Straight from the Heart

By on 3 June, 2015 in Lynne Burford, Pets with 0 Comments

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Editors’ Note: This was very much on our mind as we made sure to go get heartworm meds for our dog at Montgomery Veterinary Associates today.

At the core of all living beings is the heart. Its beats mean life to all. Without a beating heart, there is no life, right? And a compromised heart is a compromised life. It is so important to protect your dog’s heart from the number one disease affecting this organ – heartworms. Have I said “heart” enough times yet???

From the bite of just one mosquito, a dog may become infected. The dog is a natural host for heartworms, which means that heartworms that live inside the dog mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. If untreated, their numbers can increase, and dogs have been known to harbor several hundred worms in their bodies. Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs and arteries, and can affect the dog’s health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone. For this reason, prevention is by far the best option.

Protecting your dog is so simple! There are several different products available through your veterinarian to prevent heartworm infestation and all it requires is a once a month oral or topical treatment. Cats can fall prey to heartworms too, but heartworm disease in cats is very different from heartworm disease in dogs. The cat is an atypical host for heartworms, and most worms in cats do not survive to the adult stage. Cats with adult heartworms typically have just one to three worms, and many cats affected by heartworms have no adult worms. Sadly, heartworm disease often goes undiagnosed in cats, it’s important to understand that even immature worms cause real damage in the form of a condition known as Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease. Your dog or cat must be tested yearly before preventives can be dispensed.

As a rescuer, I have had personal experience with heartworm positive (HW+) dogs and have been fortunate in seeing several through treatment to full recovery. But let me stress that it is a dangerous and long treatment. The drug used, Immiticide, is given in two injections, usually 24 hours apart. The dog has to stay and be observed in the clinic as there is a risk of shock associated with the introduction of the drug. Once the dog is released, he must be on strict crate rest for 4 weeks while the worms die and are eliminated. Any strenuous activity during this time can result in large amounts of dead or dying worms migrating to the lungs and causing a blockage. And once treatment is completed, the dog must be checked for the presence of remaining microfilariae. Also, a dog is never immune to heartworm disease – just because it has been cured does not mean it does not need prevention against another infection.

Heartworm treatment is expensive – between $400 and $1000. Heartworm preventive is cheap in comparison. With all of the rain we have had lately, expect a heavy mosquito season this year. Protect your pets. It is part of the obligation – and the privilege – we have as their caretakers.

To those we have lost because it was too late – see you over the Bridge.

Lynne Burford is a lifelong animal advocate who has been rescuing since she was a little girl. From birds and snakes to raccoons and foxes, she has rehabilitated and released back into the wild many orphaned and injured creatures. For the last ten years her focus has been on fostering and volunteering with rescues to place dogs into permanent and loving homes. Aside from various sizes of foster dogs, she owns a small pack of chihuahuas and a very tolerant greyhound named Anya.

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