Our family rescued a young dog last year, Heidi. She is a beautiful lab mastiff mix, who in her short 10 months prior to us adopting her, had been neglected and injured. While we didn’t know her whole story, the scar on her leg said enough. We vowed we would give her a better life and so we were devastated when at her well dog check up recently, she was diagnosed with heartowrm.
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease. It is caused by foot-long (yes, you read that right) worms that live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels. These worms cause severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. Heidi was not yet two years old and there was no way we were going to let her suffer. While there are different treatments for dealing with heartworm disease, after talking with our vets about the pros and cons, we opted for what we felt was the safest (and sadly the most expensive) protocol. We were not going to try to save a few dollars and gamble with her life.
Heidi had to undergo blood work, x-rays, antibiotics and two doses (injections) of Immiticide (which has been in short supply, thus boosting the cost.) As I write this, she is at the vet getting her second injection and we hope to be able to bring her home later this evening. So why am I telling you all about this? Why should you care?
|The vet looking at Heidi’s x-rays|
Because, with the economic downturn a few years ago, a lot of pet owners could no longer afford the monthly heartworm preventative medication. As my vet put it, people were banking on “pack immunity” aka well everyone else gives the meds so my dog should be safe. But with so many people not giving meds, it only took a handful of infected dogs to spread the disease. If a mosquito bites just one infected dog…… wide spread heartworm. Vets all over are reporting a major rise in cases of dogs (and cats) getting heartworm.
This rise in heartworm cases has lead to alternative treatment options due to the lack of availability and cost of Immiticide. Some of these alternative treatment options, while successful for some, can lead to sudden death for others. You see, when heartworms die they release a toxin that can kill the host dog if the toxins overwhelm the system. Saving money sounded good, but playing Russian Roulette with our pet did not. It took some time to round up the meds, but luckily Heidi was only stage 2 and we had time for our vet to get her hands on the needed vials of Immiticide.
I will say it here and I will say it again, while monthly prevention may seem costly…. trust me, you don’t want to see the alternative bill if your pet does develop heartworm. Give your dog a monthly heartworm preventative!!!!
How is heartworm disease transmitted?
Adult female heartworms in an infected dog produce microscopic baby worms called microfilaria. These baby worms are in the animals bloodstream. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, it picks up these baby worms. The mosquito is then infected and becomes a carrier. When the infected mosquito bites another dog, the “infective larvae” the mosquito has developed are deposited onto the animal’s skin and enter the new host through the mosquito’s bite wound. Reason #582 I hate mosquito!
What are the signs of heartworm disease?
According to the American Heart Worm Society, signs of heartworm disease may include “a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen.” Heidi was already stage two and other then some heavy breathing (in retrospect) we had no idea she was infected!! GET YOUR DOG TESTED!! It is a simple blood test that most vets do right in their office.
What is the risk for heartworm infection?
Heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states. Infected mosquitoes can come inside, so both outdoor and indoor pets are at risk. The relocation of infected animals can spread heartworm. Many of the 250, 000 pets relocated from Hurricane Katrina were heartworm positive and they were adopted throughout the country. The lack of preventative meds being given due the to economic downturn….. so what is the risk of infection?!?! Ummm don’t risk it! Give your dog a monthly heartworm preventative!!!!
Trust me folks, when Ms. Heidi the Homestead Hound is cleared by our vet, she will be getting her once a month heartworm preventative medication like clockwork! Treatment for heartworms is no walk in the park for the pet. I never want to have to go trough this again, it is heartbreaking. Remember, not only will giving your dog a monthly heartworm preventative keep them safe, trust me, your wallet will thank you in the long run too!
|The vet techs trying to get Heidi on her back for an x-ray.
The key word is trying! Our big girl was a handful.