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
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.