Heartworms

November 23, 2010

Since I mentioned the rising basic standards in my last post, I couldn't help doing a second quick post on Heartworms.

If 55% of dogs receive heartworm preventative but at least 80% test positive for microfilariae, then even treated dogs may test positive for heartworms; in fact, a significant portion (over half) of treated dogs WILL test positive.  Testing positive for the presence of heartworms is NOT the same as having heartworm disease.  Nevertheless, HSPCA claims that failure to provide preventative and a positive test = cruelty in Texas.

Nevertheless, HSPCA claims that failure to provide "preventative" and a positive test = cruelty in Texas.  No matter that the owner has debated the options and weighed the risks, failure to feed your dog poison on a monthly basis combined with a positive test that could be positive even if you had fed your dog the poisons will be considered conclusive evidence of cruelty by HSPCA.  No matter that YOU, the owner, may simply believe animals should live out natural lives without being fed pesticides at all.

The ARFs have unilaterally decided that failure to feed your dog monthly pesticides is failure to meet their new and now mandated minimum standard of care.  About 45% of dog owners are presumptively guilty of failure to provide minimum care at this moment in time.

And why is it so easy to get a veterinarian to get on the witness stand and proclaim that feeding pesticides to dogs and cats is a "good" thing?  Well, because you can't get those pesticides except through those veterinarians, of course.  While vaccinations are now "good" for 3 years, have y'all noticed that there's an increased demand by veterinarians to do annual testing for heartworms in order to get your monthly poisons?  Well, of course, we all have.  My, my, how neatly the ARF and veterinary agendas of the moment fit neatly together.

If eradication of heartworms for the benefit of all animals were in fact the goal of any of these people, if the interests of the animals were the primary concern, then heartworm meds would be readily available OTC, without exams, without scripts; as is done in most other countries.  Instead, we see veterinarians playing gatekeeper, lining their pockets.  We see ARFs using heartworms as an excuse to seize and even kill animals who may never develop heartworm disease.

When the percentage of dog owners feeding their dogs pesticides is at 55% and the percentage of cat owners doing so is probably minuscule, maybe feeding monthly pesticides shouldn't be any kind of minimum care standard.

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Keep in mind there are TWO different kinds of heartworm tests. There is the visual test for microfilaria (usually a 'screen' and miscroscope test)in the blood, and then there is the "Occult" test which is a serologic test for young or mature adults in the heart. It is also possible to test positive for microfilaria (yet negative on the serologic tests) in the presence of a harmless Dipetalonema parasite which closely resembles heartworms. That being said, the occult test (if positive) is *always* indicative of heartworm disease. Then we get into the argument of "treat or not". Being in the gulf south, I'm now of the mind that it's better to treat monthly and not lose another precious pet to a horrible death of heartworms like I did last year, having believed that "oh adult heartworms just will die and the dogs will be fine" as some people will think after reading the information about. People tend to be literal. They don't tend to do their own research. When I worked at vet clinics, we saw a LOT more cases than are being mentioned, and most of them were tragic. Devil's advocate to my own statement, I also had a dog who tested "positive" (serologically) for heartworms at 6 years and lived to be 17, then NOT dying of anything related to heartworms. But it's still important for readers (and dog owners) to know the difference between the tests particularly when "quality of care standards" are apparently being set by them by our local ASPCA branches.



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