Some of you may remember the adorable Tiny from his previous post looking for a walking buddy. He came to APA! simultaneously morbidly obese and malnourished, as well as heartworm positive. A few weeks ago, Tiny moved into a foster home to continue with his gentle weight loss and to go through heartworm treatment. He’s been doing wonderfully and his foster sent us the following report…
“Tiny is doing well. He is such an easy foster, even through heartworm treatment, as he loves to lounge. He loves dinner time and would have seconds if he could. He looks longingly when he spots the neighborhood dogs out for a walk and will bark some with a wagging tail…almost to tell them he is feeling better and will be able to play soon!
He doesn’t make much noise, though gets squeaky and friskier when I get home to let him out of his crate. He’s potty trained and sheds very little (!). My mom has a dog who could be his twin and he sheds a ton…not Tiny so much. He’s lost a ton of weight and seems to feel so much better…wanting to jump off the porch and explore in the yard. We keep that to a bare minimum though. He will love being adopted by someone who takes him on daily leisurely walks and lets him lounge in the a/c or with a cool breeze.”
We are so happy to be able to help Tiny get healthy again and get him on the road to his forever home! Unfortunately, Tiny is just one of the many heartworm positive dogs we have pass through the program. We treat as many as we can with the focus placed on the highest risk (as Tiny was due to the added stress on his heart from his weight issue) or dogs who stay in the program for a longer duration of time. Others go home for treatment with their adopters.
While heartworms are a treatable, and usually very curable disease, the treatment is hard on the dog and heartworms left unchecked can be fatal. It is frustrating to see so many cases of the disease when it is so easily (and cheaply) preventable. A once a month chewable Ivermectin tablet like Heartguard or Iver Heart can keep your dog healthy and is available for as little as $3-6 a month from Animal Trustees of Austin or Emancipetor $10-15 from your veterinarian. Animal Trustees also provides low cost testing and treatment options.
Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. The larvae grow into adult worms that lodge themselves in the heart, lungs, and surrounding blood vessels where they then reproduce. An adult worm can reach 12-16 inches in length. There are initially no symptoms in a heartworm positive dog but, as the disease progresses, dogs can develop a cough, decreased lung function, and abnormal lung sounds.
The treatment for heartworms is 2-3 injections of the arsenic based drug, Immiticide. As the Immiticide kills the adult worms, they break up into pieces before eventually dissolving. Those pieces are the reason dogs must remain inactive while undergoing heartworm treatment as they can become lodged in the heart or lungs causing death. If left unchecked, heartworms can progress to a condition called Caval Syndrome where surgery becomes the only treatment option.
You can keep your own pets healthy through simple, low-cost monthly prevention. You can also help others by spreading awareness or becoming a foster or adopter of a heartworm positive dog so that they can get the treatment and prevention they need to be on the road to recovery…just like Tiny!