Testing Important After Missing Heartworm Preventive

“OK, if it’s important, we’ll go ahead and schedule,” said Griffin’s dad.

There are very few things your pet’s doctor will recommend that aren’t “important.” In the present case we were calling our client after failing to obtain a response to two mailed reminders and several phone calls.

At Griffin’s last visit, seven months ago, he had missed a dose of his monthly heartworm preventive. We explained to the owners how important it is to administer heartworm preventive on schedule every month.

We then obtained a blood sample for a heartworm test, the result of which was negative. When we presented the test result we used a script all staff members are taught. Scripting the presentation ensures that every staff member says the same thing to every client every time.  The script goes like this:

“Good news! A single line in the Control area of the test indicates that the test performed correctly. The absence of a line in the test area indicates that no heartworms were found today. However, it is important to understand that there is a limitation to any heartworm test, and that is that during the time Griffin has been off his heartworm preventive, there could be heartworms in his body now that are just not old enough to show up on the test. On the other hand, those heartworms might be too old to be stopped by restarting his heartworm preventive today, which we will do. Be sure to give his heartworm preventive every month for the next six months, then, when you get his reminder in six months, be sure to call right away for a visit for a followup heartworm test. If that test is also negative, we celebrate. If heartworms do go ahead and mature and the followup test is positive, we will be able to begin a heartworm treatment before they have a chance to do a lot of damage to the heart and lungs. Griffin is not out of the woods until he has a negative test in six months.”

The same information is reprinted on the pet’s receipt, and this link is placed on the pet’s Examination Report Form. Clearly, we don’t expect clients to have total recall 180 days after a patient’s visit. Therefore, some pet owners require a “review” prior to making an appointment.

Heartworm disease isn’t just “important,” it’s a matter of life and death. If Griffin’s heartworm test this month (which should have been performed last month) should turn up positive, we don’t want those heartworms to have any additional, unnecessary time to damage the heart, lungs and Griffin’s health.

All you really have to remember is, when your dog has been off his heartworm preventive, has a negative heartworm test, but needs another test in six months, be sure he gets that test on time.

Yes, it’s important.

See you Monday, Dr. Randolph.

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