Tough talk: Have heartfelt heartworm discussions


Stop heartworm infection before it starts by giving clients the facts.

With the abundance of effective heartworm preventives and tests, it's heartbreaking when you diagnose a pet with heartworm infection. Use these four steps to educate clients and safeguard their pets' health.

1. Teach clients about the importance of testing. When a client asks why you test for heartworms when the pet already takes preventives, use this script: "Even though today's preventive medications are effective, pets are only protected if we treat them without interruption. A late or missed dose can open the window for infection. Heartworm testing is the only way to ensure we catch infection early."

2. Remind clients that testing helps you safeguard their pet's health. If a pet does test positive for heartworm, a doctor will evaluate to determine the severity of the infection and the best treatment plan. Let clients know that killing immature and adult heartworms with medication can be risky, so their pet will need careful monitoring by the veterinary team. And remind them that even well-intentioned pet owners may forget doses, administer them incorrectly, or fail to notice when a pet doesn't swallow a pill.

3. Explain that the heartworm tests available today are more sophisticated than past tests. In fact, today's advanced heartworm tests might be able to detect the presence of just one heartworm. This important type of early detection allows you to provide treatment before serious damage occurs to the heart and lungs.

4. Educate clients to recognize the signs of heartworms, especially in cats. For example, symptoms of feline heartworm infection include asthma-like symptoms, such as coughing or wheezing.

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