Friday, April 20, 2012

The Importance of Heartworm Prevention in 2012

With the recent rise in the number of heartworm-positive tests on dogs in the USA, Veterinarians and the American Heartworm Society (AHS) are urging two things, firstly that all pets should get a heartworm test once a year and secondly, for any owners who do not currently have their pet on a heartworm preventative medicine to protect their pets with one of the approved medications available.

It is a sad fact that despite all the efforts of the AHS, by their own admission, they have not been successful in persuading many pet owners throughout the USA of the vital importance of using approved heartworm preventives; with the result that infection rates are running at an all-time high because mosquitoes are biting infected dogs and spreading the tiny heartworm larvae to new hosts.

Animals who are on preventative treatments will be protected as the medicine will kill these larvae before they develop into adults. However, for unprotected pets who get bitten by infected mosquitoes, the sad truth is that they will go on to develop the devastating effects of infection with adult worms as these larvae grow and mature into breeding adult worms. Thus, the spread of the disease marches relentlessly onwards.

Safe and effective, approved preventatives are available - and when compared with the cost of treating a dog affected with adult worms, either with Immiticide, or in very severe cases, with surgery, are extremely inexpensive. In addition, by comparison with the heartache of having to watch a much-loved pet go through heartworm treatment or even worse, of having to have a pet euthanized because the cost of surgery is not feasible, preventive treatment is the only sensible option.

Preventatives are usually delivered in two main types, either a monthly pill or chewable, or one of the 'spot-on' preparations which are spotted between the animal's shoulder-blades and usually also deal with fleas and other parasites. If your pet is not currently on a preventive, your vet will not be able to prescribe one unless your dog tests negative for heartworm infection. A sample of the pet's blood is analysed under the microscope to see if any of the tiny larvae are present. If the blood is clear, your pet can start on whichever medication you and your vet decide is best.

If heartworm larvae are found in the blood or an antigen test is done and proves positive, this means that your dog, even if he is not showing any symptoms, has become infected and has adult worms affecting the heart and lungs. In this case, your vet will advise you about heartworm treatment.

Heartworm disease is another one of those instances where prevention is very much better than trying to cure an infected animal. Preventative treatments must be prescribed by a vet because of the importance of ensuring that your pet is free of the infection before starting the treatment. Should an infected dog be given preventatives, this could have serious consequences for the pet and in very rare cases could even prove fatal.

In order to raise public awareness of this disease which has now reached epidemic proportions in some regions of the United States, the AHS has launched its "Think 12 in 2012" campaign. As Wallace Graham, DVM, the President of the American Heartworm Society says on the home pages of their Think 12 campaign:-

"In spite of all we know about heartworm - and our ability to diagnose and prevent it - we have not been successful in substantially decreasing incidence of heartworm disease. We must do more to help veterinarians and their clients follow our guidelines for heartworm screening and prevention."

The Importance of Heartworm Prevention in 2012 is a Guest Post by Alison Graham.

Alison Graham is publisher of Heartworm Treatment For Dogs, a web site dedicated to providing information about heartworm and other dog health issues.

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