Drug Resistant Heartworm May Be Heading To Oklahoma


Tuesday, June 14th 2011, 6:39 pm
By: News On 6


Dan Bewley, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- A deadly disease that kills millions of pets every year is showing signs of becoming resistant to medication. Scientists say current drugs are not working against a new strain of heartworms.

Dogs are playful, fun, and energetic. And just like their best friends they can face serious medical conditions.

Take for example, heartworms: they're small, thread shaped parasites that infect the heart and pulmonary system of dogs and cats.

Tulsa veterinarian Dr. Todd Yeaglev says all dog and cat owners should have their pets on a monthly medication to prevent heartworms. But now he's worried about a new strain of the deadly disease.

"It's starting to show resistance to a lot of heartworm preventions that are out there," Dr. Yeaglev said.

Which means the typical monthly prevention may not work on this new strain leaving millions of dogs at risk.

"It hasn't shown to be resistant to all medications which is why it's important to talk to your veterinarian," he said.

The experts believe this strain spread when dogs were dispersed across the country following Hurricane Katrina. Right now, it's only been found in Georgia and the Mississippi Delta region but veterinarians here are worried it will make its way to Oklahoma.

"I think it's inevitable that it will come here, it's just a question of when," Dr. Yeaglev said.

Dr. Yeagley says it's important now more than ever, for pet owners know that it's time to take heartworm disease seriously.

"I think there's a concern; I don't think we need to be alarmed just yet. I think it's important to talk with your regular veterinarian about heartworm prevention," he said. "It's important to give heartworm prevention monthly, year round here in Oklahoma and it's also important to test each year for heartworms."

Dr. Yeagley wants to stress that the new strain has not been found in Oklahoma yet. Heartworms are passed through mosquito bites and the American Heartworm Society encourages pet owners to keep their animals inside and away from the insects.