The GOOD News about Heartworms
By Sara Bright
HEARTWORMS! A word that strikes fear in the hearts of dog lovers all over the United States. A dog that tests positive for heartworms may have worms of up to one foot long living in his heart, lungs, and blood vessels. That’s the bad news.
Here’s the good news: There are three positive facts to note about heartworms. First, they are easily prevented from becoming a threat to your dog. An annual blood test and monthly administration (given year-round) of a veterinarian-prescribed heartworm preventive will keep your dog safe from these worms. Second, a dog that tests positive for heartworms can be successfully treated and go on to live a happy, healthy, and active life. However, this treatment is costly; therefore, it is much easier for you and your dog to choose the simpler and cheaper route of prevention.
Third, these worms have absolutely nothing to do with the amount of love that a DVGRR dog is prepared to bring to you and your family. A Golden heart is a Golden heart.
Some of the wonderful dogs coming to Golden Gateway arrive testing positive for heartworms. When this happens (as a result of the dog not having received monthly heartworm preventive in his former life), we immediately begin treating him with a month of doxycycline, followed by the heartworm treatment. For the next three months, the dog will need to have restricted activity. As the worms die, they are expelled into the dog’s blood stream. The more active a dog is during the treatment, the more risk there is of damage being done to his heart or lungs. After treatment, the dead worms can clump together, creating a clot-like effect, much like a blood clot. Restricted activity helps prevent this from happening.
Restricted activity means potty breaks on lead only, no walks, and if your dog is young and active, limiting his access within your home to help him stay calm and quiet by using a crate or baby gate.
Restricted activity? For a young and active dog? This may seem almost laughable, but there are plenty of things to do during these three months. Stuffed Kongs®, puzzles and other interactive toys, teaching basic obedience skills such as come, sit, stay, wait, take it, drop it, and crate training can help to keep your dog mentally stimulated. Working on him being relaxed and comfortable for nail trims, daily grooming and calm activities help pass the time. Exercising his brain will help tire him out and encourage him to rest quietly in his crate or quiet place during the down times of the day.
“We adopted a heartworm-positive dog and needed to restrict activity. This was actually a good time to get to know our new family member and for him to get to know us. We limited walks to the yard on leash, and Sammy was happy with that. Now he runs like any dog would. I can’t tell you how happy we are we adopted him, even though he was heartworm positive. You would never know it today!” ~Brenda
Choosing to adopt a dog from DVGRR means that you have already made the choice to save a life. You and your family have made the decision to open your home and hearts to a dog that may need some patience and love in order to learn to trust you. You understand that a relationship is made with time and positive shared experiences and are ready to build such a bond with a rescued dog. DVGRR dogs come to adopters having visited the vets at BARK where they were thoroughly examined and received needed treatment. (Click here to see the veterinary care that every dog gets while at Golden Gateway.)
Adopting a heartworm positive dog is essentially the same thing – you have decided to welcome a deserving dog into your home, giving her time and space to become a beloved member of your family. Because of the necessary quiet time demanded during the heartworm treatment, you will have daily opportunities to work on building that magical bond through cuddling and in-home quiet time together. There will be plenty of time in the future for long walks and trips to the shore, lake, or woods after the treatment is completed. DVGRR and the veterinary staff at BARK will administer the heartworm treatment, at no cost to you even after your adoption has been finalized, and will be available, along with the DVGRR Adoption Team, for any questions or concerns you may have during that time.
“Melvin is hands-down the sweetest and most well-behaved dog I’ve ever had. We were hesitant because of heartworms, but DVGRR went out of their way to reassure us that with proper treatment, he’d be fine. Melvin received the series of shots, and he is such an awesome dog! I put my trust in DVGRR and now have an amazing and healthy family dog!” ~ Marissa
Within our amazing family of DVGRR adopters, we have several that have chosen to adopt dogs in the midst of heartworm treatment. Choosing a dog means finding the age and temperament that best fits into your family. Choosing your dog is a mix of falling in love and recognizing the “right one” and, at the same time, being rational and realistic because this is a major decision, a lifetime promise. It means working closely with the DVGRR Adoption Team to find the best match.
After talking with adopters who have chosen to adopt heartworm positive dogs, I was overjoyed to realize that these adopters were able to see beyond the worms, to hold on to patience during the mandated months of restricted physical activity, to open their hearts and welcome that dog into their home. We all want the same thing – love and friendship – and all DVGRR dogs offer it, regardless of whether they test positive or negative for heartworms. Each is still a dog, ready to love you, waiting for a home.
“We had fallen in love with Lucky, and although being quite apprehensive about heartworm treatment, we decided that we loved him and this was truly our opportunity to rescue a dog. Although the treatments were difficult, we were there for him and truly bonded with our loving patient. Now Lucky enjoys running in the dog park with the other dogs. You would never imagine he had been sick. He is active and healthy. No dog can jump higher or run faster. Our advice is not to fear the heartworm diagnosis but to welcome the opportunity to really make a difference in a dog’s life while that wonderful dog makes a difference in yours.” ~Ginny
If you are interested in a DVGRR dog that has tested positive for heartworms, please don’t dismiss him or her. Talk to the staff at Golden Gateway, ask your questions, meet the dog. You never know… he or she may be “the one” you’ve been looking for.