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.
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.