Dogs Must Have Heartworm Test When Heartworm Preventive Missed

There is a scenario that has begun to repeat itself rather frequently of late.

“I need to pick up more heartworm preventive for “Fluffy’. She missed one (or more) months and I need to get her restarted.”

Revolution is an excellent heartworm preventive for both dogs and cats.

To which our staff responds, “I understand, Mrs. Smith. Because Fluffy may have become infected with heartworms during the time she has been off her heartworm preventive, she will need for Dr. Randolph to perform a heartworm test before restarting. If we fail to do that, and she has gotten heartworms, she could suffer a reaction that could even be fatal.”

“Oh, that won’t be necessary, she doesn’t have heartworms,” Mrs. Smith replies.

“We hope not, Mrs. Smith, but there is no way to know without a blood test.”

“But she missed only one month!”

Heartworm preventives are given monthly because prevention is effective for only 31 days. One month of missing heartworm preventive is one month too many. It’s still not safe to restart her heartworm preventive without a blood test.”

“I see,” Mrs. Smith says, understanding. “When can she have the test? I’ll make an appointment now.”

This is but one of the scenarios we find ourselves explaining. We’re more than happy to explain, but sometimes pet owners try to back us into a corner:

  1. “He missed only one month. Can’t I have the dose anyway? With the weak economy I haven’t gotten much work and my income is way down.”
  2. “What difference does it make that my dog didn’t get his heartworm preventive for three months? I’m retired and living off my income from the stock market, which isn’t doing too well.”
  3. “I know Pierre missed six months of heartworm preventive, but you just want to the test to try to make more money off of me. My husband left and I have three kids to raise all by myself. Why can’t I have more heartworm preventive?” a pet owner asks after the full explanation has been given to her.
  4. “Rover did miss two months of heartworm preventive. I’m sorry. Can’t I have the heartworm preventive anyway without a test?”
  5. “Your computer records must be wrong. I know she didn’t miss any heartworm preventive.”

Sometimes these stories break our hearts. This economy affects everyone. Bad things happen in our work, marriages, relationships. Our own health fails.

However, heartworms don’t care about any of these things.

Your being out of work won’t stop your dog’s body from having a reaction to undiagnosed heartworms.

The down stock market won’t stop your dog’s body from having a reaction to undiagnosed heartworms.

Being sorry won’t stop your dog’s body from having a reaction to undiagnosed heartworms. We’re sorry, too, because we have your pet’s best interest at heart and we commiserate with your situation.

Family difficulties won’t stop your dog’s body from having a reaction to undiagnosed heartworms.

Ninety-nine percent of veterinary practices today are computerized. There are only two ways for computer records to be wrong. One, if there is a hard drive crash and the hospital has insufficient data backup. Two, if a dishonest employee “misplaces” your cash payment instead of posting it in the computer.

In the former scenario the staff knows what time period of data is missing and knows what your heartworm preventive purchases are before and since the crash. Data backup is cheap and easy. Such data losses are usually temporary.

The latter scenario is fairly unlikely. Veterinary hospital staff members are generally very devoted, focused and honest. Still, security in today’s veterinary practice management software is excellent. A receipt is invaluable, as forged receipts are easy to spot.

We share in your sense of frustration when heartworm preventive doses are missed. We simply ask that pet owners understand that Nature behaves the way she is set up, not the way we would like her to behave.

The responsibility for administering monthly heartworm preventives lies with each pet owner. You may sign up with a service to remind you to give the medicine every month, your veterinarian’s office may even be willing to call you every month.

We humans are the weak link in the system, and when we forget that monthly responsibility, the burden must fall on the human caring for the pet at home.
See you Monday, Dr. Randolph.

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