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Dr. Monfort Says “Heartworms are getting into our pockets (and our dog’s heart…literally)!”

Mother Nature is encouraging heartworms to make a big push into more and more areas of the United States. This is caused by warmer, wetter and longer mosquito seasons, the migration of displaced pets, who may be heartworm positive, caused by disasters in the south-eastern regions, and the beginning of heartworm resistance to the medications that are currently in use. Warmer weather and infected pets from the southeastern United States are increasing heartworm exposure due to the heartworm lifecycle requirement that mosquitoes bite infected animals, incubate the heartworm juvenile and then infect another animal with their bite.

Heartworms are exactly what they sound like…spaghetti-like worms that primarily live in the heart of a dog, causing heart failure. If you have never seen a photo of heartworms, stop by the office and we will find one for you. The heart can be so clogged with worms that the circulation is impaired; the heart muscle is stretched and cannot beat strongly and, even if it could, there is physically no room for blood to move through the chambers past the worms. Heart failure is ultimately fatal.

The veterinarians at RBVS are always reading, researching and updating clinical recommendations. Consequently, we will continue to require a negative heartworm test on any dog over the age of 6 months to begin heartworm preventative. If you have had a negative test or continuous preventative through another veterinary practice, please bring the certificate/receipts to the office. We will have a veterinarian or technician consult with you, much like the pharmacist will do for your human prescriptions. We will use a safe heartworm preventative on puppies, as young as 8 weeks, when we do the routine series of vaccinations, to start them off right. We now think that winter months are often not cold enough to try to stretch a dollar by skipping months in the winter, so don’t ever skip a dose. We have also updated our heartworm related protocol to include the American Heartworm Society recommendations. Our new policy will be that a dog must have a negative heartworm test every two years to continue their heartworm preventative prescription, although we recommend testing every year at the same time as annual vaccinations. We will always recommend, prescribe and sell top-quality, FDA approved products from reputable manufacturers, licensed in the United States.

Many heartworm preventatives will also treat intestinal parasites at the same time, some of which may be transmitted to a dog’s human family members. That makes heartworm preventative a bonafide bargain and while heartworm preventative may cost as much as $10 a month for a 100-pound dog, heartworm treatment of an infected dog will cost $800-$1000 for a similar sized pet.

Heartworm-related disease is highly preventable with the proper use of preventative medications, regular heartworm testing and mosquito control. There are numerous tested and guaranteed heartworm preventatives. Use them every month; all year round. It gets into your pocket a little, but the cost is so small to maintain good heart health for your pet and your family.

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