12/12/12 event at NAVC celebrates landmark year for heartworm prevention

Proud veterinarians raised their champagne glasses during the 12/12/12 event at the NAVC on Jan. 21 to toast to their collective success in preventing heartworm disease in 2012.

AAHA and Merial hosted the event at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center to celebrate the efforts of veterinarians across America who pledged in 2012 to advocate heartworm prevention 12 months each year.

According to AAHA President Dr. Mark Russak, who was a featured speaker, the numbers produced by the 12/12/12 campaign speak to the power of what can be accomplished when veterinarians commit to a cause on a large scale.

During the event, speakers revealed that approximately 11,000 individuals and 8,500 practices committed to participating in 12/12/12. As a result of this major commitment, about 400,000 more dogs were protected from heartworm than in 2011.

Preventing a preventable disease
“No dog should have heartworm disease. Period. How preventable is this disease? How good are these medications? And yet heartworm is on the rise,” Russak said.

To prevent veterinarians from having to tell clients that their pets have heartworm disease, Russak has thrown his full support behind the 12/12/12 initiative, which focuses on year-round heartworm prevention through measures such as reminding clients monthly about prevention and increasing awareness of heartworm dangers.

Russak discussed how a Connecticut practice he worked for early in his career that issued heartworm medication nine months out of the year because the other three months were not within “heartworm season.” He said that the hospital dealt with many heartworm cases until they decided to focus on providing year-round medication.

“Within two years we saw fewer cases of heartworm. We knew at that time we were on the right track,” Russak said.

And the positive results from the 12/12/12 program show that Merial and AAHA are on the right track, said Dr. Michael Murray, technical marketing director for Merial. He said that 2012 was one of the best years for heartworm prevention thanks to the program.

Focusing on 2013 and beyond
Murray revealed that veterinarians can now participate in the Power of 12 program, which is the successor to the 12/12/12 initiative.

The Power of 12 program prepares veterinarians to get clients to say yes to 12 doses of Heartgard through their recommendations, Murray said. Participating veterinarians can take advantage of a new program overview guide and a new website, as well as track progress and win prizes, he said.

Instead of resting on the laurels of their success, featured speaker Dr. Marsha Heinke said veterinarians need to use the 12/12/12 program as a launching pad for further efforts involving preventive care.

“Don’t stop now,” she said. “It’s important to take the lessons learned and apply them to different parts of preventive care.”

Visit the Power of 12 website to learn more about joining.