Something so preventable can be so deadly, and that silent killer is heartworms. Many people think that it’s a rare disease or may not quite understand what damage heartworms can actually cause. At Stray Rescue, it is something we deal with on a daily basis. We have rescued dogs slowly losing their battle with this mosquito biting killer to dogs literally on the brink of death from heart failure as a result of long term damage from the disease.
We usually have over 60 dogs with heartworm disease on any given day at Stray Rescue, and it breaks my heart when we rescue any poor soul that tests positive for it. Not only is the treatment hard on the dogs, it is expensive. However, it’s worth every single penny when they do recover and look and feel normal.
I am sharing pictures of 3 wonderful dogs we have rescued to show you the agony they endure as their bodies filled up with fluid. And then share myths and facts about heartworm disease so you will never have to see your dog end up like Apollo, Etta and Makayla. Please share this story, and let’s educate as many as possible. April is heartworm prevention month.
Q: How do dogs get heartworms?
A: Only from the bite of an infected mosquito. There’s no other way dogs get heartworms. And there’s no way to tell if a mosquito is infected. That’s why prevention is so important.
Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 states. And the bite of just one mosquito infected with the heartworm larvae will give your dog heartworm disease.
Q: Can people get heartworms from their dogs?
A: It can only be passed on by mosquitoes. It’s a specific parasite that only affects dogs, cats, ferrets and other mammals. In rare cases, heartworms have infected people, but it does not complete its life cycle. The heartworm will migrate to the lung and cause a round lesion that looks like a tumor. But these are very rare cases.
Q: If one of my dogs has heartworms, can he give it to my other dogs?
A: No. Again, the only way heartworms are transmitted is through the bite of an infected mosquito.
Q: How can I prevent my dogs from getting heartworms?
A: For less than the cost of going to Starbucks for a weekly coffee, you can prevent heartworm disease in your dog. There are monthly pills, monthly topicals that you put on the skin, and there’s also a six-month injectable product. The damage that’s done to the dog and the cost of the treatment is way more than the cost to prevent heartworm disease in the first place. A year’s supply of heartworm preventative will cost about $35 to $80, depending on a dog’s weight.
Q: What are the symptoms of heartworm infestations in dogs?
A: Initially, there are no symptoms. But as more and more worms crowd the heart and lungs, most dogs will develop a cough. As it progresses, they won’t be able to exercise as much as before; they’ll become winded easier. With severe heartworm disease, we can hear abnormal lung sounds, dogs can pass out from the loss of blood to the brain, and they can retain fluids. Eventually, most dogs will die if the worms are not treated.
Q: Once my dog has heartworms, what’s the treatment?
A: The drug that is used to treat heartworm is called Immiticide. It’s an injectable, arsenic-based product. The dog is given two or three injections that will kill the adult heartworms in the blood vessels of the heart.
Q: Why do I have to keep my dog quiet during the several months he’s being treated for heartworms?
A: After treatment, the worms begin to die. And as they die, they break up into pieces, which can cause a blockage of the pulmonary vessels and cause death. That’s why dogs have to be kept quiet during the treatment and then for several months afterward. Studies have shown that most of the dogs that die after heartworm treatment do so because the owners let them exercise.
Q: If my dog gets heartworms, and is treated for them, can he get them again?
A: Yes, he can get them again. That’s why prevention is so important.
Give us a helping hand with treating our current heartworm disease cases, and donate here today!
Love and Woof,