If your dog is not currently on a regular heartworm preventative medication, now is the time to have get your pet started on a treatment to prevent this deadly illness.
The only distributor of the drug Immiticide, that treats heartworms, is all out.
Dogs who are not heartworm positive can stay that way by taking prevention medicine.
Unfortunately, dogs who are diagnosed with advanced stages of the disease in the near future may not have any option but death.
“The medicine, Immiticide, has been on restricted release for about a year,” said Dr. Will Cooley, of Cooley Veterinary Hospital, in Rockingham. “I tried to order more last week and couldn’t. I’m almost out.”
Heartworms are transmitted to animals by the bite of an infected mosquito.
Initially, there are no symptoms when an animal has been infected. As the worms begin to crowd the heart and lungs, most dogs will develop a cough. They won’t be able to exercise as much, and will become winded more easily. Dogs can pass out from lack of blood to the brain, and the animal can begin to retain fluid.
Most dogs will eventually die if the worms are not treated.
“I would urge anyone who doesn’t have their dog on preventatives to go ahead and visit their veterinarian,” said Cooley. “If the test comes back positive for heartworms, finding out sooner rather than later could save the pet’s life. I have very little treatment left myself, and am sure other veterinarians are in a similar situation.”
Cooley said his office has enough Immiticide left to treat about six dogs for heartworms.
“After that, all we can do is hope that more medicine will become available again soon,” he said.
According to a statement from Immiticide’s Georgia-based distributor Merial, the makers of Immiticide are “temporarily not making it.”
According to Merial’s news release in August, “it could be weeks or even months before Immiticide is available again, but the distributor is working to secure a new supplier.”
Dr. Ralph Souder of Gandy Animal Hospital said they save Immiticide for late stage heartworm treatment as there are better treatments that are easier on the dog’s liver and kidneys. “If you give Heartguard or Iverheart every two weeks for 10 months the dog will go negative.”
Some animal shelters are euthanizing dogs with the condition.
“We do not intend to euthanize any adoptable animals just because they have heartworms,” said Allison Sweatt, HSRC program coordinator. “There are alternative treatments for less serious cases - they just take longer to be effective.”
Hope lies in the fact that Heartguard, in about 16 months, can kill heartworms and is being used by some veterinarians to treat less serious cases.
In recent studies, Heartguard has been shown to effectively kill heartworms if the disease is caught in Stage 1 of the infection.
“We currently have two heartworm positive dogs on hold for their new owners, and they will both be starting this alternative treatment soon,” said Sweatt.
The American Heartworm Society recommends year-round heartworm prevention.
- Staff writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.