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First Superbugs, Now Superworms? Heartworm Resistance Concerns Grow

Vet PrescriptionBoth the American Heartworm Society (AHS) and the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) have recently acknowledged the possibility that heartworms are growing resistant to commonly prescribed preventive drugs.

Per DVM Newsmagazine:

“CAPC Executive Director Michael Paul and AHS President Wallace Graham cited the interest and need to explore this issue in greater detail to find out why a population of animals in the Gulf region tested positive for heartworm infection, despite being on heartworm prevention.”

And according to Dwight Bowman, M.S., Ph.D. in his Veterinary Practice News article:

“… from the point of view of the dog and cat, health care now is similar to that of people after World War II when penicillin and related antibiotics jumped onto the scene and provided a remarkable method of combating bacteria. Life is good!”

Dr. Becker's Comments:

According to the DVM Newsmagazine article at the link, despite evidence of possible heartworm resistance to preventive drugs, both the AHS and the CAPC believe everyone should continue to use these drugs for all pets, in every circumstance, year round, while they "explore the potential relationships between resistance to heartworm products and veterinary and pet owner compliance, loss of product efficacy and heartworm testing and treatment protocols."

Translation: Please keep dosing your pets with our sponsors’ heartworm products while we try to 1. figure out how to distance ourselves from this pesky drug resistance business, and 2. allow our Big Pharma buddies enough time to create new and 'improved' heartworm meds to replace the ones we've insisted you overuse.

Who’s Really Behind Heartworm Dosing Advice?

As I mentioned in a recent article about heartworm infection, the American Heartworm Society is sponsored primarily by big drug companies.

Drug Manufacturer Heartworm Drug
Bayer Advantage Multi™
Merial Heartgard®
Pfizer Revolution®
Novartis Interceptor® and Sentinel®
Intervet/Schering-Plough (Merck) Tri-Heart® Plus
Virbac Iverhart Max® and Iverhart Plus®

Now take a look at who sponsors the Companion Animal Parasite Council.

It’s hardly shocking, given their backers, that the AHS and the CAPC would like you to keep giving your animal her monthly, year-round, birth-to-death heartworm drugs. They don’t care where you live, the time of year, the age of your dog, her size or the state of her health – just give her the drug.

Nor do they care that heartworms seem to be developing resistance to these drugs, a health care problem with potentially disastrous consequences.

The Growing Trend Toward Overuse of Drugs in Veterinary Medicine

This trend is of grave concern to me.

Similar to the approach in traditional medical practices serving humans, many traditional veterinarians are treating symptoms with drugs rather than attempting to cure the underlying diseases behind the symptoms.

This situation, coupled with the epidemic of over vaccination and a lifetime of poor nourishment of companion animals, has resulted in chronically ill pets, poisoned pets, pets with decimated immune systems, and pets with fatal illnesses like cancer.

Overuse of antibiotics has contributed to the development of superbugs, bacteria that is resistant to a wide variety of classes of drugs.

And now, never mind the well-established toxic nature of chemical insecticides – heartworm drugs are insecticides after all – and never mind the potential of heartworms to develop immunity to these insecticides – the advice from heartworm experts is to just keep dosing your pet. Heartworm disease is real; we need to provide solutions that balance preventing this disease with respecting animals’ immune systems.

Surely there’s a more sane response.

If you’d like to learn more about the entire subject of heartworm disease and what you can do to prevent your own beloved pet from being infected, read Why Haven’t Pet Owners Been Told These Facts about Heartworm?