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Why Does My Dog Need a Heartworm Test?

Every year, compliant dog owners bring their dogs in for a check-up, and are informed that they need a heartworm test.  Understandably, this is especially confusing for pet parents who religiously give the medication every month.  If they know their pet has been taking the prevention, why must they take the test? It’s a good question to which there are two answers.

The first reason is that, quite simply, it’s the law.  Veterinarians in the state of Florida must perform this test every 12 months in order to legally dispense the medication.  The spirit of the law is to protect your pet’s health.  If heartworm prevention is given to a dog that has already contracted the disease, it is possible for the dog to become dangerously ill.

The second reason is that no preventatives are 100% effective, even when they are given properly.  Pharmaceutical companies know this, and as a result, provide their consumers with a guarantee that acts as a goodwill gesture.  If a pet owner is giving the medication properly and consistently, and the product fails to protect your pet against heartworm disease or intestinal parasites, the pharmaceutical company will pay for your pet’s treatment!  The guarantee is only valid, however, if there is a solid purchase history and a previously negative heartworm test on file.  Since heartworm treatment is risky, and the cost can easily exceed $1000, it is in the consumer’s best interest to do the test.  Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes, so here in South Florida, our pets are at risk all year round.  It is therefore very important to remember to stay compliant with this basic, yet vital component of care.

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