AHS/ASV release updated transport recommendations for heartworm-positive dogs

March 24, 2021
dvm360 Staff

The refined recommendations aim to clarify the timing of heartworm testing and the use of doxycycline prior to transport and much more.

The American Heartworm Society (AHS) and the Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) recently issued a new set of joint transport recommendations designed to educate veterinarians, shelter personnel, and other animal rescue workers on how to safeguard the health of heartworm-positive dogs and prevent them from becoming vectors of transmission.

The AHS and AVS initially issued recommendations for the transport of heartworm-positive dogs in 2017 following the heart-breaking hurricanes that left thousands of pets homeless throughout the southern United States. The original recommendations provided crucial information to veterinarians and animal rescue organizations to help swiftly save the lives of abandoned and homeless pets.

According to an AHS release, the AHS and AVS recently refined these recommendations to better elucidate the timing of heartworm testing and the use of doxycycline before transport, and the expansion of treatment options.

“After 3 years of implementation and evaluation, the AHS and ASV reviewed the transportation guidelines for scientific accuracy, clarity, and feasibility of use,” says Brian DiGangi, DVM, ABVP (Canine & Feline Practice, Shelter Medicine Practice), officer for the AHS board of directors, and senior director of shelter medicine at the ASPCA.

The principles of these refined transport recommendations include the following:

  • Tests for all dogs greater than 6 months of age for microfilariae and heartworm antigen. Whether they are homeless dogs being relocated, pet dogs accompanying their owners on vacation, or traveling show dogs, knowing their health status while undergoing transport is essential.
  • Determine which steps of the heartworm treatment protocol should be performed before and after transport. Some heartworm medications can cause side effects and/or complications, making the timing of administration and transport critical. Dogs exhibiting clinical signs of heartworm should avoid transportation.
  • Once heartworm-positive dogs have been safely transported, complete heartworm treatment, according to the AHS guidelines. Best practice is to ensure that dogs with heartworm infections are treated as soon as possible.

“While the best-case scenario for an infected dog is to remain in place in order to administer treatment medications and facilitate post-treatment rest, many source organizations lack the resources to provide such treatment. In such cases, the ultimate survival of infected dogs may be dependent on responsible relocation,” explains DiGangi.

“The AHS/ASV recommendations provide practical recommendations that veterinarians and shelter personnel can follow to help ensure patient safety and avoid further heartworm transmission.”

To download the AHS/ASV recommendations, go here or here.