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September 16, 2011

Submitted by Lisa A. Yackel, CVPM, PHR

Hospital Administrator at Case Veterinary Hospital

My husband is a helicopter pilot for Mosquito Control here in Chatham County.  Since May, he and his fellow pilot have been flying every night, seven days a week, to keep the mosquito population down and to combat West Nile Virus.  They are doing everything possible to control the situation but the bottom line is that we live in an area where mosquitoes are a fact of life.  As humans, we learn to use Deet, to keep standing water to a minimum, and to refrain from going outside at dusk and dawn when the mosquitoes are most active. 

Mosquitoes are more than just nuisances for our pets as well.  The most common disease that our pets contract from mosquitoes is heartworms.  Both dogs and cats that are not on effective,  monthly heartworm prevention run a high risk of getting this disease.  In fact, even with all the preventatives that are available, heartworm disease has been on the rise again for several years.  Compounding the situation is the fact that that if your dog is diagnosed with Heartworm Disease, the drug agent that we use to treat the disease is on a manufacturer backorder and is extremely difficult to acquire at this time.  Immiticide is the only FDA approved medication for the treatment of adult heartworms that is still available for use in the US.   With continuing increases in the number of heartworm positive dogs found in the US, veterinarians and pet owners are concerned with how this shortage will impact the ability to treat these dogs.

The solution has always been prevention and there is a huge variety of preventatives on the market.  Typically, veterinarians will recommend one that they feel is best for your pet’s lifestyle.  Most of the popular medications are in chewable tablet form that you give once a month.  For cats, the predominant prevention is Revolution©, a topical application, since tablets are not easily accepted by cats. 

The reason heartworm disease is rising is quite simply compliance.  With our busy lives, we honestly forget to give our pets their monthly heartworm prevention.  Statistics back this up with indications that 60% of clients don’t routinely remember to give the medication as prescribed. 

Proheart ©is an injectable heartworm prevention for dogs (sorry kitties) that is given at the veterinary office and is on board as a prevention for six months.  It takes the worry away from clients who know they are not as good about keeping up with their pet’s medication as they would like to be.  Priced similarly to most tablet forms of heartworm prevention, Proheart© makes sense when it comes to protecting your pet from heartworms.  It is not indicated for older pets and cannot be used on puppies until six months of age, so talk to your veterinarian to see if you pet is a candidate for this prescription. 

PREVENTION IS THE BEST MEDICINE!  We have used this mantra since I began in the veterinary field 35 years ago and it still rings true, especially now with the shortage of Immiticide©.  For cats, there is no treatment once they contract Heartworm Disease so prevention is definitely imperative.  Please be sure to keep up with your pet’s preventative.  Although it is an expense that can be daunting in today’s economy, the costs of treatment, as well as the cost of your pet’s health, far outweighs the expenditure.

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