Dr. Karen Becker shares some interesting truths about Heartworm prevention and the American Heartworm Society.
The American Heartworm Society (AHS) is a veterinarian based organization whose mission statement claims “to be the global resource for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heartworm disease.” As Dr. Becker skillfully points out AHS “has three platinum sponsors and five bronze sponsors. All eight are major pharmaceutical manufacturers.” Platinum sponsor Bayer manufactures the Advantage Multi flea, heartworm and parasite prevention. Platinum sponsor Merial manufactures Heartgard; and platinum sponsor Pfizer manufactures the Revolution Heartworm preventative. http://www.heartwormsociety.org/sponsors/sponsors.html
Conflict of interest? Dr. Becker calls it a “Huge conflict of interest potential.” “When there’s money on the table – in this case billions of dollars – you pet’s health and quality of life can quickly become a secondary concern.” I couldn’t agree more.
While the risk of heartworm is real, Dr. Becker shares how difficult the heartworm is to acquire.
“Heartworms are a variety of roundworm with the clinical name dirofilaria immitis. They are spread by mosquitoes.
Dogs can only get heartworm disease through infected mosquitoes. They can’t get it from other dogs or other types of animals, from dog feces, or from their mothers while in the womb or through nursing.
Only certain mosquitoes can transmit heartworm to your dog. These mosquitoes must meet certain precise criteria, including:
• They must be female.
• They must be of a species that allows development of the worms in the cells of the body (not all species do).
• They must be of a species that feeds on mammals (not all do).
• They must have bitten an animal infected with stage 1 (L1) heartworms about two weeks prior, since approximately 14 days are necessary for the larvae from the other animal to develop to stage 3 (L3) inside the transmitting mosquito.
This mosquito must then bite your dog. When the larvae reach stage L4-L5, which takes three to four months, under
the right conditions they can travel via your dog’s bloodstream to the lungs and heart.
If your dog’s immune system doesn’t destroy these invaders, they will reach maturity (L6), the adult stage, in which males can grow to six inches in length and females to 12.
Two other critically important features in the transmission of heartworm are:
1. The right temperature. During the time the heartworm larvae are developing from L1 to L3 inside an infected mosquito, which is approximately a two-week period, the temperature must not dip below 57°F at any point in time. If it does, the maturation cycle is halted. According to Washington State University heartworm report from 2006, full development of the larvae requires “the equivalent of a steady 24-hour daily temperature in excess of 64°F (18°C) for approximately one month.”
2. Humidity and standing water. Mosquitoes are a rarity in dry climates.”
Currently, the only organization we have providing us and our veterinarians with statistics on heartworm, is sponsored (supported) by Big Pharma producers of heartworm preventatives. Should you give your pet a year round heartworm preventative? I can’t tell you yes or no. This is one of those decisions you have to make for yourself. The risk is there, however the question remains of how much of a risk is it where you and your pet lives. Dr. Becker’s article provides further prevention information, Click Here to open up her article in a new window.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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