Recent Data Reveals That Canine Heartworm Remains a Major Health Threat to Dogs

OVERLAND PARK, KS | February 2003

U.S. canine health experts are extremely alarmed over recent data, indicating that canine heartworm disease continues to pose a major health threat to dogs, despite important advancements in prevention.

Earlier this year, the American Heartworm Society detailed the results of an industry survey that found that at least 250,000 dogs and cats tested positive for heartworm infection nationwide. The study was based on analysis of heartworm tests completed in 2001 by 18,000 veterinary clinics across the country. Reported cases were highest in the Gulf Coast states, as well as other parts of the Southeast.

“”What is so disheartening about the proliferation of canine heartworm disease in this country is that it’s nearly 100 percent preventable,”” said Dr. Jim Humphries, a veterinarian and author of Dr. Jim’s Animal Clinic for Dogs. “”The advancements that have made heartworm prevention so easy for veterinarians and dog owners should have made a huge impact in the reduction of heartworm incidence in this country. Yet, this deadly disease is still being contracted by thousands of animals on a routine basis.””

Canine heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal parasitic condition in which roundworms develop in the heart and major blood vessels of dogs. Dogs suffer severe heart and pulmonary damage from heartworm infections, and potentially dysfunction of the kidney and liver. Clinical signs of heartworm disease vary according to its severity. Most common signs are a persistent cough, abnormal lung sounds and an intolerance to exercise. In more severe cases, signs include the enlargement of the liver, temporary loss of consciousness due to poor blood flow to the brain, excessive fluid in the abdominal cavity and abnormal heart sounds. While there are treatments for heartworm disease, it is a long, risky and expensive procedure, and the disease can still be fatal.

Heart disease – including congestive heart disease, congenital heart disease and heartworm disease – is the second leading cause of death in dogs.

“”Veterinary medicine has made great strides in recent years in identifying and treating congenital and congestive heart diseases,”” said Dr. Humphries. “”However, the battle against canine heartworm should have already been won. We know how heartworm is transmitted and we have the pharmaceutical products that prevent dogs from contracting this disease. The mystery is why are dogs still contracting the disease in large numbers?””

A recent Gallup survey revealed that only 55 percent of dogs in the United States are on a heartworm preventive of any kind, down from 66 percent in 1998. While many veterinarians recommend using a monthly heartworm preventative, the survey found that dogs on average are only given preventives for less than six months of the year. This leaves pets in some areas of the country at risk for contracting heartworm infection throughout a significant portion of the year.

Another big reason for the heartworm problem, according to Dr. Humphries, is client compliance. “”Many dog owners understand the importance of protecting their pets from this deadly disease, but properly administering traditional monthly heartworm preventatives remains a serious problem for dog owners and veterinarians.””

“”Veterinarians from across the country report that dog owners have trouble remembering to give monthly heartworm preventatives on time,”” said Dr. Humphries. “”But with the recent ground-breaking advancement in prevention – ProHeartâ 6, an injection that provides six months of continuous heartworm protection – we now have a weapon to combat compliance problems.””

“”Lots of people forget to give the monthly heartworm pill, including myself,”” said Dr. Doug Wojcik, a veterinarian from Liverpool, New York. Echoing this observation, Dr. Sonya Bankston, a veterinarian from Baton Rouge, Louisiana added: “”With the monthly pill, people either forget to give it, or don’t come in for their refill, leaving their pets susceptible to heartworm risk.””

Monthly heartworm products can only be effective when they are administered, noted Dr. Humphries. “”Missed doses seriously compromise the ability of the products to control heartworm,”” he explained. “”ProHeart 6 is a six-month, sustained-release preventative that virtually eliminates concerns about clients administering heartworm protective products as recommended. Importantly, it places control of this potentially fatal disease where it belongs, with the veterinarian.””

Since its introduction in 2001, both veterinarians and dog owners have enthusiastically embraced ProHeart 6. Manufactured by Fort Dodge Animal Health, ProHeart 6 is the fastest growing heartworm preventive in the country.

“”Our clients appreciate the fact that heartworm prevention can be taken care of in the veterinarian’s office, instead of trying to remember the monthly dose,”” reports Duane Schnittker, DVM, of Brentwood, California. “”ProHeart 6 relieves clients of one more thing to remember in their busy lives.””

With today’s advancements in prevention, experts agreed that no dog should have to suffer from canine heartworm infection.

“”We have convenient preventatives, including the new six-month heartworm injection, that can virtually eliminate this life-threatening disease. The veterinary community needs to intensify its efforts of educating dog owners of the seriousness of canine heartworm, create a better understanding of the real threat risks due to compliance problems, and ensure that all dogs are routinely protected from this debilitating disease.””

ProHeart® 6 (moxidectin) is generally well tolerated. Use with caution in sick, debilitated or underweight animals. A small percentage of dogs showed mild, transient swelling or itching at the injection site. While rare, digestive, neurological or hypersensitivity reactions may occur. Read the package insert for more information. To obtain additional information, including a copy of the product labeling, dog owners should contact their veterinarian, or call 1-800-772-5040.

Fort Dodge Animal Health, a division of Wyeth (NYSE:WYE), is a leading manufacturer and distributor of prescription and over-the-counter animal health care products for the livestock, companion animal, equine, swine and poultry industries in North America and international markets. Key Products include CYDECTIN® Pour-On, QUEST® Gel, EtoGesic® Tablets, ProHeart® Injection, Fel-O-Vax® FIV and Innovator™ equine vaccines including West Nile virus. The company is headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas.


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