Heartworms

​​​What are Heartworms?

Heartworms are a parasite transmitted to your dog by mosquitoes. When your pet is bitten by an infected mosquito, they will become infected with heartworms. The adult heartworm is an internal parasite that lives in the heart and pulmonary artery of the dog. They are 1-12 inches long. round and white. ​ 

  The adult male and female worms found in the pulmonary artery and heart of a dog produce offspring that are released into the bloodstream.  These are called microfilaria.  Microfilaria need to be ingested by a mosquito feeding off the blood of an infected dog to complete the cycle. These ingested microfilaria develop in the mosquito into infective heart worm larvae in 10-14 days. The mosquito bites an animal and transmits the larvae while feeding. Once the animal is bitten the larvae enter the dog's blood stream, migrate through the animal's body from the bite to the pulmonary artery and the heart of the animal where they develop into adults.  Different life stages require different treatments.

Symptoms

In canines the initial symptoms may be a persistent cough and lethargy. The disease will then progress to a point where the patient will lose weight and develop a pot belly (ascites) due to fluid buildup in the abdomen. At this point heart damage has been done. The kidneys and liver are also involved, resulting in lung disease and congestive heart failure.

Although uncommon heartworms have been detected in cats. Heartworms in cats many times go undetected or may manifest as feline asthma. In other cases spontaneous death may result.

Diagnosis

 

Dogs - Initially many dogs are asymptomatic (have no symptoms) and the best diagnostic test is the occult blood or snap tests. The test reacts to antigens (proteins) produced by the worms and is very sensitive. An antigen is something the body recognizes as foreign to itself.

Cats - There is a snap test for heartworms in cats. There is no treatment as of yet other than symptomatic. There is a preventative available.

Prevention

Dogs - Start at 6-8 weeks of age

          Monthly tablets- very safe must give whole wafer or tablet

          or

          Six month Proheart Injectable

Cats - Able to start at 6-8 weeks of age

          Monthly tablet

Thunderbird Veterinary Hospital Policy
Regarding the Dispensing of  Heartworm Preventatives

The following policy is provided to help answer questions regarding the dispensing of heartworm preventative for your pet.

 

Legal Requirements

 

​​

All heartworm preventatives are labeled prescription drugs, requiring veterinarians to follow federal and state regulations for prescribing and dispensing them. These regulations require a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship, which necessitates a PATIENT RECORD and a RECENT PHYSICAL EXAMINATION.

​​

Medical Guidelines

​​

Heartworm preventative cannot be dispensed without a heartworm test to puppies over 5 months of age. Dogs that have been receiving heartworm preventative regularly on a year round basis should be screened routinely every 2-3 years. If a dog is on a monthly preventative, a one month lapse can pose a risk for heartworm infection. In general, if our records indicate a lapse in giving heartworm preventative we may require a heartworm test prior to refilling a heartworm preventative. If there is a lapse of greater than 5 months, a test will be required to refilling a heartworm preventative prescription. If the lapse is less than 5 months in most cases the prescription will be refilled but a retest will be required prior to filling a second prescription.

​​

These guidelines are to prevent a potentially life-threatening reaction when heartworms  have already developed. Each year we detect a few heartworm infections in dogs that have been receiving preventative therapy. These are usually due to known or suspected noncompliance in administering the preventative and or incomplete consumption of the preventative.

​​

Goal

​​

At Thunderbird Veterinary Hospital, our primary concern is to dispense heartworm preventative medication in a manner that ensures your pets SAFETY and PROTECTION, while complying with state and federal laws. To achieve that goal we adopted the following guidelines for pets receiving heartworm preventatives.

         1) A current patient record must be on file

         2) The pet must be screened for heartworms every 2-3 years

         3) During a wellness exam for a new patient we require

             oral authorization or  written documentation from the patient's

             previous veterinarian, or the patient's medical record supporting

             ​ ​​   appropriate/current heartworm preventative treatments.​​​​​​​​​​

        ​​ 4) A current heartworm test is required before preventative therapy can be

             initiated. This test may need to be repeated before renewing the

             prescription, depending on the class of medication used and the

            record of administration.     

          5) Any deviation     ​from these  guidelines  must occur within the context         

             of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.       

          6) Year round prevention is required because the mosquito season is 

​​              variable and unpredictable in Oklahoma.

 

​​THE VETERINARIANS OR STAFF OF THUNDERBIRD VETERINARY HOSPITAL WILL BE HAPPY​​​​ TO DISCUSS THIS POLICY WITH YOU.​​

OPEN HOURS

ADDRESS

FIND​ US

MONDAY-THURSDAY

9am-6pm

Friday

9am-2pm

5pm-6pm (Pick Up Only)

​SATURDAY

9am-12pm

CLOSED SUNDAY

 

1250 156th N.E.

Norman, Oklahoma 73026

T / 405-360-8990

F/405-292-0153

 

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