Heartworm disease is preventable or it should be but what we’re doing today clearly isn’t working. From 2013 to 2015, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, there’s been a 166 percent increase in cases of the potentially deadly mosquito spread heartworm disease in dogs.
Until now, heartworm protocol hasn’t changed. At a press conference at the Convention of the American Veterinary Medical Association in San Antonio, TX on August 6. Dr. Christopher Rehm, president of the American Heartworm Society said, “Maybe the time has come for that protocol change, to attack the vector.”
By vector, Rehm is talking the two dozen plus known mosquito species that transmit heartworm. And making matters worse or at least more challenging – in some places mosquito populations appear to be on the rise.
Researcher John McCall, professor emeritus Department of Infectious Diseases University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, Athens says his research strongly supports a change of heartworm protection protocol.
McCall notes several deterrents are currently in the way of 100 percent heartworm prevention:
- Emergence of resistance: In specific and limited geographic regions (though likely spreading), as the heartworm pre-larvae or microfilaria (transmitted by mosquitoes) have grown resistant to traditional heartworm products.
- Compliance: People forget to administer the heartworm protection, or are unaware that the dog may have spit out the chewable.
- Veterinary discussion not occurring: A surprising percent of veterinarians and technicians allow clients to leave the clinic without having a heartworm discussion. And with veterinary visits down, while people can purchase flea/tick protection over-the-counter (though that is not suggested), heartworm protection is only available through vet clinics – so pets go without because there is no vet visit.
With all this as a backdrop, McCall’s first series of studies (announced in March at the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas) demonstrated that Vectra 3D, which contains permethrin, was more than 95 percent effective at repelling and killing mosquitoes for 28 days after treatment. In addition, Vectra 3D was nearly 100 percent effective at blocking microfilariae, which are pre-larval or “baby” heartworm from entering the dog’s bloodstream.
Part 2 of McCall’s study (released at the AVMA Convention) showed that Vectra 3D prevents 98.5 percent of mosquitoes from feeding on dogs, and heartworm can’t be spread from dogs using Vectra 3D or to dogs using Vectra 3D. In other words – Vectra 3D actually eliminate mosquitos as the “middle man” or the disease vector.
In his study using mosquito’s resistant to traditional products, McCall found 95.5 to 100 percent insecticidal effectiveness of Vectra 3D. Of the few mosquitoes that manage to take a blood meal from Vectra 3D treated dogs, they don’t live any more than three days.
What’s more Vectra 3D turns out to provide a public service. And with all the news about the Zika virus (not to mention West Nile Encephalitis and other diseases spread by mosquitoes), killing mosquitoes is a crucial and urgent need.
“Your family and neighbors will appreciate that your dogs are protected by Vectra 3D,” Rehm said.
Veterinary parasitlogist Dr. Byron Blagburn, distinguished university professor at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine and past president of the Companion Animal Parasite Council and American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists noted, “There’s no evidence or support that dogs or cats get the Zika virus. But we do.” If the mosquitoes are not living another day to reproduce they’re not biting us.
McCall’s done the math. He said that one female mosquito may conservatively be responsible for 800,000 babies in a matter of a few months.
Also, consider that traditional heartworm preventives are truly heartworm treatments. The baby pre-larval heartworms are effectively killed once they enter the bloodstream but they’ve entered the bloodstream. McCall says that had the Vectra 3D product come first, it would have been called a preventive because the product does prevent the pre-larval microfilaria from entering the dog’s blood stream in the first place.
Vectra 3D is an effective product to protect against fleas and ticks, which is protection all pet owners need anyway. So, the double-defense protocol doesn’t mean double spending by pet owners. (Though cats do get heartworm, Vectra 3D is only for use in dogs).