For years, the gold standard for heartworm treatment in pets has been a medication called immiticide. But, when the only company that manufactures the drug ran into supply problems several months ago, all that changed.
South Louisiana has one of the nation's highest rates of heartworm infection, and thousands of animals in our area are now facing an uncertain future.
Nancy Tabb Marcantel is the founder of the Animal Rescue Foundation of Louisiana, better known as ARF.
She and a small group of volunteers rescue, rehabilitate and re-home stray and abandoned animals throughout Acadiana from this location in Sunset, and adopt them out to homes across the country. But, due to the scarcity of immiticide, the one medication recommended for the eradication of heartworms, ARF's efforts to find homes for the one hundred plus animals in their care have ground to a halt.
"Probably 90% of the dogs we take in are positive, we can't adopt out a hw+ dog, it's not fair to the dog, it's not fair to the adopter" says Marcantel.
Marcantel says because of the lack of immiticide, ARF has now reached its limit for intakes, and the group has had to turn down requests for dogs in need of rescue. A local veterinarian Marcantel contacted to schedule treatment for her dogs provided a brutally honest perspective.
"He said, I have almost 200 dogs waiting, and that's private pay clients, so they're higher priority than rescue dogs are, and understandably, because that's his livelihood, but for us to have to get behind a whole long line is even a longer time before we can begin our rescues" says Marcantel.
based on new research from the American Heartworm Society, veterinarians are now using an alternative protocol that combines an antibiotic with a second medication to kill heartworms, but it's a slow, risky and expensive process. That's why prevention, instead of treatment, is the key.
"It's a fatal disease 100% of the time. They don't grow out of it, they don't get over it, once they're infected, they will die if they're not treated" says Marcantel.
"If you've got dogs or cats, then you need to be on heart worm preventative. Bring him to your veterinarian, have him tested, if they're negative, by all means get them started on heart worm preventative, because it's never too late" says Dr. Broussard.