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Friday, October 26, 2012

You Think Your Dog Is Safe, But...

One of the large veterinary pharmaceutical companies recently conducted a survey of clients leaving veterinary clinics who had declined heartworm preventative medication for their dogs. When questioned why they had chose not to protect their dogs from heartworms, the most common responses were: 1.They didn't think it was very likely that their pet could get heartworms 2.They figured it would be cheaper to just treat the dog if it got heartworms than to pay for preventative medication. This blog is to address these misconceptions.

First off, heartworms are much more common than people believe. At our practice, the majority of our dog-owning clients give their pets at least some heartworm preventative. Unfotunately, many of these folks skip or "miss" a few months every year (even though they tell us otherwise, the data doesn't lie). Of the dogs who get no heartworm prevention or intermittant heartworm prevention, we see more than sixty new cases of heartworm infections per year at our practice alone! Here's what their hearts will look like:

Because heartworms are spread by mosquitos, ALL dogs in the midwest are at risk without prevention. The travesty of this is how easily (and relatively inexpensively) heartworm infection can be prevented. We sell heartworm prevention pills which cost from $5 a month for small dogs to $7.50 a month for large dogs. There is even a twice-yearly shot for those who hate pills! In contrast, it typically costs $500-$1,000 to safely treat a heartworm-infected dog. Plus, you don't have to subject the dog to what is shown in the photo above.

I had to tell a long-standing client this week that her 9-year old dog had heartworms. She had always purchased preventative from us, but admitted that she did occasionally skip a month when she wouldn't get around to picking up more pills. She is now racked with guilt (she cried when I gave her the news), and faces the expensive prospect of heartworm therapy. She's one of those who always thought "It can't happen to my dog."

The take-home message? Get your dog tested every year, and buy a year's worth of preventative when you do. The medication is much cheaper when purchased as a full year's supply, and you are less likely to subject your best friend to what is shown in the photo above.