen out of use due to the wide availability of safer and more effective medications, but today, there is one over-the-counter version that is worth a look.

Seresto collars are available for dogs and cats of various sizes. Bonus: These collars help prevent ticks and can last for up to eight months.

Give Your Pet a Bath

Giving your pet a bath won’t get rid of fleas, but it’s a step you might want to consider alongside other flea treatments. A bath can help wash off dead fleas, flea ‘dirt’ (feces), and eggs that might remain in your pet’s fur.

Use a gentle, species-appropriate shampoo and warm water. It’s not necessary to use a flea shampoo. Newer medications work much better than flea shampoos—just be sure to check the label to determine the effect of bathing on the flea medication you use.

Treat Your Home as Well as Your Pet

While a really good flea treatment for your pet will eventually eliminate the fleas in your home, you’ll have to do some extra work if you want to get rid of them quickly.

Here are some steps you can take:

Vacuum: This is one of the most effective ways to get rid of fleas in your home, and it doesn’t only apply to carpet. Wood floors, tile, and furniture could also benefit from a good vacuuming.

Wash linens: Wash and dry your pet’s bedding and other machine-washable materials they come into contact with, ideally using hot water and a hot setting on the dryer when possible.

Use home and yard treatments: If you’re really struggling with an infestation, foggers and sprays intended to kill fleas might be your best bet. Just make sure you deploy them safely per the package directions, and check for safety precautions.

Kick Fleas to the Curb Year-Round

Fleas are a pain, both literally (when it comes to your furry friends) and figuratively, but there are lots of safe and simple options for getting rid of them and keeping them from coming back.

When choosing prevention, it’s best to use an effective product year-round since fleas can survive the winter months inside your home.

By Jennifer Coates, DVM

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Jennifer Coates, DVM


Dr. Jennifer Coates is an accomplished veterinarian, writer, editor, and consultant with years of experience in the fields of veterinary…

Types of Heartworm Preventive Treatment Products

By Jennifer Kvamme, DVM

When it’s time to purchase heartworm preventive medication for your dog or cat, you have several options to choose from. In order to purchase any of these heartworm medications, however, you must first have your dog or cat tested for heartworms.

If the test comes back negative, your veterinarian will then suggest a heartworm medication that will work best for your dog or cat’s particular needs. It’s very important to prevent this deadly disease, as prevention is much safer, easier, and cheaper than treatment. These heartworm medications are all very effective at prevention, as long as they are given in the proper dose on a regular schedule. 

The American Heartworm Society recommends that animals living in all parts of the U.S. be given heartworm preventive medications on a year-round basis. Here we will discuss some of the common options available on the market today.

Oral Monthly Heartworm Medications

The heartworm preventives you are probably most familiar with are the once monthly tablets or chewables. These products typically contain either ivermectin or milbemycin as the active ingredient. In the past, a heartworm medication was available containing diethylcarbamazine, but it had to be given daily to be effective. This drug has been since removed from the market, as newer products that are more effective have since emerged.

Many of the various oral heartworm medications available today have more than one function. Some will not only kill heartworm larvae, but will also eliminate internal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, and/or whipworms. There is an oral product available that includes ingredients that also work to eliminate fleas by stopping them from producing live eggs.

The good thing about these types of heartworm medications is that they only need to be given once a month for prevention. You need to watch your dog or cat to be sure he/she chews the entire piece or tablet and doesn’t spit any of it out. Otherwise, the heartworm medication loses its effectiveness. Dogs or cats that have an allergy to beef products may not be able to take a flavored, chewable product. Your vet can provide a possible alternative if this is the case for you.

Topical (Spot-on) Heartworm Medications

There are a few topical heartworm preventive medications available for both dogs and cats. These heartworm medications are applied monthly to the back of the dog or cat’s neck, or between the shoulder blades on the skin. Not only do these preventives protect against heartworms, they also kill fleas. Those heartworm preventives made with selamectin can work to eliminate ear mites, mange mites, and ticks (in dogs only), and will even kill some internal parasites (in cats).

Moxidectin is another active ingredient in topical heartworm preventives available for both dogs and cats. This ingredient (along with imidacloprid) works on heartworm larvae and fleas, as well as hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms in dogs — and ear mites, roundworms, and hookworms in cats.

Some dogs and cats may not like having the spot-on applied to their skin and will rub themselves against furniture, carpet, etc., after application, in their attempts to remove it. These heartworm preventives are toxic if ingested, so you may need to watch or isolate your dog or cat to be sure he/she doesn’t come into contact with children or other animals for a time after application (to prevent product from getting on hands, or from animals grooming each other).

Injectable Heartworm Medication 

Moxidectin can also be used for dogs as an injectable heartworm medication for up to six months with one injection. This heartworm preventive not only kills heartworm larvae, it also eliminates hookworms in dogs. It is not available for use with cats.

The product has gone through some safety concerns and was voluntarily taken off the market in 2004 after reports of side effects. In 2008, the product was returned to the veterinary market with restrictions on its use. Veterinarians must administer this heartworm medication to their patients, and this is only after intensive training in its proper use. Your veterinarian is also required to record the lot number of the product used for your dog and must report any adverse effects that may come up. 

No matter which medication you prefer to give your dog or cat, make sure you read labels closely and follow all instructions for use. Tell your veterinarian if your dog or cat shows signs of illness after administration, and be sure to have your dog or cat tested yearly for heartworms.


 Image: WilleeCole / via Shutterstock

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Jennifer Kvamme, DVM


Flea Infestation Guide: How to Kill and Get Rid of Fleas

Fleas are tiny but the suffering they bring to pets can be huge. The only way to stay ahead of a flea infestation is to practice flea prevention year-round, according to Dr. Cynthia Cox of the Shalit-Glazer Clinic at the MSPCA-Angell Adoption Center in Boston, Mass., and Dr. Cathy Lund of City Kitty, a feline-only veterinary practice in Providence, R.I.

“When you see the adult fleas, that is just the tip of the iceberg as far the life cycle,” Lund says. “At that point, you have a real problem in the house.”

David Jones of Bio Tech Pest Controls in Westerly, R.I, an environmentally friendly pest control business, explains why: The adult flea needs a blood meal (your pet, for example) in order to produce fertile eggs (40-plus per day), which then fall off the animal and drop to the floor, carpet, bedding, etc. The eggs develop into larvae and then into pupae that are protected inside cocoons, which can lay dormant for many months until noise, heat, vibration, light, exhaled carbon dioxide, or other stimulation causes them to emerge as fleas to start the cycle again.

By the time you see a flea, you’re likely already in the midst of a flea infestation.

Practice Flea Prevention to Stop Flea Infestations

To prevent a flea infestation, treat your pet year-round throughout his life with flea preventives—typically a topical liquid, flea collar, or oral medication applied or given monthly to dogs and cats. Dosages of topical and oral flea prevention products depend on the weight of the animal. Some products protect against fleas, fleas and ticks, or other parasites, such as heartworm and intestinal parasites. Talk to your vet about which flea prevention product is best for your pet.

Cox notes that if you have a cat, it is essential to use the cat-specific version of any flea product, in consultation with your vet. “While many are now over the counter, some contain insecticides with a very narrow margin of safety that can result in the illness or death of companion animals, especially cats,” she says.

And never apply flea preventative on cats that is marketed for dogs—and vice versa. 

Flea Infestations: Comprehensive Treatment to Kill Fleas

If your pet has existing fleas, you can brush them with a flea comb to remove fleas and their eggs. Soapy water can also be used to kill fleas. 

Flea bites can cause real suffering, with constant itching and scratching that can lead to skin irritation and even infection, especially if your pet is allergic to flea saliva. “They can get super itchy, and the skin can become raw and irritated,” Lund says.

Pets—and people—are also at risk of diseases carried by fleas. Some examples include cat scratch fever (Bartonella henselae), tularemia (Francisella tularensis), plague (Yersinia pestis), tapeworms, and more.   

If your pet has fleas, or you’re concerned about fleas, one effective approach is to treat your property and home, as well as your pet, to eliminate eggs and adults fleas. The following product bundles offered by (PetMD is owned by Chewy) offer protection for your pet, inside your home, and outdoors. Always consult with your veterinarian before using flea and tick control products.

Pet, Yard, and Home (Smaller Animals)

Advantage II Spot TreatmentAdvantage ShampooYard & Premise SprayCarpet & Upholstery Spot SprayFrisco Flea Comb

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Pet, Yard, and Home (Larger Animals, over 9 lbs.)

Advantage II Spot TreatmentAdvantage ShampooAdvantage Yard & Premise SprayAdvantage Carpet & Upholstery Spot Spray Frisco Flea Comb

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Advantix + Pet, Home, and Premises (Under 11 lbs.)

K9 Advantix II Spot Treatment (4-11 lbs.)Advantus Oral Treatment (4-22 lbs)Advantage Yard & Premise SprayAdvantage Carpet & Upholstery Spot SprayFrisco Flea Comb

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Advantix + Pet, Home, and Premises (11-20 lbs.)

K9 Advantix II Spot TreatmentAdvantus Oral TreatmentAdvantage Yard & Premise Spray,Advantage Carpet & Upholstery Spot SprayFrisco Flea Comb

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Advantix + Pet, Home, and Premises (21-55 lbs.)

K9 Advantix II Spot TreatmentAdvantus Oral TreatmentAdvantage Yard & Premise Spray,Advantage Carpet & Upholstery Spot SprayFrisco Flea Comb

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Advantix + Pet, Home, and Premises (Over 55 lbs.)

K9 Advantix II Spot TreatmentAdvantus Oral TreatmentAdvantage Yard & Premise SprayAdvantage Carpet & Upholstery Spot SprayFrisco Flea Comb

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How to Get Rid of Fleas in the Carpet

Remember, if the fleas are on your pet, they are in your house. When trying to get rid of fleas in the home environment, it is important to wash all rugs in hot, soapy water. For carpet which cannot be placed in the washing machine, vacuuming can be very helpful in getting rid of adult fleas, eggs, and larvae, Jones says. Just be sure to immediately take the vacuum outside to remove and dispose of the bag. Do not leave the bag inside the house, he stresses. Steam cleaning or shampooing the carpets may also be useful but often chemical treatment may be needed to fully eradicate a flea infestation. 

For indoor flea treatment, there are over the counter home products for sale but often they are used incorrectly and therefore not effective. When treating the house for fleas, it is recommended to call a professional exterminator. Be sure to tell them there are pets in the home and find out any restrictions such as time they need to be out of the house during treatment.   

How to Get Rid of Fleas in Your Bed

Fortunately, fleas cannot survive the “hot” cycle of the washing machine and dryer, Cox explains, so wash sheets, pillowcases, duvet covers and comforters with detergent and dry all of it on the “hot” setting. Be sure to also wash and dry all of your pet’s bedding, plush toys, etc., on the “hot” cycle.

How to Get Rid of Fleas in Your Yard

Treating your yard is another important aspect of preventing and treating fleas.  This can be done through external yard treatments purchases over the counter or through a lawn care provider. Be sure to let the company know you have pets and read all instructions related to how long the pet needs to be off the lawn. Often treating the lawn once or twice per year is recommended for maximum effectiveness.

Remember year-round flea prevention medication is essential for preventing flea infestations. Your veterinarian is the best source of information for flea, tick, and heartworm prevention for your pet. 

Wellness Plans for Dogs

Preventive care is not only the first step, but absolutely vital to helping your pets live their very best, healthiest life. When you keep up with regular wellness exams and routine vaccines, screenings, and bloodwork, the vet is more likely to catch health concerns early on.

For many pet parents, however, routine veterinary care is a costly expense that can be difficult to afford. According to the 2021-2022 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, the cost of routine vet visits averages $242 for dogs and $178 for cats per year. If you add in a dental cleaning ($500-$1000 for dogs), you’re looking at an even bigger vet bill.

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One good option to help provide your canine companion with the highest standard of care while controlling veterinary costs is a dog wellness plan. This special type of pet insurance is designed to cover routine veterinary expenses, as opposed to vet services provided for accidents, injuries, or disease management.

Here’s some insight on wellness plans for your dog so you can decide whether a wellness plan is a good option for your family.

What Are Wellness Plans for Dogs?

A wellness plan is a type of pet insurance that covers routine veterinary care, vaccinations, screening diagnostics, as well as spay/neuter surgeries and dental cleanings, in some cases. These plans are available as either standalone plans you can purchase by themselves, or they are sold as add-on plans to traditional accident-only and accident and illness pet health insurance policies.

What Does a Dog Wellness Plan Cover?

Wellness plans may cover:

Annual wellness exams

Vaccines–Core vaccines (rabies virus, canine distemper, adenovirus-2 (hepatitis), parvovirus, and parainfluenza) and boosters should be covered. Vaccines that may or may not be recommended by your vet based on your dog’s lifestyle (leptospirosis, Bordetella, and Lyme disease vaccines) may not be covered.


Monthly parasite protection

Spay/neuter procedures

Dental cleanings (but typically not extractions)

Fecal exams

Heartworm tests

Just because something is covered does not mean that the insurance company will pay the full cost. Pay attention to the limitations of how much they will reimburse you. This is important when you go through the math to determine if this kind of plan is right for your dog. 

Some plans offer per-item limitations. For example, the plan will cover up to $50 yearly for vaccines or up to $100 toward a dental cleaning. Other wellness plans offer you a yearly allowance rather than a per-treatment allowance, and you can pick and choose which type of preventive care services to use it for based on your dog’s needs. 

Carefully read the plan you’re considering, compare it to similar plans, and check with your vet to see what level of coverage makes sense for your dog. For example, a plan that covers vaccines may be a better choice for a puppy that needs a lot of vaccinations, while a senior dog that doesn’t need as many vaccines might not benefit as much from that type of coverage.

Request a treatment plan from your veterinarian for your dog’s preventive care needs over the next year, including the cost of the treatments (vaccines, heartworms tests, microchipping, spay/neuter/dental procedures, fecal exams, routine deworming, monthly parasite protection, etc.).

Then you will have all the tools you need to choose the best wellness plan for your dog.   


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How Do Dog Wellness Plans Work?

Your dog’s wellness plan will work very similar to traditional pet insurance.

One of the key differences between pet insurance of all types, including wellness plans, and human health insurance, is how they handle claims. In human insurance, you typically pay a co-pay or a fixed amount for a service when you see the doctor, and the insurance company directly reimburses the doctor’s office for covered expenses.

For most dog insurance policies, you will pay the entire bill at the time of treatment, then submit the claim to your insurance company. If the company determines that it’s a covered expense, they’ll reimburse you directly.

Some plans offer a direct-pay option to vets, which will limit your out-of-pocket expenses, so make sure to ask questions about how your policy handles reimbursement.

Most policies also have limitations that will affect the policy price and your benefits. Some common limitations include:

Expense caps on procedures, such as an annual cap of $50 for vaccines. The higher the caps, the more expensive your plan will probably be.

Annual expense caps, no matter what procedures your dog gets. Plans with higher or no annual limits are often more expensive than plans with lower annual limits.

Here’s how it works: Let’s say your dog needs their annual exam, heartworm test, and fecal exam. You pay the vet and then send the receipt (claim) to the insurance company. You paid $55 for the exam, but your plan pays up to $40 for exams. You also paid $45 for a heartworm test, but your plan pays up to $40 for this. And then you paid $30 for the fecal exam, and your plan pays $25. So, you paid the vet $130, but you will be reimbursed a total of $105 in this instance.

How Much Do Dog Wellness Plans Cost?

There are usually two levels of coverage to choose from with dog wellness plans, and sometimes even three. If the plan is an add-on to an accident-only or accident and illness plan, you will pay an extra fee each month for your wellness plan. Whether it’s an add-on or a standalone plan, the cost ranges from $20 to $50 on average for dogs.

Should You Get a Wellness Plan for Your Dog?

One of the major advantages of wellness plans isn’t financial at all—it’s about providing consistent care for your dog. Knowing your dog is covered by a wellness plan makes it more likely you’ll keep those important yearly checkups.

Ultimately, the decision to get a wellness plan comes down to your budget and situation. Unlike with an accident-only plan, or even an accident and illness plan, all dogs need and benefit from routine care.

If you have specific questions about wellness coverage for your dog, your vet is a great place to start. Find out what the vet recommends for your dog’s wellness care over the next year. With that information, and some basic research into the different policies available, you’ll be able to make the right decision for your dog.

Most importantly, many unexpected illnesses and diseases can be detected and prevented early on with routine checkups and consistent, preventive care. Wellness plans support and encourage that gold standard level of medicine while saving you some money!  


American Pet Products Association. Pet Industry Market Size & Ownership Statistics. 2021.

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Ashley Mandeville, LVT


Ashley Mandeville has worked in the veterinary field for the past 12 years in General Practice as an Emergency Treatment Technician, an ICU…

Can Dogs Have Asthma?

Can dogs have asthma? While asthma is much less common in dogs than in cats, dogs can suffer from asthma in much the same ways humans do.

Dog asthma is defined as an allergic disease. Asthma attacks in dogs are caused by an allergic reaction that results in airway inflammation, which causes constriction and spasming of the small airways in the lungs.

When diagnosed in dogs, asthma is usually seen in middle-aged dogs and some young dogs. Typically, small dogs are more likely to have asthma than large dogs.

What Causes Asthma in Dogs?

Asthma attacks are triggered by the inhalation of allergens. Some common allergens that can affect dogs with asthma include:

Mold sporesDust and mold mitesCat litter dustCat danderPollensHousehold cleanersAir pollutionPerfumeAir freshenersAirborne pesticides or fertilizersSmoke from cigarettes, pipes, e-cigarettes

What Are Some Asthma Symptoms in Dogs?

Dogs having an asthma attack will experience coughing, panting with a wide mouth, wheezing and an overall difficulty with breathing.

Dogs with asthma can also experience a buildup of excessive mucus and phlegm, which, if it is severe enough, can make a dog’s gums turn blue due to a lack of oxygen.

An asthmatic dog can be panicked and difficult to calm down. It is important to never impede an asthmatic dog’s ability to breathe by closing his mouth; doing so may result in bite injury.

How Are Dogs Diagnosed With Asthma?

Dog asthma can be tricky to diagnose if your dog isn’t having an active asthma attack, which is why it is important to get your dog to a veterinarian ASAP if you notice any of the above symptoms.

Dog asthma is usually diagnosed by a combination of the history you give and the findings from the physical exam and radiographs (X-rays). If your dog isn’t having an asthma attack, the radiographs may come back as normal and may have to be repeated at a future time.

Heartworm disease can also show the same types of symptoms as asthma, so your veterinarian may order a heartworm test and ask you if you regularly give preventative heartworm medicine for dogs.

If you are not able to get your dog to the veterinarian immediately, try to take a video of your dog’s breathing on your phone. You can then show this to your veterinarian when you get to the vet’s office.

What Are the Treatments for Asthma in Dogs?

The treatment for dog asthma will depend on the severity of the disease in your dog, as well as if your dog is having an active attack or if you are trying to prevent attacks.

Treatment for Severe Asthma Attacks in Dogs

An acute asthma attack should be considered an emergency. In these cases, your veterinarian may hospitalize your dog and place him in an oxygen cage to help him breathe better.

Your veterinarian may also place an IV catheter in your dog to deliver drugs or fluid therapy intravenously. Fluids may be administered if the pet is not eating or drinking or if the pet is dehydrated. IV medications can include bronchodilators and/or steroids. If there is an infection, IV antibiotics may be indicated.

The three mainstays of treatment include a bronchodilator (respiratory pet medication to relax bronchial muscles) to open up airways, an antihistamine (allergy relief for dogs) to reduce the allergic reaction, and a steroid to reduce inflammation of the airways.

Bronchodilators could include aminophylline, terbutaline or theophylline. Steroids could include, among others, prednisone, prednisolone or dexamethasone. Both bronchodilator and steroid medications will require a prescription from your local veterinarian.

Antihistamines that are commonly recommended include diphenhydramine and loratadine. Temaril-P is another drug that is often prescribed by veterinarians that contains both an antihistamine and a steroid.

Treating Mild Attacks and Ongoing Asthma Treatments

In mild cases, the mainstay medications are the same. Prescription pet medication can be given to your dog orally or through a nebulizer. A nebulizer is a medical device that converts liquid medication—like bronchodilators, antihistamines, steroids, or whatever is prescribed by the doctor—into mist that is then inhaled.

Some dogs can be trained to tolerate nebulization, which is an excellent way to deliver medication to the lungs immediately. Nebulizers have the added benefit of humidifying the air that your dog breathes, which can loosen respiratory secretions.

In addition to providing immediate benefit, nebulizers can help to reduce unwanted side effects of medications because they are inhaled and not ingested. Some of these unwanted side effects can include weight gain, increased appetite, excessive drinking and urination, increased susceptibility to infections, and muscle loss.

Nebulizing treatments can be done at a veterinary hospital, or you can purchase your own nebulizer for at-home treatments.

Talk with your veterinarian to learn if your dog is a good candidate for this option and for tips on training your dog to feel comfortable with a nebulizer.

What Can You Do at Home to Help Dogs With Asthma?

In addition to medication, avoidance of the offending allergens is necessary to prevent asthma attacks in dogs. You can ask your vet about having your dog tested for allergies, which is a noninvasive procedure, to determine what your dog is allergic to.  Additional preventive measures you can take include:

No smoking or vaping near the dogUtilize a HEPA air filter in your furnace, or utilize a room air purifierWipe your dog off with baby wipes after going outside to remove allergensDon’t use your fireplace or burn wood near your dogUse dust-free cat litter if you have catsRemove carpets from the home and replace with hard flooringWash pet bedding regularlyUse dust- and mite-proof mattress covers and pillow casesDon’t burn incense or candles

By: Dr. Sarah Wooten

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Sarah Wooten, DVM


Dr. Sarah Wooten graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. A member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists,…

10 Myths About Heartworms

Reviewed for accuracy on June 24, 2019, by Dr. Katie Grzyb, DVM

It takes just one bite from a mosquito that’s infected with heartworm larvae to jeopardize your pet’s health and welfare. And if your pet becomes infected, heartworm disease is often debilitating and can be fatal if it’s not treated.

The stakes are simply too high to believe myths like, “Only dogs are susceptible to heartworms” or “Heartworm disease is just a summer issue.”

To help you sort out fact from fiction, we’ve debunked 10 of the most common heartworm myths.

Myth 1: Only Dogs Can Get Heartworm Disease

Dogs may be the companion animal most at risk for heartworms, but cats and ferrets are vulnerable, too. That’s why the AHS recommends year-round prevention for all three species, says Dr. Chris Rehm, president of the American Heartworm Society (AHS).

“Cats are more resistant than dogs as a heartworm host,” but they are still at risk of becoming infected, says Dr. Laura Hatton, a veterinarian with BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Overland Park, Kansas.

Like dogs, cats can develop adult heartworms, but it’s more common for heartworms in cats to die before they reach full maturity, she adds. There are no known safe drug therapy treatment options for dealing with heartworms in cats, so prevention is the best way to keep them healthy.

Myth 2: Indoor Pets Are Not at Risk for Heartworms

Don’t assume that your pet is protected just because she’s a homebody that doesn’t venture outdoors much. Disease-carrying mosquitos can easily get inside the home and transmit heartworm disease.

About one-quarter of cats diagnosed with heartworms are considered indoor cats, says Dr. Hatton.

“Even if your pampered pooch only goes outside for bathroom breaks or brief walks, remember—it takes just one bite from an infected mosquito to infect a pet,” says Dr. Rehm.

Myth 3: Heartworm Disease Is Just a Summertime Issue

We all know mosquitos thrive in warmer weather, but “mosquito season” can fluctuate from one region to another, and even from one year to the next, says Dr. Hatton.

“Generally, mosquito activity will begin when the temperature reaches the 50 degrees Fahrenheit level and typically tapers off as the temperatures cool,” Dr. Hatton says.

However, “It’s not unheard of for mosquitos to be active in 40-degree temperatures,” says Dr. Susan Jeffrey, a veterinarian with Truesdell Animal Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin.

The first frost is usually a reliable indicator that mosquito season is over, but some hibernating mosquitos can emerge in the winter during unexpected warm spells, adds Dr. Hatton.

If you live in warmer climates, you’re prepared to see mosquitos even in winter months, but even in colder climates, it’s impossible to predict when the last mosquito will appear, says Dr. Rehm.

“Mosquitos also seek out warm, protected places like crawl spaces and decks where they can survive until well after the last leaves have fallen. For these reasons, the AHS recommends year-round prevention for all pets,” says Dr. Rehm.

Myth 4: Heartworm Disease Doesn’t Occur in Dry Climates

Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 states, Dr. Hatton says. “Mosquitos are highly adaptable and will find other places to breed, even during a drought. While some mosquitos breed and hatch during rainfall, others prefer tires, birdbaths or tin cans to reproduce.”

Other areas with standing water, including ponds, lakes and swimming pools, can provide optimal breeding conditions for mosquitos, says Dr. Jeffrey.

Thinking that your companion animal is protected because you live in the desert is false security. In fact, “The lower likelihood that pets are protected from heartworms in desert regions makes the presence of just one heartworm-positive dog or coyote in a neighborhood a serious concern,” Dr. Rehm says.

Myth 5: Heartworm Disease Is Rarely Fatal

Heartworm disease is a devastating and potentially fatal disease, impacting the heart, lungs and pulmonary blood vessels, Dr. Hatton says. “Heartworms lead to an inflammatory reaction that can cause permanent damage to the blood vessels in the lungs. Apart from the risk of fatality, heartworms can compromise an animal’s quality of life and cause debilitating clinical signs and symptoms, which may improve but not necessarily resolve, even with treatment.”

In dogs, symptoms usually start with a cough, which can worsen as the disease progresses. “Fatigue, difficulty breathing and weight loss are common later in the disease,” Dr. Hatton says. “Left untreated, dogs can go into heart failure and ultimately die.”

Cats with heartworm disease typically develop lung disease, which can mimic asthma and cause respiratory distress, chronic coughing and vomiting, she says. “The death of one adult heartworm in a cat can cause that cat to die abruptly.”

How Long Can a Dog Live With Heartworms?

“[Heartworm] life expectancy depends on the size of the dog, the relative health of the dog, if the dog has a reaction to the worms, and how many worms the dog has,” says Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM at West Ridge Animal Hospital in Greeley, Colorado.

However, left untreated, heartworm disease is usually fatal, Dr. Jeffrey says. “Some dogs can carry a very low worm burden and be okay, but the majority of dogs who go untreated will not survive.”

Myth 6: You Can Skip the Annual Heartworm Test If Your Pet Is on Preventatives

In addition to a year-round heartworm-prevention regimen, the AHS recommends annual testing to ensure that the prevention program is working, says Dr. Rehm. Experts say that although heartworm preventives are highly effective, nothing works 100 percent of the time.

Even dogs on strict preventive regimens can become infected. “I’ve had two cases of dogs with heartworm who were on monthly preventatives and didn’t miss doses,” says Dr. Jeffrey.

“The best of pet owners can be forgetful, and missing just one dose of a monthly medication—or giving it late—can leave a dog unprotected. And even if you do everything right and on time, it’s no guarantee,” says Dr. Rehm.

“Some dogs spit out their heartworm pills when their owners aren’t looking. Others may vomit their pills or rub off a topical medication. Fortunately, heartworm tests are safe and can be conducted during your pet’s annual checkup,” advises Dr. Rehm.

Myth 7: It’s Okay to Miss a Month of Heartworm Preventatives

Heartworm disease is a year-round threat. “Heartworm preventives work retroactively, so a dog or cat that is infected one month must receive heartworm preventives in subsequent months in order to be protected,” Dr. Hatton says.

Changing weather patterns coupled with mosquito hardiness make it difficult to predict the timing of infection. “Rather than guessing when it’s safe to stop prevention, it’s best to keep your pet on year-round prevention,” Dr. Hatton says.

Plus, skipping a month can lead to infection down the road, says Dr. Jeffrey. “If a month is missed, a dog should be tested for heartworm six months later.”

Myth 8: Natural Remedies Work as Well as FDA-Approved Preventatives

“At this time, nosodes [a type of homeopathic preparation] and herbal preventives are not recommended as alternatives to FDA-approved preventives, because these remedies do not have proof of effectiveness,” says Dr. Rehm.

“No repellent or avoidance strategy can take the place of heartworm preventives,” Dr. Rehm says. Experts stress that repellents and avoidance should be used in addition to preventives, not instead of them.

Natural repellents such as neem oil (which should be used with caution in cats) and insecticides made with all-natural ingredients can help reduce the number of mosquito bites a pet receives, Dr. Rehm adds.

According to Dr. Bianca Zaffarano of Iowa State University, “Drug-free strategies, such as avoiding mosquito exposure and eliminating standing water that serves as mosquito breeding grounds, can help reduce heartworm transmission.”

Myth 9: Heartworms Are Contagious

Heartworm disease doesn’t spread like a cold or flu. In other words, your pet can’t catch it directly from another animal.

“Heartworm is spread through a mosquito [that bites and] acquires the heartworm larvae from other infected dogs, coyotes, wolves or foxes,” Dr. Hatton says. “The infected mosquito then bites a dog or cat and transmits the immature worms to them. If not on heartworm preventive, the larvae mature and multiply, causing damage to the heart and lungs.”

Can Humans Get Heartworms?

Finding heartworms in humans is considered to be extremely rare. “Humans are considered [to be] dead-end hosts. It’s extremely rare for humans to get heartworm disease, but they can be exposed to heartworm disease through the bite of mosquito and end up with lung pathology and granulomas in various organs,” Dr. Hatton says. 

Myth 10: Heartworm Prevention Is Costly and Inconvenient

It’s less expensive to prevent canine heartworm disease than it is to treat it, Dr. Hatton says.

“Not only is monthly prevention more cost-effective, but it will provide you and your pet with a better quality of life,” says Dr. Hatton.

Prevention is one of the best investments you can make in your pet’s health, Dr. Rehm adds. “It can cost less than the price of a pizza a month, depending on the product you use.” In contrast, treating a dog with heartworm can cost more than 10 times the annual cost of heartworm prevention.

Prevention is also convenient. A number of options are available to accommodate different lifestyles.

“Does your dog love treats? If so, it may make sense to give him a monthly chewable medication. Does your cat hate pills? There are several spot-on options that provide comprehensive parasite protection. Are you a forgetful dog owner? A twice-annual injection may be your preference,” Dr. Rehm suggests.

“Because no two pets—or pet owners—are alike, it’s good to know that you have options. The important thing is to find a product that’s convenient for you and your four-legged friend,” says Dr. Rehm.

Be sure to talk with your veterinarian about how to best reduce the chances of your dog or cat (or yes, even ferret!) becoming infected with heartworms.

By: Paula Fitzsimmons

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Can You Use Cat Flea and Tick Products on Dogs?

We all know the importance of protecting your canine and feline family members from fleas and ticks. But it’s equally important to use the correct flea and tick prevention product on your cat and dog.

Flea and tick prevention products are specially formulated for either a feline or canine pet and should never be used interchangeably.

Four Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Cat Flea and Tick Products on Dogs

Pet Size Difference

Cats weigh less than most dogs, and size really does matter when it comes to appropriate flea and tick products. The amount of medication used to protect cats may not be enough to protect a typical dog. Most products are also dosed according to weight, not just species, so be sure to read labels carefully to select the product that it based on your pet’s current weight.

You should have your cat weighed annually to ensure you are using the right dosage of flea and tick medication each month.

Difference in Medication Strength

The strength, or dose of medication used in cat flea and tick products is very different from what is used for dogs. Some brands of flea and tick products have options for both cats and dogs, however, the different versions are not interchangeable. For example, Frontline Gold for cats should not be used on dogs, and vice versa.

Different Ingredients in Medication

The ingredients in cat flea and tick products can vary significantly from those used in products designed for dogs. While these ingredients are very safe and effective for cats, they are unlikely to provide adequate protection against fleas and ticks if used on dogs. Some ingredients that are safe and effective for dogs are toxic to cats, including pyrethrins and permethrins.

Lifestyle of Dogs

Most dogs spend significantly more time outdoors than cats and may travel to areas that are more heavily infested with fleas and ticks than a cat’s home environment. Some dogs may swim or play in water and would need a waterproof topical flea and tick product.

Flea and tick products may not be formulated to have a higher level of medicine in a waterproof product for dogs. Flea and tick products for cats have typically less volume, different strengths, and contain different types of medication making them unsuitable for protecting dogs against fleas and ticks.

This potential higher level of exposure is just one more reason why the smaller volume, different strength, and different types of medication in cat products make them inappropriate for protecting dogs against fleas and ticks.

Flea and Tick Medication Products for Dogs

There are many brands and types of flea and tick products designed for dogs, including topical (applied to the skin), oral, and collar options. Work with your veterinarian to select the best product for your dog based on its lifestyle and health needs.

Some of the most common flea and tick medications for dogs include:






It’s equally important to never use dog flea and tick dog products on your cat. This is extremely dangerous because dog products may be much stronger and may contain ingredients that are toxic to cats. If you have questions about which product to choose for your cat or dog, ask your veterinarian for guidance.

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Jennifer Grota, DVM


Dr. Grota decided at an early age that she wanted to be a veterinarian. A native of Indiana, she grew up in a home where animals were…

What Does Heartworm Disease Do to Dogs?

Reviewed and updated for accuracy on June 24, 2019 by Dr. Hanie Elfenbein, DVM, PhD

A few years ago, it was possible to say that your dog wasn’t at risk for heartworm disease because of where you live; however, today, that is a dangerous way to think.

According to the American Heartworm Society, cases of heartworm disease in dogs have been reported in every US state, including Hawaii and Alaska.

Heartworms may infect your dog for years or months before you even notice any symptoms, by which time your dog may be too sick to receive life-saving treatment. The best treatment is prevention that is given every month of the year—even if it’s snowing.

The key to understanding canine heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) and the detrimental impact they can have on your dog’s health is understanding how your dog gets heartworms, what happens to their body once infected, and how rigorous treatment is.

Then you can see why it’s crucial to prevent heartworm infections rather than let your dog become infected and have her suffer the consequences.

How Dogs Get Heartworms

Heartworm disease begins with an infected animal, known as the source, that has microfilariae (immature larval heartworms) circulating in their blood. When a mosquito bites the animal, they will inadvertently also suck up a number of microfilariae.

The microfilariae migrate to the mosquito’s salivary glands, which enables them to burrow into your pet through a mosquito’s small bite wound.

After entering a host, the larva goes through its first molt over the course of 1-12 days. Most heartworm prevention is targeted at this early stage.

The second molt occurs within the next 45-65 days. After the second molt, the juvenile adult heartworm works its way through the host’s tissues and all the way to the heart as early as 70 days after first entering the host.

The majority of juvenile adult heartworms arrive in the heart by 90 days, where they grow rapidly in length and size. Males can grow to be 6-7 inches long, while females can grow to be 10-12 inches long.

The heartworms actually continue to grow after reaching sexual maturity (about three months after entering the heart), and the mated females start to pass microfilariae into the blood.

Once the microfilariae start circulating through a dog’s blood, they have become a host and are able to pass the disease back to mosquitos.

The heartworms will continue to live in the heart until they die—typically 5-7 years.

The Damaging Effects of Heartworms in Dogs

When a dog is first infected with heartworms, there are no visible or detectable signs. In fact, even a blood test will not detect heartworms initially.

The changes in dogs begin during the final molt of the heartworm larvae; it is then that the immature larvae arrive in the right ventricle and neighboring blood vessels.

When you do start seeing signs of heartworms in dogs, it’s due to two factors:

The damage the worms cause to the arteries in the lungs (pulmonary arteries)

The obstruction of blood flow that results from inflammation and the number of heartworms present

Another complication some animals develop is similar to an allergy to the heartworms, or to the microfilariae, which can cause varying signs that are similar to allergies or asthma.

Arterial Damage

Within days, your pet’s artery lining will start to sustain damage. The body responds by inducing inflammation of the artery, called arteritis, and other inflammation in the area to try to heal the damage.

Unfortunately, the heartworms cause damage at a faster rate than the body can heal.

Over time, the arteries develop certain characteristics that are typical of heartworm disease; often those changes can be seen on X-rays. The vessels become tortuous and dilated. Blood clots and aneurysms are common side effects, and complete blockage of small blood vessels can occur.

Blood Flow Blockages and Fluid Accumulation

The mass of heartworms in your dog’s body can cause significant blockage to the normal flow of blood. Depending on the size of your dog’s blood vessels, even one worm can cause significant damage.

The blood will reroute to arteries that are not burdened by worms, which results in complete and partial blockages of blood vessels. This causes fluid to accumulate around these blood vessels in the lungs and reduces the effectiveness of the lung’s ability to oxygenate the blood.

Think of a garden hose. If pieces of debris block the hose, pressure builds up as the flow of water is obstructed. This is what happens to the heart and blood vessels when more and more heartworms congregate within the right ventricle.

Due to the inflammation, blood vessel obstruction and fluid accumulation, you will start to see the “heartworm cough.” Your pet may also display exercise intolerance, nosebleeds, shortness of breath and weight loss.

The smaller your pet is, the fewer worms it takes to cause these problems.

Heart Failure

As immature worms continue to arrive and mature in the heart and lungs, your dog’s reactions will become more significant, and the signs will worsen.

The blood vessels and surrounding lung tissue are damaged, which, in turn, increases the blood pressure (hypertension) in the right side of the heart and vena cava—eventually causing heart failure.

The severity depends on the number of heartworms present and the dog’s reaction to the worms.

Caval Syndrome

Caval syndrome is a serious complication of chronic heartworm disease and is one of the most severe signs of an infection.

Symptoms of caval syndrome include:

Acute anorexia

Respiratory distress




Hepatic and renal dysfunction

Signs of forward and backward heart failure

With caval syndrome, there is almost complete blockage of all blood flow, resulting in sudden collapse. This severity of heartworm disease is deadly, even with emergency care.

Positive Heartworm Diagnosis

Usually once a diagnosis is made through a blood test, the veterinarian will order X-rays, a complete blood count (CBC), a chemistry profile (evaluates the function of the body’s organs) and a urinalysis to determine the impact of the heartworm infection on your dog’s health.

Heartworm-positive dogs displaying signs of heart disease may have a complete cardiac evaluation done, or evaluation of any other area of the body that is indicated by the initial test results.

After evaluating your dog, the veterinarian will assess the severity of the infection to determine which one of the four heartworm classes your dog falls into. By determining the class of heartworm disease, your vet can choose the best method of treatment.

Class I: Lowest Risk

These dogs are young and healthy with minimal heartworm disease that’s evident on X-rays, but all other tests are normal.

Class II: Moderately Affected

In Class II, dogs have some coughing and difficulty breathing. Changes are seen on X-rays, and blood work may reveal some kidney and/or liver damage.

Class III: Severely Affected

Dogs cough, have difficulty breathing and experience significant weight loss. There is visible damage on X-rays, and blood tests show kidney and/or liver damage.

Class IV: Caval Syndrome

The dog is collapsing in shock. All of the above abnormalities are more intense, and the dog is dying. Once a dog reaches Class IV, they are treated with surgical removal of some worms, if possible. But there is no guarantee that this treatment will be successful. Many patients with caval syndrome die during or in spite of treatment.

The Effects of Heartworm Treatment

Without treatment, a heartworm-positive dog will rapidly progress through the stages of heartworm disease until they reach caval syndrome. A dog with heartworms will not live a long or healthy life—treatment is required for their survival.

The adult worms are treated first, then a different method is used to kill the microfilariae and migrating larvae. They have to be eliminated separately, as no medication kills both.

The treatment of heartworms in dogs is a long, multi-step process. It takes over six months to complete a heartworm treatment and then test a dog to confirm that it has worked. During this time, this is what your pup will have to go through:

Exercise Restriction

The first part of treatment is mandatory exercise restriction. This is done to keep your dog’s heart rate and blood pressure down in order to reduce their risk of dying or having dead worms cause an allergic reaction.

This restriction will continue throughout your dog’s treatment until success can be proven. It is essential that you adhere to it because it can prevent very serious and fatal cardiopulmonary complications.

Antibiotics and Steroids

After a confirmed heartworm-positive diagnosis, your veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic and a steroid.

The antibiotic helps to kill a bacteria found inside heartworms. This weakens the worms and makes them more susceptible to the treatment medications. The steroid helps to reduce the risk of allergic reaction from dying worms.

Your veterinarian will also start your dog on monthly heartworm prevention to help prevent new infections.

Adulticide Injections

The prescription medicine used to kill adult heartworms is called “adulticide.” The only adulticidal drug approved to treat heartworms is melarsomine dihydrochloride.

Melarsomine dihydrochloride is an arsenic derivative that is administered by a careful intramuscular injection. A heartworm-positive dog will typically have to get three of these painful injections.

They will receive their first injection 30 days after they finish their round of antibiotics and steroids. After another 30 days, your dog will receive their second injection, followed by the third the very next day.

Melarsomine dihydrochloride has the potential for significant side effects due to the destruction of the adult worms and the resulting blood vessel blockage and inflammation.

Close veterinary monitoring is paramount. Side effects can be immediate or take up to two weeks to appear.

As the inflammation peaks after adulticide treatment at 5-10 days, anti-inflammatory medications are sometimes used.

However, some anti-inflammatory medications can reduce the effectiveness of the adulticide, so a veterinarian will recommend when it is best to use them, if at all.

Approximately four months after the adulticide therapy, your dog will be retested for the presence of heartworms. This will determine if a second treatment will be needed.

Heartworm Prevention

Heartworm prevention should be given year-round, even if you don’t think mosquitos are active.

It is much simpler to prevent heartworm disease from occurring than to treat it afterward and have your dog go through the pain of the disease itself and also its treatment.

As long as you give it to your dog every month (or as prescribed), heartworm prevention is very effective in preventing heartworm infection and disease.

Your veterinarian can determine which type of prescription heartworm prevention to use for your dog. Ideally, dogs start on monthly heartworm preventatives at 8 weeks old.

All dogs should also have a heartworm blood test at around 7 months of age and then be retested on an annual basis (or according to your veterinarian’s recommendations).

Any missed preventative doses should be communicated to your veterinarian, and retesting should be scheduled accordingly.

Heartworm disease is a serious health issue with deadly consequences, but prevention is easy.

By: T.J. Dunn, Jr., DVM

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Why Heartworm Prevention Is More Important Than You Think

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By Jennifer Kvamme, DVM

Keeping your dog free of heartworms is an important job. You should have your dog tested annually for the disease and keep her on prescription heartworm medication for dogs.

Have you ever wondered why your dog needs to be tested if they’ve been taking heartworm preventatives? Is it really that bad if you give it a few days late? Just how do these preventive medications thwart heartworm disease in your dog? Here are some facts.

Heartworm Preventatives Don’t Actually Stop the Initial Infection

You may be surprised to learn that heartworm preventatives do not stop the actual infection from occurring. That’s right—the prevention part actually refers to clearing up larval infections that have already happened so that the heartworms cannot grow into adults.

If an infected mosquito happens to bite your dog, your pup may still be infected with the larvae. But heartworm medications work to kill off the larval heartworms that made it into your dog’s body during the past month to prevent further infection.

The heartworms in the dog will die at certain stages of development, before they can become adult heartworms and cause disease. However, heartworm preventatives will not kill adult heartworms that are already present.

Breaking the Heartworm Life Cycle

The heartworm life cycle is complex. The dog is infected by early stage larvae that are transmitted by a mosquito carrying infected blood. This larvae goes through multiple stages of development within body tissue before migrating to the heart and lungs as an adult heartworm.

These adults produce microfilariae, the earliest life stage that circulates within the dog’s blood. Prevention kills only early stage larvae and microfilariae. This is why it is important to give your dog heartworm prevention every month. It kills the larvae before they develop into a stage that is immune to the medication in heartworm prevention.

Most heartworm medications require monthly administration, while others work longer (up to six months with an injectible product called moxidectin or Proheart®). There are many choices of heartworm prevention available, from topical products to chewable oral medications; many come in both dog and cat versions.

Monthly heartworm preventative medications do not stay in your dog’s bloodstream for 30 days. The active ingredients work to kill any larvae that have been in the system for the past 30 days, clearing the body each month. The medication is only needed once a month because it takes longer than a month for the larvae to develop to a stage where they reach the body tissues.

Why You Need a Prescription for Heartworm Medication

So, why do you need a prescription from your veterinarian to be able to purchase heartworm preventatives online? And why won’t your veterinarian give you the heartworm medications without first testing your dog for heartworm infection?

The reason for this is that your veterinarian wants to make sure your dog doesn’t have an active infection of heartworms before giving a heartworm medication. Dogs with heartworms can have a severe, possibly life-threatening reaction to the dying, circulating microfilariae (adult heartworm offspring) if given these heartworm medications. These microfilariae are only present in pets with adult heartworm infections.

Additionally, there are several other reasons your veterinarian requires a yearly test for heartworms before giving you a prescription for the heartworm medication. You may have missed a dose, or your dog may have spit the heartworm medication out or vomited it up, leaving your dog unprotected for a period that you were unaware of. If for any reason the dog became infected with heartworms, treatment to rid the body of the infection must be started as early as possible to prevent permanent heart and lung damage.

If you don’t test for the disease and your dog is infected, the heartworm disease will gradually progress and cause serious, life-threatening illness. This can happen even if you continue to give heartworm medication because those medications kill only early stage larvae. More mature larvae will continue to develop into adults, and adults will continue to produce microfilariae. It’s better to know as soon as possible so treatment can be started before the damage is too severe. Heartworm tests can be run in the veterinarian’s office and require only a small blood sample from your dog.

Heartworm Preventatives Should Be Given Year-Round

Veterinarians strongly recommend that dogs be given heartworm prevention all year round. In some parts of the country, where mosquitoes are less active in the winter months, you may be in the habit of only treating your dogs for heartworms half the year.

Due to unpredictable seasonal temperature changes, the American Heartworm Society recommends year-round prevention for animals in every state. Also, with dogs traveling with their owners more, the prevalence of heartworm across the United States is increasing. This is a good practice to help you stay in the habit of always protecting your dog from heartworms, no matter what the season.

Some heartworm preventatives contain medications that also remove other parasites, such as fleas, mites, ticks, roundworms, hookworms and whipworms. Depending on which heartworm medication you choose for your dog and cat, they may also be protected year-round from these parasites. Ask your veterinarian for help in choosing the best possible heartworm preventative medication for your pet.

In regions where heartworm infections are common, repelling mosquitos adds a second layer of protection that can be very valuable. Permethrin-based products such as Seresto 8 month flea and tick prevention collars and Vectra® repel mosquitos as well as fleas and ticks.

Heartworm prevention is an important part of your pet’s health care. Don’t risk their health by skipping doses.

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Jennifer Kvamme, DVM


Can I Reapply Flea Treatment Early?

Are you still seeing fleas after using a topical flea prevention treatment? What should you do now? This is a question asked by frustrated people with itchy pets every day.

You might be applying the medication incorrectly—and, if you did, wondering whether you should reapply. Or maybe the flea treatment simply stopped working for your pet (yes, that can happen).

Here’s why you might still be seeing fleas on your dog or cat, and what you should do about it.

Is It Safe to Reapply a Flea Treatment Early?

If you’re finding fleas on your pet even after their topical flea treatment, you might be tempted to reapply it early. But this solution is not always recommended—and it can even lead to an overdose in some rare cases.

Because there are so many different flea and tick medications available on the market, it’s difficult to speak to all of them in broad strokes. But to be safe, you should always follow the instructions on your specific topical flea medication package.

Flea preventions typically use one or two active ingredients. Each brand uses different active ingredients that work in different ways to prevent fleas.

If you have already reapplied your pet’s topical flea treatment early, stay alert for signs of an overdose. For most flea preventatives, overdose symptoms include:

Profuse drooling







Difficulty breathing 

Call your vet immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.

Why Isn’t My Flea Treatment Working?

You’ve been diligently applying topical flea prevention to your pets, but you are still seeing them scratch—and you might even be seeing flea eggs or dirt. Here are four common reasons why this might be happening.

1. You’re Applying the Flea Treatment Incorrectly

Incorrectly applying topical flea prevention is the most common cause for why it’s not working.

Topical medication should be applied directly to the skin, not to your pet’s fur. You must part their hair so you can apply it to the skin. Read the instructions on the package—while most topical medications tell you to apply it all in one spot at the base of your pet’s neck, a few will have you apply it to several spots along your pet’s back where they can’t reach.

Be sure to completely empty the tube, as the liquid is measured for your pet’s weight and the entire dose is required to be effective.

2. Your Flea Medication Has Become Ineffective

Always talk to your veterinarian to find the best and most effective flea treatment for your pet.

Your vet will know which products work well in your region, as some that may have been effective at one time may no longer be killing fleas the way they used to. They may also have personal favorites or recommendations based on your pet’s particular needs.

3. Your Home Hasn’t Been Treated for Fleas

Most flea preventions do not repel fleas. Rather, flea preventions kill fleas by direct contact with the parasites or from the fleas feeding on your pet. New fleas from the environment can—and will—jump onto your pet to feed. So, along with using topical treatments, you need to treat your home to provide the best defense against fleas.

And it’s not just adult fleas you need to watch out for. In fact, they only make up less than 5% of the flea population. You should be treating your home the other 95%—flea eggs, larvae, and pupae. Flea eggs and larvae can live in the environment for days or even weeks.

To keep fleas out of your home:

Regularly vacuum everywhere your pet spends time

Wash all their begging in hot water

Treat every pet in the household for fleas (even indoor-only cats!)

Treat the home (either with a professional exterminator or a pet-safe flogger)

4. Not All of Your Pets Are on Flea Treatment

Don’t forget to treat all dogs and cats in your house, not just the itchy ones. If one pet in the house has fleas, they all have fleas. It’s best to keep all pets on flea medication to prevent reinfestation.

And remember: Just because you don’t see a flea doesn’t mean your pets don’t have them or don’t need to be on flea treatment.

How to Apply Topical Flea Treatment

Flea prevention is expensive, and you don’t want to waste a dose! But applying topical flea medication correctly can be a little tricky.

Here are a few major brands and how to apply them.

Note: While all these products are made for dogs and cats, they are species-specific. Always make sure you are using the dog product on a dog and the cat product on a cat. It’s also very important to use the appropriate weight range for your pet. 


Bravecto® is a prescription flea/tick medication for dogs and cats. It can provide 12 weeks of protection against fleas and ticks, and eight weeks of protection against Lone Star ticks.

Hold the tube upright and turn the cap one full turn.

Make sure the seal is broken but DO NOT remove the cap.

For cats: Part the hair at the base of the neck and apply the entire tube to the skin. You can apply to a second spot directly behind the first if there is overflow.

For dogs: Part the hair at the base of the neck and apply to the skin; do this in one or more spots depending on the size of your dog. For larger dogs, choose two or three spots along the spine to continue the application.

Revolution®/Revolution Plus®

Revolution® is a once-a-month prescription product for dogs and cats. Revolution Plus® is only for cats. These products prevent heartworm disease and kill fleas as well as some intestinal parasites, and Revolution Plus® also kills ticks. 

Hold the tube upright and press the cap firmly until you hear a click.

Remove the cap and make sure that seal has been broken.

Part the hair at the base of the neck and apply the entire tube to the skin.

Keep the tube squeezed so the liquid isn’t sucked back into the tube.

Make sure the tube is empty.

Advantage Multi®

Advantage Multi® is a once-a-month prescription product for dogs and cats. It prevents fleas, heartworms, and many intestinal parasites, but doesn’t have any tick prevention.

Hold the tube upright and remove the cap.

Flip the cap upside down and push the tip into the top of the tube.

Twist the cap to break the seal, and then remove the cap.

For cats and dogs under 20 pounds: Part the hair at the base of the neck and apply the entire tube to the skin. 

For dogs over 20 pounds: Part the hair at the base of the neck and apply to the skin; do this in one to three more spots from the neck to the upper back depending on the size of your dog.

Keep the tube squeezed so the liquid isn’t sucked back into the tube.

Make sure the tube is empty.

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Liz Bales, VMD


Dr. Liz Bales is a graduate of Middlebury College and The University of Pennsylvania School Of Veterinary Medicine. She focuses on unique…