American Heartworm Society provides new guidance on heartworm protocols during the pandemic


While telemedicine is proving a lifeline for many hospitals during the current crisis, it doesn’t allow for routine heartworm testing and the administration of certain medications.

To address these issues, the American Heartworm Society (AHS) issued new recommendations to help hospitals and shelters better manage heartworm treatment at a time when many have cancelled routine wellness visits, or, worse, closed their doors for the short term.

NEWStat reached out to American Heartworm Society President Chris Duke, DVM, to find out more about the recommendations.

Duke told NEWStat that the AHS received countless question from frustrated veterinarians about how to provide heartworm screening and prevention, as well as ongoing treatment, while constrained by limited services and hours. Confronted with these quandaries, “The AHS found it necessary to issue temporary recommendations that could help ensure the best possible patient care within the current parameters.”

While the current parameters present many challenges, Duke said the biggest has been maintaining continuity of care. The AHS believes their recommendations will help with that.

Key points include:

  • Extending sales of preventives up to another six months without a blood test if there is a valid VCPR, even if the test is out of date for up to six months.
  • For any preventives sold, being sure to put on a reminder for a blood test within six months to assure compliance.
  • Following through with continual macrocyclic lactone of choice over this period.
  • Using mosquito abatement not only to help with transmission to that particular dog, but to assist with limiting communal spread.

The recommendations also provide specifics to help practitioners with patients whose treatment for active heartworm infection has been interrupted by changes in hospital services.

“We realize that the current pandemic requires some short-term flexibility when it comes to heartworm prevention and treatment,” Duke said

Normally, he notes, spring is a time of year when veterinarians across the country are busy doing wellness checks for patients and conducting annual heartworm screening for dogs, as well as refilling prescriptions for heartworm preventives.

But this spring, Duke said, “Routine care has to take a back seat to . . . acute care and emergency treatment.”

Photo credit: © iStock/smrm1977

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