Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug that’s used for treating certain roundworm-like parasitic infections in the human intestine. It is also used in animals (dogs, cattle, or cats) for treating heartworm disease, and for some types of parasites (both internal and external) in different species.
Although this medicine is in the news these days as a possible treatment for Covid-19, it’s better known for treatment in people and animals. Hence, it’s not advisable to use this drug as a coronavirus treatment, unless approved.
What are Ivermectin and its uses?
This FDA-approved medication belongs to a class of medicine called anthelmintics and was developed from a bacterium found in the soil in the 1970s. This soil sample was collected from a forest land next to a golf course in Japan. Over the years, the medicine gained recognition as a cure for parasitic worm infections for humans and animals.
Ivermectin is known to treat a disease named strongyloidiasis, where it works to destroy intestinal worms. It also helps cure onchocerciasis by destroying any new worm formation. In humans, the medicine is prescribed to treat some types of roundworm infections on the stomach in form of a tablet and as a topical cream to control papulopustular rosacea, an inflammatory skin disease.
However, Ivermectin is majorly used to treat parasitic conditions in animals. It’s better known to treat veterinary gastrointestinal worm infections. Therefore, more than as a human drug, Ivermectin is used for animals.
Ivermectin for Animals
This drug is mainly used for heartworm infections in cats and dogs, and also for treating a range of internal and external parasites. While in cats, Ivermectin is used to control ear mites and scabies in cats, in dogs, it’s used to control ear mites, scabies, intestinal parasites, etc. The medicine is also available as off-label for veterinary use, however, it’s recommended to consult a veterinary doctor as a precaution.
*Caution – People should avoid consuming ivermectin intended for animals because it has been approved by FDA for certain species only.
How to use Ivermectin and what is the dosage?
Ivermectin is available in the form of tablets, chewable, as a topical solution, and as injectable for cats, dogs, and cattle. The ivomec injectable is administered by a veterinarian.
The drug can be given along with food or even without it. Sometimes, when given on empty stomach, it can react cause vomiting in animals. In such cases, it’s suggested to give the medicine with a small amount of food and check if it helps. However, if the vomiting persists, consulting a veterinarian is advised.
As for the safety of the medicine, it’s correlated to the dosage. Just like any other medicine when given in higher dosage may cause adverse reactions and health complications, even the Ivermectin can when given in higher dose. The Ivermectin dosage varies with the condition it’s used, for instance, for heartworm infestations, the dosage is usually low. However, ivermectin dose in cats may sometimes need to be higher, under a veterinarian’s supervision. But, for most dogs, the medicine is usually safe when administered properly.
If you are using the topical solution on the ears of the animal, it’s safe to follow the veterinarian’s instructions. The medication usually starts working in 1 to 2 hours; however, the efficacy may not be visible immediately.
How does Ivermectin work?
Ivermectin is developed to kill parasites by damaging their nervous systems. This neurological damage leads to paralysis of the parasites, thus, killing them.
What do I do for a missed dose?
If you miss a dose for your pet either because you forgot or if the shipment was delayed, give the dose as soon as you remember. However, make sure to maintain the time gap for the next dose, as recommended by our veterinarian.
*Note – Avoid giving two doses at the same time, or any additional dose.
Side effects and risk factors of Ivermectin
Although Ivermectin is a considerably safe medication, when given in high doses without the veterinarian’s recommendation, it can cause serious damage to your pet’s nervous system. It can also cause an internal shock in dogs or may have side effects at lower dosages in some dog breeds, like Collies.
Vomiting, an upset stomach, dilated pupil, blindness, or lack of appetite are some of the potential side effects in animals when given a higher dose, and hence, you must get in touch with your veterinarian immediately.
It’s important to note that Ivermectin should be avoided in dogs younger than 6 weeks if they have not been detected with heartworm. It’s also important to remember that some dog breeds like the Collies or sheepdogs are more sensitive to this drug due to their genetic background and hence, higher doses should be avoided. For a clear view on this, contacting your veterinarian is always a better idea.
Additionally, some medicines like ketoconazole, erythromycin, or ketoconazole may react with Ivermectin when given in conjunction. Also, Spinosad (used for common flea) is safe to be administered in conjunction only with low ivermectin dosage.