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AHS Revises Heartworm Guidelines

By Veterinary Practice News Magazine's News Division

Posted: April 2, 2012, 7:45 p.m. EDT

The American Heartworm Society has updated its canine and feline heartworm guidelines and unveiled an initiative to help practices implement the guidelines’ recommendations.

The American Heartworm Society added the following new points:

Diagnostics: AHS recommends annual antigen testing for all dogs. Antigen-positive dogs should be tested for microfilariae presence.

canine and feline heartworm

Year-round prevention: AHS recommends that all dogs and cats receive chemoprophylactic drugs throughout the year to prevent heartworm disease, enhance compliance and control pathogenic and/or zoonotic parasites. Veterinary care providers must work together to increase the number of dogs receiving chemoprophylaxis and provide reminder systems to help pet owners purchase and administer products on time all year.

Lack of efficacy: The vast majority of suspected heartworm preventive failures result from inadequate prevention and testing. Macrocyclic lactones are still the best and only option for preventing heartworm infection.

Adulticide therapy: AHS recommends a multi-modal approach for heartworm treatment.

Pretreat dogs with a monthly preventive in combination with doxycycline prior to melarsomine administration.

Use a three-dose regimen of melarsomine (2.5 mg/kg body weight) for either symptomatic or asymptomatic dogs. The regimen should include an initial dose, followed at least one month later by two injections 24 hours apart.

Methods using only macrocyclic as an adulticide are not recommended.

The changes, while important, represent a gradual progression rather than a revolutionary change, according to American Heartworm Society president Wallace Graham, DVM.

The society’s new “Think 12 in 2012” campaign reminds pet owners to keep their pets on preventives year round and have annual antigen tests performed. Resources for the campaign, including client education handouts, case studies and scientific articles, are available through the society website at

Though similar to Merial’s new 12.12.12 campaign, Think 12 focuses on both prevention and testing, whereas Merial’s campaign focuses on prevention with specific goals for individuals and practices.


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