Several medicines are available to treat parasite-borne diseases in pets. Among the most effective, according to Dr. Dawn Ruben in an article for Pet Place, is ivermectin -- the active ingredient in well-known products such as Heartgard and Iverhart.. Ivermectin injections are most often used by veterinarians to treat heart worm disease and mange. Some pet guardians choose to use an ivermectin injection as a heart worm preventive because it is generally less expensive than heart worm preventive pills. But this practice is generally discouraged because of several accompanying risk factors.
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First developed in the 1980s, Ivermectin is today sold in tablet, chewable, topical and injectable forms to treat heart worms,ear mites, skin parasites (such as the mites that cause sarcoptic and demodectic mange,) and intestinal parasites. Treating mange with Ivermectin means that dogs no longer have to endure the chemical dips that were used in the past. The FDA has approved ivermectin's use as a heart worm preventive and for ear mite infections. Other uses are off-label.
Ivermectin damages the parasite's neurological system, eventually causing the pest to become paralysed and die. Dosage varies. As a heart worm preventive, a dosage of .0015 to .003 mg per pound of body weight once a month is recommended.
Ivermectin is considered a relatively safe medication for treating most dogs. But there can be side effects -- especially if the dogs are given too large a dose or if the medication is given in combination with a sedative such as Valium, an amitraz dip or other amitraz treatment, or the flea preventive Comfortis. Depression, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhoea, lack of appetite, lack of coordination, seizures and excessive salivation may result.
Collies and other herding breeds may not react well to ivermectin and should be treated only under the supervision of a veterinarian. Caution should also be used when using this medicaiton on dogs that are positive for heart worm infection.
Breeders, kennels and others with large numbers of dogs sometimes buy ivermectin that is sold for use in cattle and horses and "dose it down" for use as a preventive or other treatment for dogs and cats. This practice can easily lead to incorrect dosages and is generally not recommended.
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