An edited transcript has been provided below:

Today I want to talk to you about heartworm meds and heartworm testing. A lot of questions about heartworm testing and why we do it on an annual basis. It’s something that’s part of the standard wellness routine and I wanted to dive into the reasons for it. Just so you can help better understand why we make the recommendations that we make. They’re not just arbitrary, they’re not random. There are reasons behind everything. So this will hopefully be helpful for you. 

Some background on heartworm disease, because it’s a really interesting disease. It’s not spread dog to dog. It’s spread by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes will bite them. So even indoor only dogs can get this, by the way, it’s not just dogs that are going out on all over the place. Mosquitoes can be anywhere here in San Diego and they’ll bite your dog. They’ll inject the worm, it will travel from the mosquito down the little proboscis of the mosquito and into your dog’s bloodstream. Really cool, really interesting. I mean, not cool, but you know, just interesting life cycle how this thing works. It travels all throughout the body. After about six months, it’ll take hold and turn into an adult in the heart and in the lungs. And it lives there. And then it starts to reproduce. So really, really crazy disease, really interesting, but not a great disease to have because it can be fatal if your dog gets it. The good news is in San Diego, there’s not a lot of heartworm disease here. It’s here. It’s definitely here, but it’s just not as prevalent as it is in other parts of the country where it is just rampant. So we have to be cautious, but we don’t have to be as really, you know, kind of on it as we do with other parts of the country, which is great. I do recommend heartworm medications here, even though heartworm is pretty low numbers. 

One of the main reasons why I recommend it, is because besides preventing heartworm disease, it also has an intestinal parasite dewormer. So once a month it’s getting rid of hookworms, whipworms, roundworms, tapeworms, all these parasites that they can pick up just by walking through grass, being out and about. And the other thing besides causing diarrhea in dogs, that’s the most common cause or symptom of parasites. These parasites are also potentially transmittable to people. So it keeps people free of and clear parasites as well. So I think it’s a really good idea. So it’s just a really good preventative medication. Besides preventing heart disease, it also has the intestinal parasite deworming. Really good, easy to give monthly chewable and very low side effects, very low risk, very little downside to this medication. So that’s why we recommend it. 

But the real thing I want to talk about though, is the testing. Why do we recommend testing for heartworm disease? Especially if it’s so low. And the biggest question is, especially if you think giving this medication monthly. Every single month, year round, why are we going to still recommend a heartworm test for you or for your dog when you come in for their annual test. And it’s a totally valid and legitimate question. There’s four main reasons why we recommend a heartworm test, even for pets that have been on the medication. Well first off, if your dog has heartworm disease and they get the heartworm pill and they haven’t been on it, your dog can get really sick from that because there’s going to be be a massive die off of all of these parasites in the body or the larva that are in the body and your dog can get really sick. So that’s why before we start any medication for your dog, and this is the first time they definitely have to have a heartworm test. We will not prescribe it without them. Okay. So that’s really important. But the four reasons why we recommend it, even for pets that have been on the medication is because one, it’s the manufacturer recommends it, as well as the American Heartworm Society. There’s a whole society dedicated to studying and providing these recommendations on heartworm disease. That is recommended that way. But two, one of the most important reasons is that no drug is a hundred percent effective. That’s really good. It’s a high nineties percent effective, but no drug is perfect. And so there is always the chance that it is that they could still get heart disease, even if they’re on the medication. And one of the big reasons too, is that you might give your dog the med, but they could go out in the backyard and spit it out. They could puke it up and we just really don’t see that. And so there are always these chances that there’s going to be lapses in the medication administration or actual consumption of it and we’re just not aware of it. So always possible and there can be failures of the med. The other reason why we recommend doing the annual testing is that we are finding some pockets of resistance to these medications in certain parts of the country. We haven’t seen it really here in San Diego yet, but that’s one of the ways that we monitor. And we find that is by doing these annual tests, to make sure that that’s not spreading to other parts of the country. And then the other reason why we do this is because it’s also an insurance policy. If you’re doing this testing, if you are giving the medication monthly and they do come down with heartworm disease, well, the manufacturer will pay for the treatment or they say they will pay for the treatment for that. And so it’s kind of like an insurance policy as well. If you’re doing everything that you should and they still get it, the company is going to help out with it. 

If you were to tell me, Dr. Evans, I don’t want to do this. You know, I’ve been consistent with it. I’m not going to brow beat you. I’m not going to tell you, you have to, you know, I still want your dog to be on the medication, but I’m I am going to recommend it. And so that is again, maybe a difference between Coastal Animal hospital is that we’re going to make our strong recommendations. You can choose to do you, you can choose to do what you’re going to do, but there are real reasons why we are going to make these recommendations on an annual basis and make sure that your pet is well taken care of from our standpoint. And we’re not going to miss anything that’s going to end up being a problem. So if you have any questions about that, please let us know, give us a call, but I hope that provided a little insight as to why we’re recommending these tests on an annual basis and why it’s really important as well as just why these medications are important and why we recommend them. I’m Dr. Evans here at Coastal Animal Hospital. If you have any questions, we’ll be here. Take care.