Heartworm Positive Dogs Can Be Great, Longtime Companions

By Bob Gordon, FOTAS Communications Director

Most everyone knows heartworms are a threat to dogs, especially in the warm climate of the South. But what many people might not realize is that heartworm disease is seldom a death sentence. In fact, dogs with this condition can live happy, high quality lives as long as they are given appropriate care.

Of course, it is much easier (and cheaper) to stop this mosquito-borne illness in its tracks by giving your dog a preventative medication. But if a canine is unlucky enough to get heartworms because he is a stray or his prior owner didn’t provide a preventative, there are effective treatments available.

These heartworm positive (HW+) dogs are not contagious and only in the most severe cases do they show any symptoms. So, as long as their condition is managed properly and not critical, they can make wonderful, long-term companions.

Annie, a Hound mix, is a prime example of this phenomenon. Though she tested positive for heartworms upon arrival at the Aiken County Animal Shelter (ACAS), the young dog was quickly put on two weeks of doxycycline pills, a drug that weakens the heartworm, followed by a strict regimen of heartworm preventative. The preventative allows the worms to die off at a slow rate and prevent the dog from getting any new heartworms. FOTAS pays for the initial medication and six months of the preventative for all HW+ dogs adopted at the ACAS.

Matt Cummins, who adopted Annie and lives in Graniteville with his wife and young daughter, said Annie has as much energy as any other two-year-old dog and is the most loving pet he’s ever had.

Shuli is another HW+ Shelter dog that is doing well at her new home. Adopted by Keelin Redmond of Aiken in October, the 4-year-old, blonde Terrier mix was also put on the “slow kill” treatment of doxycycline, followed by a heartworm preventative. Keelin, a local veterinarian, said she fell in love with Shuli before she found out about her condition. However, she is thrilled to have her.

“If I had let it [the heartworm infection] put me off adopting Shuli, I would have missed out on one of the best things to ever happen to me,” she said.

Other HW+ dogs recently adopted from the Shelter include Bailey, a black Lab mix, and Mason, a Bassett mix. Both are doing great in their new homes.

To encourage the adoption of HW+ dogs, FOTAS and the ACAS are featuring a Valentine’s Day special in which the adoption fee for HW+ dogs is just $14. This special will continue through Feb. 15.

“Adopting one of these dogs is a commitment of giving medication regularly and we recommend people follow up with their veterinarians for continued monitoring,” said Dr. Levy, the County Shelter’s veterinarian. Dr. Levy herself has two rescue dogs that were HW+ when she adopted them. One is now 13 years old and the other 10 – and both are doing great.

To learn more about FOTAS, The Valentine’s HW+ Dog Adoption Special and heartworm prevention/treatment, please go to www.fotasaiken.org.

Their lives are in our hands…