Heartworm disease has been a common parasitic disease in the Mid-West and on the East coast for many years. It is transmitted to pets by mosquitoes and results in an infestation of a parasitic worm that lives and reproduces in the right chamber of the heart. The disease is caused by the abrasive action of the skin of the worm on the lining of the heart and the circulating materials the worm produces.
Prior to 2009 heartworm infections in dogs seemed to be very uncommon sighting for Tucson veterinarians. We still recommended preventive treatment and every-other-year testing but rarely found disease other than in dogs from commonly infested areas. Since 2009 we have detected nine heartworm positive (Arizona only) dogs. This does not, at first glance, seem like a large number but if it happens to your furry family member it is a tragedy, not to mention the expense of treatment. Fortunately, the owners of our most recent positive case had been purchasing the preventive (Heartgard) through our clinic and had their dog tested every other year, as was our policy. Because the protocol of our veterinarian clinic had been closely followed by the owners, Merial, the Heartgard company will provide treatment for the heartworm parasite and provide $500 for diagnostics and ancillary treatment.
At Encanto Pet Clinic, we are now recommending yearly testing and year-round prevention to comply with the recommendations of American Heartworm Society, as it is clear that the disease is here in the desert southwest and has been spotted by other Tucson veterinarians.
For those concerned about heartworm in cats, it is recommended to start your cat on preventive medication, Heartgard with or without previous testing.