Heartworm & Parasite Prevention -- Low-Cost Options - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-06-2018, 01:32 PM Thread Starter
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Heartworm & Parasite Prevention -- Low-Cost Options

A thread about a loved pet dying of advanced HW disease because the owner didn't keep it on prevention got me thinking that we need a thread collecting LOW COST options for people struggling to provide basic care.

First, it's important to keep in mind what basic care is part of being a dog owner. Dogs need an annual check-up. Even if no vaccines are needed, having a vet's eyes on them is the best way to catch small problems when they are easily treated, and avoid big ones.

Annual heartworm testing is part of basic dog care. It's not optional. If you live in an area with heartworms, please don't skip this! Check out this 2016 map:


Please know that the incidence of HW is increasing and expanding to more territory in the U.S. If you grew up hearing "we don't have heartworms," check the latest map -- you might have them now. It's also a myth that inside dogs don't get heartworms -- if mosquitoes ever find their way into your home, find your dog when it goes out to potty, one bite is enough to transmit them.

Heartworms kill dogs, if left untreated. If you neglect heartworm testing and prevention in an area that has them, that decision could be deadly for your dog. They're very hard to treat. The treatment costs $1000 or more, and it's very painful. It requires about 3 months of strict crate rest -- they can't even go for a walk. Some dogs don't survive it. All dogs will die if not treated though -- and it's an awful death. They experience very painful, slow organ failure, and they can drown in their own fluids. No dog should have to die that way.

You can prevent all this for as little as $5/month! It's better than hiding your head in the sand and hoping mosquitoes don't find your dog.

For anyone out there reading this who feels like you cannot afford prevention, here are some low-cost prevention options to help you do right by your dog:

1. Feedstore, Tractor Supply, and Petco Clinics: You can get an annual HW test at a feed store or Petco vaccination event for about $30. Tractor Supply Stores offer similar clinic events -- their HW tests are sometimes as low as $12 if you buy HW prevention at the same time! Some city/county shelters offer this service for even less (call and ask about community vet clinics at the shelter). These low-cost clinics nearly always offer generic heartworm prevention products for sale. They are staffed by a licensed vet.

2. Fill your heartworm prevention prescription at Walmart, Sam's, Costco, or at an accredited online pet pharmacy -- and ask your vet for suggestions to save money: You can ask the vet who does the HW test to give you a written prescription for one year worth TriHeart Plus and fill it at WM/Sam's pharmacy, or online at valleyvet.com for about $60 for 12 months or $30 for 6 months (just $5/month). A generic version of Heartguard like this is the cheapest prescription option.

Swallow your pride and tell the vet you want to do right by your dog but that you're struggling to afford it, and explain why you need to fill it somewhere inexpensive--they'll understand! Sometimes they might even be able to pull out some samples or a short-dated doses given to them by their pharmacy rep, or coupons for free doses or rebates that will bring the cost down. I've even known a vet who will price match the lowest online price in order to get clients to buy it from him, so that he can remind them when its time to refill and help them keep up with prevention. He just needs clients to be honest with him so he can try to help -- he wants to help keep the dogs on prevention.

3. Regularly price check your pet meds (including HW prevention) using GoodRX for Pets: You hopefully know about checking for the lowest cost of your human meds at GoodRX.com. They also offer a similar real-time price-check service for pet meds. Example:

4. Buy as much or as little as you can afford -- even a single dose each month: If you can't come up with the money to buy a year's worth of prevention for $60, then buy 6 months worth for $30, and refill it later. The pharmacy will keep your refill on file until you need it. If you can't come up with money to by 6 months' worth, ask the vet to sell you a single dose, a month at a time -- some vets will! It's actually pretty common for vets to do this in areas where lots of people are struggling to make ends meet. They often have several clients who come pick up single doses at the reception counter at the time of the month when Social Security or veteran disability payments come in -- it's just how these clients manage to make things work, and there's no shame in that.

5. If you use a farm vet for your livestock, ask them for help with your dog's heartworm prevention. You can ask any farm or country vet about diluting a very specific product used for your cattle down properly and safely for dogs to prevent HW. Note: you easily can kill a dog by overdosing it on cattle meds or using the wrong med, but vets know how to dilute the right one and dose the drops safely for dogs. Don't use Internet calculations that try to avoid the vet -- the ones I've found online, I had shelter vet review and she calculated that they were dosing at 1000x or more above what is safe for prevention (some of them were at a level that can blind or neurologically damage a dog--VERY dangerous). It's critical to have YOUR VET do the dosing calculation and dilution, but farm vets do this pretty routinely for clients, thereby creating HW prevention that costs pennies from a product that cattle owners might already have in the barn. They can possibly also show you how to safely use some livestock dewormers for your dogs, at the correct dose. The critical thing is have a VET help you--don't guess on dose and potentially kill your dog! Just ask!

6. Don't forget flea/tick prevention: Fleas transmit tapeworms, and ticks transmit several potentially deadly diseases. Your dog needs protection from them -- this is doubly true for outside dogs who live constantly exposed to biting insects. If Frontline still works in your area, there's a generic with the same active ingredient sold at Walmart called PetArmor (and there are often online printable coupons you can find for it--try googling "PetArmor coupons"). You can look for an ingredient called "Fipronil" in generic flea meds -- this is what's in Frontline, at a higher cost. (It came off patent a few years ago, so there are many generics now.) Otherwise look into a Seresto collar (it lasts up to 8 months, for about $40 online) or Scalibor collar (good for 6 months, for about $30 online) -- there are often great online sales on both of them, and they don't require a prescription. They're more effective and safer than the cheap mass-market flea collars, and they're quite economical because they last so long.

Others here may have creative suggestions to add, based on experience. Lots of us have had times in our lives (especially when young), when we struggled to come up with money for vet care. Hopefully we can help with some useful options that may save some canine lives by preventing a deadly disease.
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Last edited by Magwart; 07-06-2018 at 01:37 PM.
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-06-2018, 01:43 PM
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What a good post.

I don't mess around with this one and give Heartgard all year. Our property backs protected wetlands, the mosquitoes are awful. We are outdoors all year. In the dead of winter, in Ohio, when it's cold I have found darn mosquitoes on me. I also do the annual blood work as well, no exceptions. My vet usually has buy so many, get some extra tabs for free.

I remember someone saying just treat for heartworms, no big deal. That does not look like a fun treatment for the dog at all. Looks like it wipes them out. My childhood heart dog died of heartworms, it was the 80's. That was awful. Not sure if there was a preventive available at that time.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-06-2018, 08:51 PM
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Such a thoughtful thread. To take the time and type this out so articulately. And to help others to especially help their dogs in HW area's
I consider Magwart the HW guru as this is not the first time I have seen such a well thought out helpful post
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-07-2018, 04:17 AM
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Thank you for posting this, @Magwart! It's very generous of you.

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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-07-2018, 05:24 PM
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@Magwart thank you for this thoughtful article. We know it will be very useful for a lot a people.

Magwart, can I ask you some further questions regarding vaccinations?

So my boy will be 1 year on the 12th (of July). I got him on September 8th 2017 (7 1/2 weeks). I got his next vaccinations timetable:

Rabies 18 Oct 2018
DA2PP 18 Nov 2018
Bordatella 18 Oct 2018

We will have our 1st annual check up some time this month. Does that mean I have to get him vaccinated again before the ones on the timetable (since he's hitting the 1 year mark)?

And I live in LA. In your opinion, should I get him on the heartworm prevention? If yes, is it once a month DIY or per year?

Thanks Magwart. I'm a newbie when it comes to overall health and stuff.
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-07-2018, 07:34 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks, all. I really appreciate all the kind words! If the info is useful, please share it far and wide. I'm tired of good dogs dying needlessly because people don't know or can't afford to do what's needed. Nearly every dog I'm pulling out of shelters now is HW+...it's an epidemic where I live.

McGloomy, I used to live in Los Angeles County, and we had a case of HW in our neighborhood. HW became more prevalent in So Cal after all the Hurricane Katrina dogs showed up. My dogs were on HW prevention for all the years that I lived there, and when my neighbors' dog came up positive, I was so glad mine were protected. I had opted for the cheapest generic one at the time, but it was good enough.

Nearly all HW meds are given monthly. The American HW Society now recommends giving them year-round. They come in pill form (like the inexpensive generic alternatives to Heartguard), or topical (with convenient flea prevention added), like Advantage Multi or Revolution. All are prescription-only in the U.S.

If you have trouble keeping up with it, for adult, healthy dogs, there's now a 6-month injection called ProHeart6. It cannot be used in puppies, seniors, or sick dogs, but it's incredibly convenient for those who have trouble with monthly meds.

As for vaccines, I'll send you a PM McGloomy. I doubt you'll have anything due until this fall, but it's great that you'll see your vet and do your first HW test. HW testing begins at 1 year old because they cannot test accurately when they're younger (the worms themselves have to be about 7 mo. old before they produce enough antigen to turn the test positive, even though they're too old to kill with most prevention then).

Last edited by Magwart; 07-07-2018 at 07:49 PM.
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-07-2018, 09:17 PM
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This is why we need forums! So newbies and experts can learn from each other! I didn't even know what Bordatella and DA2PP are specifically for. Thanks a bunch again to @Magwart
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-07-2018, 09:50 PM
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Wow @Magwart, thank you for the info!

I wasn’t aware about the heart worm testing. I recently got the ProHeart6 injection for Katsu and they did a HW test. I’m positive she is fine, as she was using my Shiba’s HW meds until she broke the weight limit, but it’s good to know that the test only shows 7mo+ worms. They’re both on ProHeart now since I’m horrible with remembering things.

In MD, the animal control/ASPCA seems to do monthly vaccine clinics and there are low cost speuter options as well for people struggling to make ends meet. They post upcoming events to their Facebook page.

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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-07-2018, 11:57 PM
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Thanks for this! So glad we started Mei on monthly HW treatment a few months ago! Even though we fall into the 1-5 cases category.

She does not like it though. I have to conceal it in her food!

Mei - DOB 1/15/2018
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-05-2019, 07:28 PM Thread Starter
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I want to update this thread with a few new resources.

Some Petco stores now have Thrive Affordable Vet Care Clinics in the store. Exams are just $25. That is an excellent price for an annual exam. I think the HW test adds another $25, but that could vary by location. (For $9/month, you can also get unlimited vet visits (that covers the exam fee only--diagnostics, treatment, etc. is not included...so it's not a great deal unless you have a dog that just has to go to the vet a lot for minor stuff and can't afford good pet insurance at 5x the cost of this plan)). The one near me is full-service (offering x-rays, surgeries, etc.), but no overnight hospitalization.


Right now, the Thrive clinics are in CA, CO, FL, GA, LA, MO, NC, SC, and TX -- but they're growing.

Walmart is also now rolling out their in-store PetIQ vet clinics, with $10 check-ups and $20 HW tests -- prices are here:

WM vet clinic locations are currently in OK, AR, MO, NC, OR, and PA...but they keep adding too.

These new in-store, low-cost options are likely to bring annual HW prevention within reach of more dogs. If you know anyone struggling to afford basic care, please be sure they know about these options!
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Last edited by Magwart; 03-05-2019 at 07:38 PM.
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