Professional Football Player, Ladainian Tomlinson, The American Heartworm Society™ and Banfield Pet Hospital® Partner to Educate Pet Owners About Heartworm Disease

July 26, 2011 • Wilmington, DE

Wilmington, DE July 27, 2011—The American Heartworm Society™ and professional football player LaDainian Tomlinson, today will begin distributing a public service announcement (PSA) to educate pet owners about the dangers of heartworm disease. The 60-second PSA will be distributed to television and radio stations nationwide and will provide information on how to protect pets from this potentially deadly disease. Additionally, the PSA will share information about how the disease is transmitted and dispel heartworm misconceptions. The PSA was funded through an educational partnership with Banfield Pet Hospital®, the world’s largest veterinary practice.
Heartworm is a preventable disease that is transferred directly to pets, and from pet to pet, by mosquitoes. The mosquitoes carry a larval form of Dirofilaria immitis—parasitic worms that when mature, can reach up to 12 inches in length. After a pet is infected, heartworm larvae migrate as they mature into adults, ending up in the major blood vessels surrounding the heart and lungs, as well as within the heart itself. Damage is often done before there are even any symptoms, making prevention even more important.
“Many people are unaware that heartworm is a nationwide problem and that it only takes one mosquito to transmit the disease,” said Wallace Graham, DVM, practicing veterinarian and president of the American Heartworm Society.  “Because of Banfield’s educational grant, we were able to record the PSA with LaDainian Tomlinson, which will help us further our mission of helping the public to understand the importance of protecting pets against heartworm disease.”
There are a variety of symptoms a pet infected with heartworm may have, including a cough, lethargy, difficulty breathing, exercise intolerance, heart failure and even sudden death, which is more common in cats. Although there is no treatment for heartworm disease in cats, it is still important for cats to be tested for heartworm so that medical conditions that produce similar symptoms, such as asthma, which can be treated and managed, can be ruled out. In addition, both indoor and outdoor pets are at risk for heartworm disease.
"As someone who is passionate about pets, I believe keeping a pet healthy is key to their overall happiness," said professional football player LaDainian Tomlinson. "Knowing the seriousness of heartworm disease and how devastating it can be, I partnered with the American Heartworm Society and Banfield Pet Hospital to help bring greater awareness to this topic and encourage pet parents to take the necessary steps to protect their pets from this terrible disease."
Although mosquitoes are more common during the warmer months, mosquitoes are present year-round—this means heartworm disease is a year-round condition with symptoms showing up months after infection. Additionally, while the Southeast has the highest diagnosis rate, the American Heartworm Society reports that dogs testing positive for heartworm disease have been identified in all 50 states.
“Because heartworm disease can be so devastating to pets and their owners, it is extremely important that we educate the public about how it can be prevented,” said Jeffrey Klausner, DVM, senior vice president and chief medical officer for Banfield Pet Hospital. “LaDainian Tomlinson’s support of our efforts will help us reach a large number of pet owners and we are grateful for his dedication and generosity to this important campaign.”
Despite improved diagnostic methods, effective preventives and increasing awareness among veterinarians and pet owners, heartworm disease continues to appear in pets around the world.[1]
To view the PSA, or to learn more about heartworm disease, the American Heartworm Society, or Banfield Pet Hospital visit
About American Heartworm Society
The mission of the American Heartworm Society is to lead the veterinary profession and the public in the understanding of heartworm disease. Founded during the Heartworm Symposium of 1974. The American Heartworm Society aims to further scientific progress in the study of heartworm disease, inform the membership of new developments and encourage and help promote effective procedures for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of heartworm disease.
About Banfield Pet Hospital
Founded in Portland, Ore., in 1955, Banfield has become the largest general veterinary practice in the world, with more than 770 hospitals in neighborhoods across the United States. More than 2,400 veterinarians at Banfield are committed to giving pets the highest quality of veterinary care. Banfield hospitals offer a full range of comprehensive medical services, computerized medical records, preventive care plans for pets and extended operating hours. Banfield Pet Hospital helps extend the lives of millions of pets each year through our Optimum Wellness Plans®. For journalists seeking more information, please visit our press room or contact our 24-hour Media Hotline at 888-355-0595.