Many pet owners will have been affected by the devastation that can be caused by heartworm infection. The American Heartworm Society (AHS) has collected vast amounts of data which proves that not only is the disease present in every single state in the USA, (even those that had previously been considered safe with no cases at all only ten years ago) but that the incidence of heartworm infection is rising alarmingly. This has been borne out by reports from Vets, many of whom have already treated as many, or more, cases of heartworm up to May this year, than in the whole of 2011. This, coupled with the shortage of the drug called Immiticide which is produced by Merial and which is the only drug approved by the FDA for treatment of dogs infected with adult heartworms has led to the AHS, the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC),
Veterinarians and the manufacturers of preventive treatments making an even stronger drive to educate pet owners about the problems and the absolute necessity for the use of preventative treatments. Climatic changes with milder winters, warmer spring temperatures, and more rainfall providing the ideal habitat for the mosquitoes responsible for transmitting the disease have played a very large part in the increase in the number of cases. Another factor that has been a surprise to many pet owners is the fact that catastrophic weather events that have destroyed homes in many areas, whether by flooding, tornadoes, or other events, have led to people moving out of state with their pets. This, coupled with the fact that during this time of upheaval, heartworm prevention doses may get missed or delayed has led to infection being diagnosed in dogs whose owners have been affected by extreme weather.
The advice from the AHS is that all dogs should be on year-round Heartworm prevention medicines. Whilst many pet owners have concerns about the safety of these medicines for their dogs, the evidence points very strongly to the safety and efficacy of these medicines when used correctly. If your dog is not currently on a heartworm prevention treatment, you must get a heartworm test before starting any treatment plan. Administering preventives to a dog that is already infected by adult worms could have very serious health consequences. Vets and the AHS recommend an annual heartworm test and having one not only provides peace of mind but will avoid the need for your dog to have one if he needs any sort of surgical procedure.
What Are The Treatment Options?
Nowadays, it is not necessary to give pets a daily pill, a monthly treatment will suffice. These treatments work by killing any of the tiny microfilariae (the larval stage of the heartworm) that have been transmitted to a dog via the bite of a mosquito carrying the infection. The two main methods for administering preventives are either by pill or chewable administered orally or by a liquid dropped between the shoulder blades of the animal. Pills or chewable are a very popular choice for many dog owners and Merial, the company producing well-known brand names such as Heartgard, has introduced a scheme whereby if a pet owner buys a twelve-month supply, they can get a discount rebate.
Vets were reporting that often, owners would just buy one or two doses of the medication, promising to return to purchase more. However, this often did not happen and compliance was poor. The new Merial scheme does seem to have improved the situation, with Vets reporting that far more clients are purchasing a full twelve monthís dosage of preventives which gives reason for confidence that this will lead to a reduction in the number of cases.
The other method of administering the preventative treatment is via the ëspot-oní method, many owners prefer this, either because their dogs are allergic to one or more of the components of the chewable tablets (perhaps beef, or pork) or because they have great difficulty in getting their dog to take a pill and be sure that it has ëgone downí! The other advantage of these ëspot-oní treatments is that they also protect against other parasites such as fleas and ticks so it can save money to use this method, rather than purchasing other flea and tick medications in addition to the heartworm preventative medication.
A Heartworm Infection is much easier to prevent than to treat. Dogs infected by adult worms often are not diagnosed until it is too late or the only option is surgery which can cost over $4,000 and maybe beyond the owner’s means to pay. It is therefore even more important than ever to follow the guidelines in the AHS Think 12 in 2012 campaign and provide your dog with adequate protection, all year round, wherever you live.
Author Alison Graham invites you to visit her site http://heartwormtreatment-fordogs.com to find out more about this important dog health issue. The site is intended to be a complete resource, providing answers to your questions about heartworm.