Pet of the Week October 4, 2021
Have A Heart is fast approaching the 6-year mark when application was made to establish a 501c(3) to help the animals of Marion County. A Mission Statement was drafted that broadly covered the goal of the organization that primarily talked about finding exceptional homes.
Over the past 6 years, we have found that we do more than just finding exceptional homes. We also feel it is our responsibility to educate pet owners in the proper care of their pets so the animal may prosper in their homes and live long, healthy lives.
A serious disease that can affect both dogs and cats but is much more prevalent and deadly in dogs is Heartworm.
Heartworm disease is a serious disease that results in severe lung disease, heart failure, other organ damage, and death in pets, mainly dogs, cats, and ferrets. It is caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis. The worms are spread through the bite of a mosquito. The dog is the host, meaning that the worms mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring while living inside a dog. The worms are called “heartworms” because the adults live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of an infected animal.
The disease is not spread directly from dog to dog. Spread of the disease therefore coincides with mosquito season, which can last year-round in many parts of the United States. The number of dogs infected, and the length of the mosquito season are directly correlated with the incidence of heartworm disease in any given area.
It usually takes several years before dogs show clinical signs of infection. Consequently, the disease is diagnosed primarily in two to eight-year-old dogs. The disease is rare in dogs less than one year of age, because the microfilariae take 5 to 7 months to mature into adult heartworms after infection. Unfortunately, by the time clinical signs are seen, the disease is usually well advanced.
Many people living in our community feel that heartworm is not prevalent because we have mostly running streams instead of standing water. That is a fallacy since we also have animal troughs, ponds, barrels, buckets, flowerpots and other receptacles that hold water where mosquitos may breed. Arkansas is in the top five states for incidence of heartworm.
Currently we have two dogs in the Shelter who have tested Heartworm positive. We are currently putting these dogs through treatment and feel both will recover and live a normal life span. The cost of Heartworm treatment is very expensive, and many rescues and shelters choose to euthanize these animals instead of providing treatment due to the cost. Heartworm treatment is undoubtedly expensive often over $1,000. It is also uncomfortable for the dog, has significant side effects, and requires prolonged activity restriction.
The cost of heartworm prevention is low when compared to the cost of having to treat your dog for heartworms.
Thankfully, there are readily available, affordable, prescription medications that are highly effective at preventing heartworm disease. Heartworm prevention requires a prescription from your veterinarian, and it is generally administered monthly as a tablet that costs between $6 and $18 per month.
You can also opt for an injection. ProHeart 6 is a heartworm prevention shot that lasts six months ($50 to $150 per six months), and ProHeart 12 is a shot that is given annually ($75 to $350 per year).
It is generally recommended that heartworm medications be administered year-round to best prevent against these deadly parasites.