Is Your Pet Protected?

JONESBORO, AR -- Mosquitoes are creating a problem that seems to be unique to Region 8. Some area pets on heartworm preventative meds are still falling ill with the parasites.

This one has veterinarians across the country scratching their heads and it seems to be only happening here in this region. The animals are getting the proper preventative treatments and still several are developing heartworms, a serious disease that if not treated early, can be fatal to your pet.

Larry Ramthun gives his dogs their heartworm preventive medication every month. A few years ago, the medicine that was there to prevent the parasites from infecting his animals became a little less trustworthy.

"My older dog developed heartworms while on the treatment. The first time, we thought well, maybe I missed a treatment," says Ramthun.

But later on down the road, Larry began to question that. This January, his dog patty contracted heartworms for the second time.

"We treated her for heartworms, got through it and everything was just fine and then last year, which was about two or three years later, she tested positive for heartworms again. And I knew that she hadn't missed any heartworm treatments at that time. I was sure of it," says Ramthun.

After doing some research, Larry learned that this problem wasn't just with his animals. Numerous other cases in the area have been reported over the last few years and just at his vet alone, they've treated close to 50 cases where the animals developed heartworms after being treated properly with the preventives. The crazy thing is the problem seems to just be here, in the Mississippi Delta Region.

"Everybody's reluctant to say we've got a resistance problem, but it sure looks like we do. Something's going on, some reasons that are premium preventive medications are not working in the Mid-South as well as they are the rest of the country," says Ramthun.

We spoke with Larry's veterinarian, Dr. Kevin Reed for some possible answers, but the docs are just as puzzled as the owners.

"There seems to be an upswing in the numbers and we don't really know why," says Dr. Reed of VetCare in Jonesboro.

All the medicines say they are 100 percent effective and that's the mystery. Why are some animals slipping through the cracks when they are being treated properly?

"We're at a loss for explanation, the companies are at a loss for explanation, and the universities are still looking into it. It's obviously a pretty important topic right now that's being addressed," says Dr. Reed.

As of now, it's a problem without answers, one that can be costly to you and potentially deadly for your pet.

"If you take care of them like you should, or like I feel like you should anyways, it's a big expense taking care of your little critters, your buddies. It's terribly frustrating to run into this heartworm problem," adds Ramthun.

Dr. Reed did say the best thing you can do for your pet right now is continue with the preventive meds monthly and make sure your pet is checked for heartworms at least once a year.

Also, Dr. Reed added that the manufacturers of the heartworm preventatives will stand behind their products if your pet should contract heartworms while properly taking the medication.