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Only Drug That Treats Heartworms In Dogs Is Completely Out

Heartworm Incidence Map

Veterinarians are calling it dangerous and for dog owners it may be deadly.

The only distributor of the only drug that treats heartworms is all out.

The company that distributes the drug was running low last week and this week they’re running on empty. Veterinarians say this is so disconcerting as there’s no immediate solution.

“Ears clean, eyes clear,” heartworm-free. That’s the news Dr. Mark Hale of Bolivar, Missouri likes to deliver. Unfortunately he can’t always.

“There’s two that are scheduled,” for heartworm treatment at All Creatures Animal Clinic in Bolivar right now. Hale will likely see 12 or 15 total this year.

That’s not usually a problem, except that after Hale’s latest two cases he’ll only have enough medication to treat one more.

“It’s concerning when you can’t get the medications you need;” the only medication that works.

“Immiticide is the product, comes 5 bottles to a box,” Hale says. The makers of Immiticide are temporarily not making it. That’s according to a statement from it’s Georgia-based distributor Merial, which informed vets nationwide in early August.

“If the dog is already sick from the disease it will be a big deal.”

It takes a dog two years from when the infection is contracted to show symptoms. So now, more than ever, Hale is pushing regular testing and preventative measures.

At Hale’s practice only 40% of the regular patients use some kind of heartworm prevention and if you include all the dogs he sees for just emergencies, that statistic drops to 20%.

“It’s not all due to cost. A lot of it is they don’t understand or they don’t know.”

According to Merial’s news release it could be weeks or even months before Immiticide is available again, but the distributor is working to secure a new supplier.

Hale says while prevention is costly, treatment after infection can be much worse.

Depending on the severity and the size of a dog it can run upwards of $1,000.

Story by Elaine Furst for Dog Files

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BrianneVillano
11 years ago

I’m going through this issue right now. My parents are adopting a heartworm positive dog from Dogs Deserve Better and he needs treatment. Luckily I work for a veterinary pathology laboratory and have brilliant colleagues. 

The antibiotic Doxycycline can be used twice daily in conjunction with HeartGuard once a month to break up the worms in the heart. The same issues are there as with Immitidicide so the dog must be restricted in activity level so as not to risk a pulmonary embolism from pieces of dead worm breaking off and getting lodged in the lung. But Doxy is a safe, cheap alternative that people should be aware of. 

Ramona
Ramona
11 years ago
Reply to  BrianneVillano

Brianne, I adopted a dog from a shelter and she was high heartworm positive. A friend had told me about treatment with Doxycycline and now, 15 months later, my babygirl is heartworm free!! And yes, more people need to be made aware of this! Excellent post!!

BrianneVillano
11 years ago
Reply to  Ramona

That’s fantastic, Ramona!! Were you able to restrict your dog’s activity for that whole time? I’d imagine that would be very difficult. Squirrel (soon-to-be-renamed Squiggy by my dad, lol) is a Class 1 H+ so he’s got a positive antigen test but shows no outward symptoms so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that his chances for a thromboembolism are low. 

He’ll be staying at my house starting this Friday until the end of next month when my parents drive down for my birthday where we’ll make the exchange and he’ll go to his forever home as my little brother. :o)

Ramona
Ramona
11 years ago
Reply to  BrianneVillano

Brianne, I adopted a dog from a shelter and she was high heartworm positive. A friend had told me about treatment with Doxycycline and now, 15 months later, my babygirl is heartworm free!! And yes, more people need to be made aware of this! Excellent post!!

Cassie Petty
11 years ago
Reply to  BrianneVillano

Thanks for adopting from DDB! We foster for a group that has worked with DDB in the past.

BrianneVillano
11 years ago
Reply to  Cassie Petty

That’s great, Cassie!

Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago
Reply to  BrianneVillano

I got an iPad 2 32-GB for $21.68 and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic Lumix GF 1 Camera that we got for $ 38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $ 657 which only cost me $ 62.81 . Here is the site we use to get it al from, http://to.ly/aX2I

Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago
Reply to  BrianneVillano

I got an iPad 2 32-GB for $21.68 and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic Lumix GF 1 Camera that we got for $ 38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $ 657 which only cost me $ 62.81 . Here is the site we use to get it al from, http://to.ly/aX2I

Chase11392001
Chase11392001
11 years ago
Reply to  BrianneVillano

Can you give me a bit more info….How much Doxycycline and for how long….is there not a less expensive HW medicine other than HeartGuard.  And, how long is activity restricted, would the dog need to be kenneled all day and just let out for potty breaks?  Any more info would be appreciated! 

BrianneVillano
11 years ago
Reply to  Chase11392001

Hi Chase, this is an excerpt from the article my vet path and I reviewed. So you’d have to convert kg to lbs and weight your dog. Then for every pound, it’s 10mg. So say Squiggy is 20 lbs which is about 9.07 kg. So 9.07 x 10mg/kg = 90.7 mg per dose. BID = twice a day = ~200mg per day. So he is going to get one 100mg dose in the morning and one 100mg dose in the evening.

His vet suggested a 4 week treatment on and then 3-4 months off after which he’d get another heartworm test to see if it’s negative. If not, and if Immiticide is then available, we’d try the Immiticide and seeing as how we prepped him with Doxy, it should work even better than it would have by itself. I would highly suggest taking this info to your vet, though, to discuss it.

If you want to post your email address, I will email you the full article from my vet path but here is the excerpt:

The American Heartworm Society (AHS) recently updated its guidelines for treatment of heartworm infection in dogs. It says, “Studies have shown that heartworm-positive dogs pretreated with ivermectin and doxycycline prior to receiving melarsomine (Immiticide) injections had less pulmonary pathology associated with the death of the heartworms. If doxycycline is incorporated into a heartworm treatment protocol it should be given before administration of melarsomine so the Wolbachia organisms and their metabolites are reduced or absent when the worms die and fragment. Doxycycline administered at 10mg/kg BID for four weeks has been shown to eliminate more than 90 percent of the Wolbachia organisms and the levels remain low for three to four months.

”For dogs who are not treated with Immiticide, the guidelines say, “the use of a monthly ivermectin-based heartworm preventive along with doxycycline could be considered. It has been reported that ivermectin and doxycycline administered periodically over 36 weeks resulted in a 78 percent reduction in adult worm numbers. Moreover, microfilariae from dogs treated with doxycycline that were ingested by mosquitoes developed into third-stage larvae that appeared to be normal in appearance and motility, but these larvae were not able to develop into adult worms, thus negating the risk of selecting for resistant strains.

The administration of doxycycline at 10 mg/kg BID for a four-week period every three to four months should eliminate most Wolbachia organisms and not allow them to repopulate.”

Angelhimm
Angelhimm
11 years ago

My malti-poo has been on Revolution for his 11 years of life….so why would I put him thru a blood test every year to determine whether or not his ‘might’ contract heartworm??? So each and every year, for the last 10 years I have signed a waiver to not have him tested. I know he will live another 5-6 years if not more. Vets pull at an owners heart strings, and make them feel guilty if they do not authorize a heartworm blood test….save your money, and sign the waiver!!

Gjbarnes
Gjbarnes
11 years ago
Reply to  Angelhimm

I hope your dog does live to old age. However, you do not say where you are from. My dog has been on heartworm prevention his entire life and he did get heartworms. I test my dogs twice yearly. My vet thinks it’s overkill. It is an expense I am willing to do! There is a lot of dogs that are getting heartworms, even being on prevention.

Goldieloks101
Goldieloks101
11 years ago
Reply to  Gjbarnes

My baby Mattie got the Heartworms even though she has been on Heartguard for all of her life.  She is now being treated, I am a nervous wreck.  

BrianneVillano
11 years ago
Reply to  Goldieloks101

I hope she’s ok!

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