Hi this is Dr. Scott Griffith from The French Quarter Vet. Today I wanted to give you an update as far as the latest that's going on in regards to heartworm disease in dogs and in cats. The latest 2012 heartworm symposium results came out and these are the experts from all over the world to get together and research heartworm disease, it's prevalence, it's effective treatments, it's proper diagnosis, exactly what can be done to minimize heartworm disease in your area and in your pet, and the effects of it and appropriate treatment if necessary.

Heartworm disease been around for many years. I lived in New Orleans here and we were not very well off. Our pets and our dogs never went to the vet. The only time they did is when it was in the right-side-of-heart failure dying from heartworm disease. We took over to a on Elysian Fields field and he would stick a big needle in his belly and drain the fluid out. I think when I was a kid I almost passed out two or three times watching that, and it wasn't very inspiring for me to become a veterinarian but it is what it was. My appointment is that heartworm disease is been around for years and it's still the number one killer dogs and Louisiana. It's becoming also extremely dangerous and prevalent in casts, and we're talking indoor cats as well as outdoor cats.

If your pets lives in Louisiana, indoors or outdoors, they are susceptible to it. Granted if they live outside they will get bit by more mosquitoes, but mosquitoes fly into people's homes. They are heat seekers that tend to go for that warm body that's not moving at all, and quite often that can be the dog or the cat. That’s why they will get bit before you will. They don't really see well. They just feel heat and go towards the heat. Because of this it’s important to realize that people have a misconception that my pet doesn't go outside and doesn't need to be on heartworm preventative. Unfortunately that's not true. I see cases every month of indoor dogs that test positive for heart worms, because the owner quit giving the preventative during the wintertime. They didn't think that the mosquitoes were bad, or they just thought because it was an inside dog it wasn't necessary.

What happens is a mosquito flies around and bites a dogs that has heartworms. It then sucks up the microscopic baby heartworm's into its body flies around and bites another dog or cat and injects his babies into the other dog or cat. These microscopic babies migrate through the body of the dog or cat and seven months later you've a foot and a half long worm inside the right chamber of the heart. Where it clogs up the arteries going to lungs. These are living worms inside the blood vessels. They can't cough them up. They won't come out of the stool if we get them medicine. They have to go through very rigorous treatment to get rid of them.

If you give your dog or cat heartworm preventative, when those babies are injected into your dog your cat from mosquito the preventative kills the baby heartworms when they attempt to molt. As long as this happens they essentially cause no problems. It's when the pet is not on preventative or you miss month of preventative it misses that window of opportunity to kill that parasite and thats when a dog or your cats can end up with heart worms.

I'll talk about dogs first and then I'll talk about cats. Signs of heart worms in dogs initially are nonexistent. Fortunately ,since we check dogs every year, most cases of heart worms we detect are in in the early stages before they become clinically sick. That's not always the case but it's most of the time we do that, which means we have a much higher degree of success for treating dogs for heart worms. For dogs who get advanced heartworm disease, the first symptoms you will see is exercise intolerance. they can't run as much; they get short-winded. It would be similar to someone who is a heavy smoker. Their lungs and cardiovascular system are compromise, and as a result they cannot run and play. the owners will notice a decreased amount of activity. There maybe coughing associated with it, and as it advances go going to full-blown right-side-of-the-heart failure. Those can all be treated but you don't ever wanted to get to that point. You don't want him to get heartworm's in the first place. It's very simple you give him once a month heartworm medicine. Virtually all the heartworm medications work equally the same. There's some controversies out there, but it’s the wars between these drug companies. They say there's a resistant form of heartworms that another product doesn't cover and vice versa. It's a big money war out there. Frankly they all work.

The only time I've seen heartworm disease when you wouldn't expect it was a few cases where patients are buying their products from online pharmacies. One of our most recent cases is a good client who is a very animal oriented person. I know her personally and she was giving Heart Guard from day one. She never missed a month, but they were buying their products from an online pharmacy. It turns out it was a counterfeit product or not store properly, but whatever it was it was not effective this big pit bull that was so well taken care of came down with heart worms. He had to be treated. So, If you're getting your heartworm preventative from your vets office I can assure your pet will never get heartworms. It's 99.9% effective and any form of it works. Unlike flea products, were they have lost their ability to work. Thats is why we recommend for dogs use a heartworm combination along with the good flea combination. We recommend Trifexis. That product has a very good heartworm preventative, and it and also has a very good intestinal worm preventative that prevents all intestinal worms, including whipworms. A lot of the other products don't prevent those, and I see a lot of whipworm intestinal colitis. Those worms are very hard to diagnose and find. The best way to do is prevent them. Trifexis is combined with Comfortis, which is the best flea product on the market. Frontline doesn't work anymore, and Revolution doesn't work in dogs anymore for fleas. I've got cases of Frontline still at my clinic and I'm never going to sell it, because it doesn't work anymore. I'm not going to even trying to sell it, because in my opinion I'm wasting the clients money by doing that. So, I think it's important for you to be using a product that you can give one pill once a month, where your not applying a topical medication. The issue with that that is that you have to apply properly. It's okay if you don't apply it right for fleas and they get a few fleabites, but if you don't apply properly and it doesn't work and your pet gets heartworms, that's a whole different story. All the heartworm preventative in my opinion work equally as well. It's more about combining them with the right flea medicine.

For cats, between 50 and 70% of all cats that were tested in 2012 were positive for heartworm disease, which shocked the crap out of me. These are cats that were diagnosed through autopsy with heartworm's not through blood test. Out of thousands of indoor and outdoor cats, between 50 and 70%, depending on which region they came from, had heartworm disease.

Cats don't show the same symptoms, and that's the problem. Cats basically will tolerate heartworms and I'll develop either asthmatic symptoms will have sudden death syndrome. They'll have acute respiratory distress. We will treat them like it's asthma, but basically you don't even want to get to that point. What we're recommending now, and we changed our policy on this, is that all cats take heartworm preventative year-round. We are recommending that the form of Revolution. Revolution is a very good flea product for cats and it prevents heartworm disease. It also prevents major intestinal parasites, the ones that we are worried about. In my opinion every cat should be on revolution year-round. There is another flea product called Assurity, which when you're having a bad flea infestation it's not a bad idea to use a combination of both of those products.

Unfortunately, heartworm disease is here to stay and it's getting worse. It's spread by mosquitoes, and as you guys are probably aware, our mosquito problem in southern Louisiana is not going away. Unless global warming dries up our swamps and we have no more water, we need monthly heartworm preventative for dogs answer cats.

We can talk by treatment for heart worms later, but it's just important to realize that if you're going to get your priorities straight about your pets, heartworm prevention is critical in both of them. Be sure to invest in that. In our clinic when you buy a six-month supply of the preventatives instead of the individual monthly doses there's about a 20% savings, so it's well worth it if you can buy six-month supply. Additionally, we sometimes have rebate programs going on for six or 12 month supply, so it can help you with the savings even more. Again, I caution buying heartworm preventative in particular over the Internet. If your pet comes down of heartworms, at the whole lot worse than buying flea product that happens to just not work. If your pet gets fleas it's not nearly as dangerous as a dog or cat that dies from heart disease.

Cats cannot be treated for heartworms. they can only be treated symptomatically with steroids. Think you have to light three candles and say four Novenas every month, because were Catholic here in New Orleans. That's I was told at one of the meetings anyways. For cats it's just a crapshoot. We don't test cats to see if they have heartworms on a routine basis, because it's very difficult to diagnose. It requires x-rays bloodwork and multiple blood tests and even then it's not always conclusive.

Dogs it's a simple blood test that we do in the exam room. It tells you pets either positive or negative for heart worms. When do it, I'm very adamant about this, we pull the blood in the room in front of the client and run the test in the room. We leave it on the counter when we go out, so that test never leaves the room. I want you to see the results of that test and I want you to know that it was the blood that came out of your dog, so there's no question that if that test comes up positive, that your pet has heart worms and we can discuss at that point what to do. Were very open and were very transparent about that testing, because that's how firm firmly I believe in it. It is easy and simple. One drop of blood is all we need. It’s painless to the pet. We use a little bitty needle to draw the blood. This is done yearly at the annual visit when we do the rabies vaccinations in addition to their other vaccines for Parvo and Distemper and Bordatella and the routine parasite check. With cats routine blood testing is not recommended. It's good to have a baseline negative, but at this point I don't feel that the costs involved is worth it. We're going to start cats on Revolution anyways.

Cats don't produce the Microfilaria, or the babies, in the bloodstream. That is what we test for and that is why we have to test dogs. If you start a dog on heartworm preventative without testing it, and it has the baby in the bloodstream it can have an allergic reaction and actually die shortly after giving the medication. Cats don't have that same risk because the worms usually cannot reproduce in the cat said. They can't reproduce in a cat, so they can't have reaction. The bottom line is cats can just be started on preventative safely and that'll generally be good enough. Blood testing is recommended, and I quote recommended, but between the x-rays and blood work and the fact that it's not going to change what were doing anyways. I'm not sure the point of it. I'd rather see put your money towards a good diet and other healthcare supplements and other recommendations to take care of your pet then doing test that I'm not quite sure that pet is in the benefit enough for what you have to pay for it.

So the cats and dogs need to be on preventative long-term, all the time, year round. We had a case diagnosed just this past weekend of heart worms in a cat. We see heartworms once a week, and we are treating a number cases right now, but prevention is the way to go. Call the office we can give you any information you want. I'll give you my personal opinion on the different products available.

The main thing is just trying get your heartworm preventative from you veterinary clinic. We don't want you pet getting heart worms from some product that's either counterfeiter not working well. I was watching TV this morning, and Paul Mitchell's got a problem now, because they're counterfeiting hair products. Their same it's even dangerous because they're putting all kinds of crap and there as filler, and putting stuff out there on the market. So people would do anything for a buck, anything to make money. Counterfeiting is a problem and veterinary drugs are no exception. there's a huge market on. It's worth billions of dollars, and it's easy to do and easy fool people. If you buy the product from your veterinarian, who buys it directly from a distributer then that's never can happen. unfortunately it happens all the time on the Internet, and the DEA cannot keep up with it. They just throw their hands up and they can't scratch the surface on these fake pharmacies making these products out there. There is big bucks in it and with the way the economy is, it's not going to stop anytime soon. So anyway, watch out for those mosquitoes, and make sure you give your heartworm preventative to your pets once a month.


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  • "great first experience! I was visiting New Orleans on my way to Miami and needed to get my pup checked up and a prescription for Heartgard. They fit me in same day and were extremely accommodating. Scott Griffith was the vet that took care of us and he was informative, nice, and super helpful!"
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