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Heartworm Prevention: save your dog the heartache

April 10, 2017

Papa Smurf (pictured) came into our rescue this summer heartworm positive. He is now heartworm free and ready to find his forever home!


Whenever a dog comes into our rescue, the first thing we do is make an appointment with our vet’s office. Each dog we adopt out is spayed or neutered, is administered all necessary vaccinations including rabies, receives a general examination, and is given a heartworm test. With each dog that goes through this process, we are at home crossing our fingers, awaiting the results of that heartworm test.

Trust me, we’ve had more than our fair share of heartworm positive dogs. My first ever foster dog, Goliath, was heartworm positive. Because of mosquito populations, our local area has a high prevalence of heartworms and because we pull many of our dogs from kill shelters in Oklahoma and often even further South, where mosquito populations are also high, we find ourselves pulling heartworm positive dogs more and more often.

But heartworm positive dogs aren’t only coming from pounds… often we find that owner surrendered dogs are heartworm positive as well. As you can imagine, this is incredibly frustrating to us. Not only are pet owners abandoning their companions, they didn’t care enough in the first place to keep their dog safe from this TOTALLY PREVENTABLE disease. They abandon their dog and we scoop them up, scared, confused, and diseased and tell them that we do care enough. So, regardless of cost, we put them through heartworm treatment and keep them on preventative while they are in our care. We take it a step further too… When searching for a perfect match for each of our dogs, we ensure that all other dogs in a potential adopter’s home are kept on monthly preventative by doing veterinary reference checks and we require that all adopters continue monthly preventative with their new dog for the rest of its life.

That's a requirement you don't always see from rescues and shelters but we strive to go above and beyond for our dogs because they deserve it.

We realize, however, that there isn’t a huge narrative out there on the importance of heartworm preventative. Sure, there are pamphlets and posters at your vet’s office and every once in awhile an article might pop up on your Facebook newsfeed, but a lot of pet owners, especially younger people, don’t know the importance of keeping their dogs on heartworm preventative.

So, let’s get a few things straight:

  • Heartworm prevalence does vary in different areas of the country. You can research heartworm prevalence by state here. That said, heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 states.

  • Heartworm disease is absolutely potentially fatal and especially so for dogs with heart conditions, very athletic dogs, and elderly dogs. Heartworms cause lasting damage to a dog’s heart, lungs, and arteries.

  • Most heartworm positive dogs, especially dogs with early stage heartworms, will not present symptoms.

  • The cost of treatment for heartworm positive dogs can range from $500 to $1800 depending on your location and the treatment method used. Our rescue receives a small discount but it is still one of our highest medical expenses.

  • The cost of heartworm preventative can range from $15 to around $35 per month.

  • The most common and only FDA approved treatment for heartworms is melarsomine dihydrochloride, also known as Immiticide. This treatment consists of two to three deep injections in the back muscle of a dog. It is extremely painful and following this treatment, the dog’s activity must be highly restricted for several weeks and several weeks of daily medications usually follow. There is definitely a significant medical risk when putting a dog through heartworm treatment.

  • It only takes one mosquito bite for a dog to be infected with heartworms. It is a myth that indoor dogs are not at risk for heartworms.

Finally, we would like to touch on the importance of adopting a dog from a rescue or shelter that does test for heartworms, gives their dogs monthly heartworm preventatives, and provides treatment for their heartworm positive dogs. Make sure you get proof that your new dog is heartworm negative as well. If you do not make sure that the organization you are adopting from does provide these basic necessities for their adoptable dogs, you could easily get stuck with an unexpected $1000 vet bill after adopting. At GSRR, the health and happiness of our dogs is our number 1 priority... if you don't adopt from us, make sure you adopt from an organization that has the same values.

If your dog is not already on heartworm preventative, be a responsible pet owner and give your vet a call TODAY! It will save you and your dog a ton of pain, money, and heartache (no pun intended). 



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