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What Is Ivermectin for Dogs?

Veterinarians recommend giving animals heartworm pills to prevent a heartworm infection, which can be expensive and difficult to treat.
Ivermectin is a medication that treats and prevents heartworm in dogs.
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  • Written By: Daphne Mallory
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2014
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Ivermectin for dogs is a medication that is primarily used for the prevention of heartworms. The drug is FDA approved for this purpose and also for the treatment of ear mites. It can be used for treating mange in dogs, although it has not received FDA approval for this purpose. It also works against most stomach parasites, with the exception of tapeworms. Veterinarians often prescribe ivermectin off-label for mange and closely monitor the pet during treatment. There are a few side effects to be aware of when using ivermectin for dogs. It is considered one of the most highly effective drugs for the prevention of heartworm and for the treatment of larval stage heartworms, but is not effective against adult heartworms. Ivermectin is one of the active ingredients in Heartgard Plus.

A monthly dose of ivermectin for dogs is all that is required for heartworm prevention. The drug often comes in a chewable meat-flavored form for ease of administration. It’s also available in a non-flavored pill form, but animals often have trouble with the bitter taste of ivermectin. It can be administered to puppies as young as six weeks of age and is also considered safe for pregnant or nursing dogs. Even if a dog becomes actively infected with heartworm, ivermectin will work to kill off the parasites as long as they’re still in the larval stage.

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In order to use for dogs with mange, a much higher dosage of the drug is required. It is considered safe to use in the small doses that the heartworm medication contains, but using ivermectin for mange conditions can lead to certain health risks. The drug should be administered for mange only under the strict supervision of a veterinarian.

Certain breeds are known to have adverse reactions to ivermectin for dogs, but only when it’s used for off-label purposes. These breeds include Australian shepherds, collies, and Shetland sheepdogs. About a third of all collies have a mutated gene that allows ivermectin to penetrate the central nervous system. This can lead to serious complications and in some cases death. The other dogs listed, especially the herding dogs, are also known to have extra sensitivity to the drug. Side effects of ivermectin toxicity include a wobbly gait and severe personality changes. If a dog owner notices these changes, he should stop administering it immediately and take the dog to the vet for emergency treatment. Ivermectin should not be used off-label in conjunction with spinosad, because this can also lead to an increased chance of toxicity.

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giddion
Post 4

@kylee07drg – Not specifically, but my vet told me that if I give my dogs the correct dosage, I can give them the kind intended for cattle. Of course, the dosage is much less than what it would be for a cow.

She gave me a syringe and told me how much to give according to body weight. It's a really small dosage.

The dogs hate the taste of it, but I squirt it in the back of their mouths quickly. It is so much cheaper than chewable ivermectin, and since I have five dogs to care for, I do have to think of the price!

kylee07drg
Post 3

I know that there is such a thing as liquid ivermectin for cattle and swine. Is there a liquid form of ivermectin for dogs, too?

feasting
Post 2

@JackWhack – My sister's vet had told her the same thing when her dog tested positive at a young age. However, she felt the same way as you, and she decided to just continue with the regular monthly ivermectin dosage instead.

Two years later, her dog tested negative for heartworms. Since he lived to be fifteen years old, I don't think that he had any issues because she chose ivermectin over the intensive treatment.

It's great that something as little and simple as a chewable pill administered once a month can prevent something so deadly.

JackWhack
Post 1

Only some vets will tell you this, but if your dog has a light positive on a heartworm test, you don't have to undergo the intensive treatment that mimics chemotherapy where they have to be caged for weeks and they get really sick. You can just administer ivermectin once a month, and eventually, it will kill off the heartworms.

It won't kill the adults, but it will keep them from reproducing. I've heard that it can take up to two years for them to fully disappear, but when you consider that the treatment for heartworms can easily be fatal, it's a good alternative.

My vet told me that if I didn't go through with the chemo-like treatment, my dog might suffer heart problems down the road. However, she said that if I did go through with it, then I would have to keep my dog from moving around for several weeks, because if she moved too much, she could dislodge the heartworms, suffer a clot, and die. I couldn't stand the thought of this happening to my puppy, nor could I keep a dog with so much life and energy bound up for so long.

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