Thursday, July 11, 2013

Splitting Your Dog's Heartworm Prevention Could Cost You

If you live in a multi-dog household, the thought of doing this has possibly crossed your mind before. Why not just split one heartworm pill between two dogs and save a little money? Well, there's a pretty good reason why you shouldn't try to do this.

Let's say you have two small dogs - maybe Yorkshire Terriers or Chihuahuas. The box of heartworm prevention medication for your dogs clearly says that the medicine is good for dogs that are 0-25 pounds, or something similar to that effect. Well, why not just split the medicine between your two dogs? Both of their weight doesn't even add up to 25 pounds so it should be fine... right?

Photo via David Fulmer

Maybe, but chances are this is probably not safe if you're doing this sort of thing on a long term basis. Why? The reason why you should not split your dog's heartworm prevention pills is quite simple.

Most heartworm prevention pills are formulated into some sort of tasty soft chew or flavored tablet. They are also mixed with the medicine that prevents heartworms or other parasites. If you split the medicine in half, one half could have all of the medicine and the other half could have no medicine in it. While the pill has a full dose of the necessary drugs contained within it, the drugs are not evenly distributed throughout the entire pill.

I've had to advise a few clients in the past against doing this. Most never even thought about this before it was explained to them. Fortunately, splitting dog heartworm prevention seems to only be a popular idea for small dogs. I know at first thought it seems like it would be a great way to save money but it's just not worth it. Prevention is always cheaper than treatment!

If you want to save money, you can always try buying "generic" versions of more expensive heartworm medication brands.

If you're trying to decide on a good heartworm medication for your pet, check out our list of heartworm prevention medications and find one that's right for your pet's needs. "Generic" brands are included on this list!

49 comments:

  1. Thanks for another great post! I agree, prevention is cheaper than treatment. We learnt this with a dose of frontline what was to litte :o)

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  2. I can say that I never thought of this. Though expensive, heartworm preventative is a whole lot cheaper than the alternative! However, I'm sure there are folks who've given this a try. Good warning!

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    1. There aren't a ton of people who I know that have done this, but still.

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  3. Great advice. We never share meds of any sort. Have a tremendous Thursday.
    Best wishes Molly

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  4. Good advice. This had never occurred to us. I don't think it is a bad idea to split the chew for a small dog though (but give them both halves). I know a small doggie who choked to death on a heartworm chew. :)

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    1. No that's not such a bad idea :) I've never seen anything like that happen before - how sad :(

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  5. Being the only dog I get it all to myself :) Alfie has his own medicines xx00xx

    Mollie and Alfie

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  6. Great information, even though it never occurred to me to do that since our dogs are larger. If you want to save a little money, I have read that you can go as long as 6 weeks (but no more) inbetween pills, instead of the standard 4. Do you know if that's true, Ann? I'm forgetful and it often does end up being about 5 weeks by the time I look at the calendar and realize they're overdue!

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    1. I would say that is true. I really can't confirm that it's fool proof though. Some people used to forget to give their dogs' the medicine for quite awhile. Regretfully, I'm horrible at giving heartworm medicine myself. We used to tell people who forgot that their dog would probably be fine and they wouldn't need to worry if they had been off for maybe... 3 months.

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    2. It could be similar to what I've heard about vaccines....that they build up so much in their systems over time that they are more protected than we might think they are, even over time.

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    3. Maybe. I think it's just that the worms don't develop into adults in that amount of time so the dog is still safe. Heartworm medications are just dewormers so basically, they are killing worms that your dog has already picked up in the environment when you give them.

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  7. Oooooh. We've done this with flea drops, saving a tiny bit for the cat, on the advice of our vet, but it never would occur to me to do this with heartworm meds. Good to know!

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  8. Are you serious that people would do that? Aww the ignorance of some people.... smh

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  9. That is some good advice. We have never done that before. We are down to one dog, so isn't a problem at the moment but good to know and probably very true. Take care.

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  10. That makes purrfect sense to me too!

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  11. It is funny, I never would have thought to do that, but glad to know I shouldn't. Always informative!

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  12. The same goes for human meds. Pills should never be split unless they're scored.

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    1. Yea that's true. I guess it can be applied to lots of other things :)

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  13. That's really good information, and makes great sense, Ann! Thanks!

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  14. Great info. I had two small dogs for a long time, but never did this with their meds, although I can see where some might have thought about possibly doing this (two dogs each weighing 10 lbs and one pill to cover 25 lbs). Your vet tech insight gives us great advice! Always a good read!!

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  15. Sorry to be the only naysayer here, but do you have any evidence backing your premise that certain portions of a pill contain more medication than others? You are speaking globally on behalf of numerous pharmaceutical companies with numerous different manufacturing processes, which by default makes this claim most likely wrong. I just got off the phone with Novartis, creators of Sentinel and they stated their chewable heartworm/flea pills are made using a "mixture" process. In order for them to have *any* accuracy in dosing one pill, that mixture would *have* to be perfectly mixed. Law of physics. Not only that: I just finished reading an article from a journalist who called the pharma companies directly, who each confirmed their pills are created using a mixture process. This means other companies which you included by default, also have pills with equal dosing. The only exception to this would be if they were "injected" - a method I have heard about but find very unlikely to be used. Why does any of this matter? Because of your pets health. If you have a 26lb dog receiving a pill for 26-50lb dogs, not only are you giving them double the necessary dose of neurotoxins and pesticides, but you are giving them an *entire months* worth up front. An entire months dose for a 50lb dog. These things *could* be given on a weekly basis at a dose intended for a 26lb dog. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to know the toxicity risks and health problems you are toying with. Especially when we are dealing with pesticides and neurotoxins. Why a 1 month dose and such a huge range of weights? Because they created these pills for optimal compliance and increased sales. AKA human laziness. Convenience. They figured if they made people give the pill once a week, people wouldn't stick to it. And if there are too many weight classes, that's more expense for the pharma company. So reduced costs, human laziness, and greater sales results in a double dose and 1 pill per month. I am not going to subject my dog to insane mega-overdosing of toxic chemicals when i could instead split the pill to match his weight, then split it further for once per week dosing. Imagine that. A proper dose, at smaller, safer intervals.

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    1. If the pharmaceutical companies wanted their medications to be split, then the pills would be scored. It is only safe to split scored medications, for dogs, cats or humans. It means their is an equal amount of medication on each side of the pill. Also, the vets I worked with probably wouldn't recommend against it if it were OK. They do work closely and have a relationship with pharmaceutical companies and representatives. It's probably not a horrible thing to do, but your dogs could be at more risk of getting heartworms.

      You don't need to give your dog de-worming medication every week. The way these medications work is that they de-worm your dog every month. If your dog picks up eggs or larva somewhere during the course of the month, you are giving them these pills to get rid of those things. Many parasites take about 21 days or so to turn into adults. Microfilaria (heartworm babies) take much longer. About 6 months. I have seen some natural heartworm prevention remedies before, but I cannot say how effective they are. The reason they don't do it weekly is because it's overkill and not necessary. If anything, you can give it less infrequently than a month and be fine.

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    2. Of course the pharmaceutical companies don't want you to split them, they much prefer you buy the smaller packs as they cost more, if you split them they lose money.
      Firstly, I take out the whole tablet and crush it. Mix it around well. Halve it into two then Roll a piece of cheese over it and roll into ball, give dog Cheese. Or, mix with peanut butter. Let's see what they will say about that not working.

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    3. Any drug without a score on it is not meant to be split. Do people still do it with normal results? Sure.

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    4. good post BOB, I have been splitting my dogs heartworm in half for the 2 years I have had 2 dogs, have had ZERO issues. that medication is mixed in huge vats, I would imagine and be sure there is no "one" spot in the chew that has all the medication.. What a joke. And you are right, only give the dog what it needs. because how safe is it really?

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    5. Agree 100%- It is about money and scare tactics and you mixing idea resolves that completely! Thank you

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    6. My thoughts exactly. Good looking out, Bob.

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  16. I would think that the entire dose is required. That way there is enough med on board to kill the little buggers. I would worry that splitting into smaller doses and giving weekly would not result in a high enough blood level of the med to do the job.The way I understand it, the med is not a time released. It is a bolus. It does the job once a month, not all month long.

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  17. I agree entirely with Bob. It would be very odd if the drug companies were strategically putting the medicine in a certain part of the tablet. Furthermore, the dosage of these medicines is very flexible, as evidenced by the fact that the weight ranges for any particular dose are huge (e.g. my dog takes one that is good for anywhere from 51-100 lb). If a very precise dosage was required, then there would have to be many different size pills available for purchase.

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    1. The dosages are indeed flexible. The companies are not strategically doing anything, it's just the way drugs are made.

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    2. Of course they have strategy. To maximize earnings.I don't require a line cut into a pill. God gave me a brain of my own to reason. And not rely on pharm CO. Motives. We all want to protect our little ones the best we can. So rely on your sense of reason to do the right thing. Using information available to us.but for the sake of your pet don't ever assume the pharm CO. Has your pets best interest in their marketing strategy.

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    3. Thank you Kenneth for sending the same comment 3 times. You may have missed the "comments are moderated" note when you hit publish all those times.

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  18. I too agree with Bob and anonymous 01... call me anonymous 02
    I have a 8lb pooch and EVERY time I gave said pooch the heartworm medicine it got "sick as a dog" PUN intended. I decided [btw: my heartworm pills ARE scored, so even according to your comment. it's ok for me to do this ;-) ] to divide the dosage because I didn't want my pooch not being protected from heartworm (THAT would be idiotic!) but I also didn't want to kill said pooch in the long run by OVERdosing it either. :( It was obvious something was wrong, because it no longer gets sick. Also, just to note: I get the pooch tested every year with the blood test and it is heartworm FREE and in the uptmost "state of perfection" according to my locally top-rated, 8 years in a row vet. :)

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    1. If it's scored, it's meant to be split! That means both sides of the pill contain equal amounts of medication. Most heartworm medications are relatively safe and don't cause any side effects, but they certainly could for some dogs. Most people are probably not going to come across any problems by splitting heartworm medicine, but it's just a note of precaution that it COULD turn out to be a problem. And the manufacturer of the product would not pay for heartworm treatment if the medication was not given properly. It sounds like your pooch is very well taken care of and is unlikely to experience any problems though :) Glad they are healthy!

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  19. I have to agree with Bob here as a chemical engineer familiar with manufacturing practices and regulations. If the pills are inhomogeneous in such macro scale, they won't pass quality regulation. I don't know vet pharmaceutical process first hand, but ensuring the same amount of active ingredients in each tablet would be much more difficult. By the way I had many doctors and pharmacists telling me to half or even quarter medications that are not scored. Scored pill is just an aid to help you split the pills more evenly, not a requirements for homogeneous medicines.

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  20. This might be true for the chewables, but not for pills. The invermectin pills I have are clearly scored in quarters, and the box even says to use 1/2 pills for each additional xx lb body weight. That would not work if the active ingredient wasn't distributed even throughout the pill.

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    1. Any drug that is not scored is not meant to be split for these reasons. Since yours are scored, it should be fine.

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    2. My generic zoloft pills aren't scored, but yet my bottle definitively says "Take one and a half pills per day by mouth". Scoring is not essential to breakage or prescribing requirements.

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  21. My pom is 5 lbs. Spitting the up to 25lb dose in half makes sense to me. It is a chemical and contains toxicity.

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    1. He'll probably be fine, but you should just know that there is a small risk involved since the medication isn't scored.

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  22. I agree, it IS all about the money. I have been splitting a 50-100 lb tablet between my 2 corgis that weigh approx. 30 lbs a piece. One just turned 14 and the other one is 12. I live in mosquito county Alabama and my dogs are outside quite a bit. To be on the safe side I have them tested every year. They are both heartworm free. Has saved me a tremendous amount of money over the years as I now own 10 corgis.

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  23. This is utter nonsense, it could only be true if each chew/tablet is made individually.

    These things are mixed in bulk, then packaged into each chew/tablet.

    They are mixed thoroughly before being packaged.

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    1. Yes they are. But, they are not scored medications. If a medication is not scored, it is *technically* not supposed to be split in half for this reason.

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    2. The Heartgard product appears to be a batch mixed product which is then extruded into the little blocks they sell it in. It is highly unlikely that they inject the med into each block. You will notice that there is no prohibition of splitting on their web site. My "kids" are at 37 lb-right in the middle of their weight for a dose, so I feel that I have a little leeway in that regard.

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  24. No need to judge people of splitting medicine and implying they are cheap or crazy. They most likely have small dogs and are worried of overdosing. Too much of anything can be a problem. There are many side effects of Ivermectin. Overpaying plus overdosing is just as crazy if you think of it. The controversy is the weight range on some product is too big. Read more about the optimal dosing and prep the medicine correctly. Too much assumption can't make the right conclusion.

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    1. Don't worry I'm not judging anyone :) It's simply just a thought that some people may have not considered before.

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  25. So, for people meds I would imagine it would be rather expected no score on a pill in the lowest effective dose or that is so bitter one wouldn't want to taste it without the protective outer layer...

    Secondarily, time-release pills are meant to dissolve slowly, cutting it would expose the center making it dissolve more quickly, causing you to get a much larger dose all at one time.

    Obviously, if no score, best to check with the pharmacist if you have some reason to cut your pill.

    HOWEVER, since dogs are chewing the pill, the rate of dissolution is obviously not an issue.

    That being said... I agree with other's above, if the manufacturer can't assure one half of the pill has the same amount of meds as the other half, how can they assure this one pill doesn't have zero meds and this other one doesn't have twice the amount.

    Personally, I think it is highly unlikely that they mix the filler with the meds one single pill at a time.

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  26. Just to add on, many choose to follow the FDA approved Safeheart dose of Interceptor which would be 1/5 the Interceptor dose. Many vets familiar with this advise owners of very small dogs to split the pill. For larger dogs a small dog dose of Interceptor is usually approved. We give the smallest dose for our 70lb pittie as per FDA and Safeheart guidelines. You can find info about it on the FDA site to print out if you have an unknowledgeable vet. Ours highly condones the Safeheart dose. The less pesticides, the healthier the pet. Also, all heartworm medicine was intended for administration every 45 days based in gestation of the worms. FDA states that administration at day 45 is 100% effectivee, but only 99% at day 60. We administer every 45 days based on this FDA study and our vets recommendations. And don't forget the milk thistle for 10 days after.

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