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The Hows and Whys of Changing Heartworm Testing and Preventative Dispensing Policies

In accordance with the recommendations of the American Heartworm Society guidelines and because RBVS cares about implementing the best health care options for your pets, we will be asking that every dog owner using heartworm preventative medication to have a heartworm test annually. If your pet is just starting heartworm prevention, a heartworm test will be needed in dogs over 6 months of age or older prior to starting the medication. And, if your pet is already on heartworm prevention and you miss 2 months, you will need to consult with one of the veterinarians for the best plan to restart the heartworm prevention. Our heartworm dispensing, or prescription writing will be predicated on your pet having a negative and current heartworm test on record at our office.

Why are the recommendations changing, you ask? There are three primary reasons that the American Heartworm Society and RBVS are taking this stand. The first reason is that many of the currently used products are becoming less effective as resistance to the medication increases in heartworms and mosquitoes (depending on the products mode of action). This means that you, as a pet owner, can be faithfully giving the product, but…just maybe… your dog is infected with a resistant strain, and develops active heartworm disease. The second scenario involves the increasing movement and/or rehoming dogs from areas of the country that are home to heavily infected, heartworm positive dogs. Often, kind-hearted people in our part of the country will go south to assist with disaster damage, taking their dog along, or will adopt a dog needing a new home from the southern region of the country following a disaster. While doing a routine exam, we will find heartworm positive dogs from on-site exposure or transplanted animals. Not only do these infected animals need treatment, but now other animals within a one-mile radius may have been exposed to heartworms by mosquito transmission from these animals, depending on the season. The third reason we are recommending an annual heartworm test is because climate change is affecting migration patterns of wildlife and changing weather patterns are allowing mosquito varieties to flourish in areas of the country that have not had to deal with them before.

Heartworm disease is complicated, but testing is not. This is a procedure that requires one of our technicians to draw blood and run a quick test in the office. This is one of the few times that we can say that you can walk in, get your dogs blood drawn, and walk out with results in a very timely manner. To encourage you to have a heartworm test done, we will offer a 20% discount off any heartworm test done by one of our techs in January and February.

There are always lots of questions about heartworms, their transmission, and prevention. Heartworms are a complicated, two-host parasite that, if left undiscovered and untreated, will shorten your dog’s life. We at Red Barn Veterinary Service are strongly dedicated to keeping this from happening to our client’s pets.

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