Apparently Some People Don't Consider Their Dogs Worth Ten Cents A Day

Most dogs are protected against heartworm, but nearly half are not.


            Most dogs are protected against mosquito transmitted heartworm disease, around sixty per cent. That figure may sound acceptable to some, but certainly not to Dr. Thomas Nelson, president of the American Heartworm Society.

            ‘That means forty per cent – approaching half - are not protected,” he says. Since heartworm disease is potentially deadly, and absolutely avoidable when the dog is given a monthly preventative – he adds, “We have to do better.”

            He explains some people are concerned about giving their dog any medication of any kind. “Heartworm preventative is a very safe class of drug,” he says. “We really don’t see adverse reactions.”

            Could it be that veterinarians are not emphasizing the importance of prevention? “Perhaps, but mostly I don’t believe that is true,” answers Nelson. “However, it is true that some people don’t routinely visit the veterinarian. And veterinarians can’t communicate to clients unless they have the opportunity.”

            Some dogs do survive heartworm disease without showing symptoms, even with several or up to several dozen spaghetti sized worms living in their lungs. “True enough concedes Nelson, who adds that some people continue to smoke cigarettes because they know other smokers who have never gotten lung cancer.

            Mention price as an “excuse” for not buying a preventative product, and Nelson now just losses it. “No – I don’t buy it,” he says vehemently. “It’s an excuse, and not a very good one. If your pet isn’t worth ten to 25 cents a day, something isn’t right.”

            What’s more all monthly heartworm preventatives also protect against other internal parasites, such as hookworm and roundworm; and some heartworm meds protect against external parasites, likes fleas and ticks.

            “I’d argue all that protection in one place is a bargain,” adds Nelson, who is a private practicing veterinarian in Anniston, AL.

            Roundworm, in particular, is a potential serious problem which Nelson says isn’t spoken about often enough. Nelson, who is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Companion Animal Parasite Council explains that not only can roundworm be transmitted from dogs to people, it can cause blindness in people. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does – it occurs mostly to children. 

            “Instead of worrying about worming dogs, we’re now advocating prevention in the first place,” he says.

            Nelson will be among the experts participating in the American Heartworm Society 2007 Triennial Heartworm Symposium in July in conjunction with the American Veterinary Medical Association Annual Convention in Washington, D.C.

            Researchers from around the world will speak at the Heartworm Symposium revealing the newest and latest breakthroughs.

            While expensive to treat, heartworm disease is considered treatable. However, that treatment is arsenic. No surprise, this is one of those cases that while treatment is necessary, the treatment can be nearly as problematic as the disease.

            Only a few years ago, researchers learned that a bacterium called wolbachia is always present with heartworm, and, in fact likely necessary for the heartworm to exist. John McCall, professor emeritus at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, Athens combined Ivermectin (used to prevent heartworm) with an antibiotic (to deal with the bacterial wolbachia) and documented a nearly an 80 per cent kill rate. Add when some of the traditional arsenical medication was added into the mix, the kill rate hits approached 100 per cent. What’s more there’s little damage to the lungs, which is a part of the adverse impact of the arsenical medication when used alone.

            “We’re nowhere ready to recommend this treatment yet,” says McCall. “But this is very promising for the treatment of heartworm disease.”

            To learn more about heartworm disease as well other both internal and external parasites affecting people and pets, check out these websites:

            Companion Animal Parasite Control:

            American Heartworm Society: