For the last two years, what was once a normal, readily available treatment for dogs suddenly has been a big problem for owners of dogs diagnosed with later stage heartworm disease.
Since November, 2011 there has been a critical shortage of the only FDA approved medication called Immidicide to treat adult heartworms in canines after the company that manufactures the drug halted production in the US.
Veterinarians normally had plenty of Immidicide on hand, but obtaining the drug has become extremely difficult to obtain and keep stocked in pet hospitals.
Heartworms in the Heart of a Dog
Heartworms, which are a bloodsucking roundworm transmitted by mosquitoes, are a dangerous and potentially fatal parasite to a dog. They live in the arteries of a dog’s lungs and heart. Left untreated, they cause decreased blood flow from the heart which results in congestive fluid build up in a dog’s abdomen and liver and eventual death.
Immidicide’s active ingredient is Melarsomine, a derivative of arsenic which is difficult to manufacture. The only company that manufactures the drug, Merial, warned veterinarians back in September, 2011 that the company was experiencing “technical difficulties” at a plant where the drug is produced and that there would be shortages of the drugs “for several months.” This month, they announced that they were still having problems and that “the re-start is taking longer than originally anticipated.”
By the way, it is not the first time this company has had difficulties in producing the drug-they have had problems since December, 2009.
During this crisis, the FDA has allowed the company to import a European version of the drug from overseas manufacturers on a very limited basis. But a negative result is that US Veterinarians can now only order the drug on a case by case basis.
The good news is that pets on routine heartworm preventative medication are at very low risk of contracting the heartworm disease.
There are still drugs available that can treat heartworms at earlier stages, so if you catch the problem in time, there is still a good chance to save a dog.
The bad news is that dogs that are infected that would normally be allowed to be cared for in animal shelters are now being put down right away because they pose a risk to the rest of the animals in the shelter.
So with this severe shortage of Immidicide, what should a pet owner do to avoid a serious problem with heartworms?
The key to dealing with this situation is PREVENTION!
If your dog is on preventative heartworm treatment, it is imperative that you continue the treatment diligently. That means making and keeping regular appointments with your Veterinarian which allows him to correctly administer these preventive measures.
If your dog is not receiving a preventative treatment, immediately bring the dog in to the Animal Hospital of Sullivan County so we can examine your pet. If we find that your dog has tested negative for heartworms, we can begin preventative heartworm treatment. We will want to test the dog again after six months to make sure his body is clear of the parasites.
If your dog tests positive, I will immediately apply to Merial for the required doses of Immidicide and, depending what stage the heartworm infection is, I may also begin an alternative protocol that takes longer to work. There are antibiotics like Doxycyline that when combined with a heartworm preventative can help shorten the lifespan of adult heartworms and reduce the problems associated with heartworm infection and the risk of death to an infected dog.
So rest assured, no matter whether it is heartworms or whatever ailment your pet may be suffering from, the Animal Hospital of Sullivan County is there to ensure that your family receives the best guidance and care to help manage your animal’s medical needs.
In March, get 10% off 12 doses of Heartworm Preventative & a $12 rebate with the purchase of the 12 doses. Also see the $10 off coupon below for savings on that very important Heartworm Test!
Contact us today for more information.