Matters of the Heart
Heartworm Positive: Those are the words we hear all too often from the veterinarian when we get our rescue dogs checked out for the first time.
GRRMF is here to help rescued goldens get healthy and find their forever homes. Sometimes this means that we have to provide extensive and expensive medical care before they are ready to find a place to call their forever home. The cost for caring for our fostered dogs includes both the price of the heartworm prevention and in the case of an infected dog, their extensive treatment.
Once bitten by an infected mosquito, heartworms grow and multiply and eventually end up in the dog’s heart. This causes the dog to slow down, have difficulties with activities and generally not feel well.
We are finding that some of our dogs have a strain of heartworm that is resistant to usual treatment protocol, making their recovery much more difficult and lengthy.
The good news is that it can be prevented inexpensively. The bad news is that some of our surrendered dogs’ previous owners didn’t pay the price of a monthly cup of coffee to protect their dog. Now we are helping these dogs survive with expensive treatments.
The following is some information you should know about heartworms and protecting your pet.
What are heartworms?
Heartworms are in the same class of worms as roundworms and can infect both dogs and cats. Adult heartworms in dogs can live up to 5-7 years and a severely infected dog can have up to several hundred heartworms in their hearts and vessels.
How do dogs and cats get heartworms?
Heartworm is transmitted when an infected mosquito bites your pet. Microscopic worms are deposited in the animal where they grow and multiply and eventually become as large as a spaghetti noodle. These worms migrate thru the body, eventually finding just the right environment in the heart to take up residence. Once there, they do the real damage.
How can I tell if my pet has heartworm?
The adult worms obstruct the heart and blood vessels leading from the heart to the lungs. If left untreated the dog can die from heart failure. You may never see your pet suffering when they are first infected. Their symptoms would be very minor. Your pet may cough or slow down slightly. You will only start to see your pet suffering when the worms have multiplied and reached maturity and multiplied. They will have a persistent cough, will tire easily after moderate activity, and will have trouble breathing. These symptoms mimic congestive heart failure so your vet will do a blood test to determine if your dog does have heartworms.
What happens if my pet has heartworms?
If your pet does have heartworm, the next steps are hard for both you and your pet. Depending upon the severity of the infection, your vet may use Immiticide to kill the adult worms. Because there is a risk of the dying worms becoming lodged in your pet’s lungs, they must be kept calm for up to twelve weeks. According to the Federal Food and Drug Administration, “The treatment for heartworm disease is not easy on the dog or on the owner’s pocket book. Treatment can be potentially toxic to the dog’s body and can cause serious complications, such as life-threatening blood clots in the dog’s lungs. Treatment is expensive because it requires multiple visits to the veterinarian, blood work, x-rays, hospitalization, and a series of injections with Immiticide.”
What can I do to protect my pet?
This is where the price of your cup of coffee comes in. You and your vet will decide which heartworm preventative is best for your pet. There are different medications available, including generics, which cost in the $5-$7 a month range. Isn’t it worth just a few dollars a month to protect your beloved pet?
How do heartworm positive dogs affect GRRMF?
GRRMF takes in many heartworm positive dogs annually. In some cases an owner or another group was unable to afford the cost of treatment. Consider these facts:
- Animal shelters rarely treat heartworm positive dogs; they often euthanize them. Sometimes GRRMF is the dog’s only chance for treatment.
- The approximate cost to treat a GRRMF heartworm positive dog can be $2,000 and can increase if the dog requires pre-treatment or experiences complications during treatment.
- Our foster homes must monitor closely and keep heartworm positive dogs quiet while they recover.
- Treatment of heartworm positive dogs require at least sixteen weeks of recovery in a foster home which means we cannot make room for other dogs.
- Heartworm preventatives do not kill adult heartworms. This is why we, and you, MUST keep our dogs on preventative year round and dogs MUST be tested for heartworms at least yearly.
- GRRMF partner vets follow the American Heartworm Society protocol for treatment of our heartworm positive dogs.
What Can You Do to Help GRRMF?
- Your donations continue to help our heartworm positive dogs.
- Make sure your dogs are on heartworm prevention year-round.
Spread the word how easy it is to protect your dog and how tragic it can be if you don’t.