Treating Heartworm Disease in Dogs
Although it is extremely difficult it can be done

Treating heartworm disease in dogs from shelters can be very challenging, very expensive, and in several cases, can be absolutely heartbreaking.

If you have recently purchased a dog or rescued a dog from a shelter, you may be in for a rude awaking as well as a very sad experience.

And to make treating this disease even more challenging for owners, shelters, as well as the veterinarian community, the only licensed drug to treat heart worms, Immiticide, is facing a shortage and is hitting the United States especially hard.

Does this mean that should not rescue a dog from a shelter?

Absolutely not, but at least be prepared and have some basic knowledge of what you may be facing.

FACTS AND MYTHS ABOUT TREATING HEARTWORM DISEASE IN DOGS

Cute puppyHeartworm disease in dogs exist in all 50 states

This master killer in dogs can be found in every state in the United States, as well as most parts of the world.

There are some parts of Europe, such as the United Kingdom, where it is not a problem.

However, it is becoming a real problem in France, Spain, Italy, as well as the Mediterranean.

Even in parts of the world where your dog is immune, at least for now, if you travel to parts of the world that are infected, your dog is at risk.

There are also some very sad facts about the protocol used in animal shelters and treating heartworm disease in dogs, and the actual numbers are shocking.

In most cases the shelters are being overrun with dogs with heartworm disease and they simply cannot afford to prevent it, let alone, try to treat it.

For this reason, it will be absolutely critical for anyone taking a dog from any type of shelter to be well armed with the facts about the shelter as well as this vicious killer before your make the final decision.

It is also very helpful to understand some of the facts and the myths that surround treating heartworm disease in dogs as well as the disease itself.

Fact

Heartworm disease in dogs can only occur in one way; by the bite of an infected mosquito and there is absolutely no way to know if the mosquito is infected.

It takes about six to seven months, once a dog is bitten, for the larvae to mature.

Myth

There are parts of the United States where it is not a problem.

For years this was true, but even in very arid regions of the country as well as areas that had virtually no mosquito population that carried this disease, this has all changed.

It now affects all states and because of this startling fact, areas of the world that are not affected are also becoming concerned.

Fact

People cannot get heartworm disease from their dog.

A person would also have to be bitten by an infected mosquito and then have the heartworm mature, but this is extremely rare as they usually do not complete their life cycle in humans.

Myth

If you have more than one dog and it becomes infected, it can easily be spread to the other dog or dogs. This cannot happen as it must be transmitted by a mosquito bite.

Even if you had two dogs and the same mosquito bites both, only the first to be bitten would become infected.

The reason for this is that the heartworm must undergo an incubation period before it can infect another animal.

Myth

You should never adopt an animal from a shelter if you suspect or are told they are infected with heart-worms.

It is becoming extremely common for dogs in shelters to be infected with this killer disease, and you need to be aware of this and be prepared to treat this killer.

If it is not treated, it will kill your new dog, and if you cannot afford to treat it properly, than you have a tough decision to make.

FACTS ABOUT SHELTERS

Treating heartworm disease in dogs has some very startling facts about shelters that was recently released for Maddies Shelter Program from the University of Florida.

It covered the Southeast portion of the United States and sheltered dogs in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi.

However, it is believed that this data could very easily be the same, or worse, for any portion of the country.

The facts were presented to an international audience during the 13th Triennial Symposium of the American Heartworm society.

The facts are very troubling and covered the actual testing process as well as prevention process for both dogs as well as cats in shelters.

The shelters were broken down into three major grouping; Open admission, Limited admission, as well as Foster programs.

In the testing process, it was found that in open-admission shelters, 41% of all dogs were tested for heart-worms, 35% of some dogs were tested, and 24% of the dog population was not tested at all for this killer.

In the limited admission shelters the numbers were much better, as 80% of all dogs were tested, 10% of some dogs were tested, and only 9% of the dogs were not tested.

In the Foster programs, 98% Iof all dogs were tested for the disease.

In the prevention portion of treating heartworm disease in dogs in these shelters, the numbers are even more frightening.

In the open shelters only 35% of all dogs were given any type of preventive care, 22% of some dogs were given care, but a whopping 43% of the dogs were not given any care at all.

In the limited admission shelters, 82% percent of all dogs were treated, 5% of some dogs were treated, and only 11% of the dogs were not treated at all.

However, in the Foster programs, 97% of all dogs were given preventive care for heart-worms.

NEW CHALLENGES

Treating heartworm disease in dogs has yet another new set of challenges that not only affects all dogs, but may severely impact even these recent studies by the University of Florida.

That challenge is with Immitcide, which is the only licensed drug for use in the treatment of heartworm infestation in dogs.

On December 1, 2009, the manufacture of this drug set an open letter to all veterinarians announcing a shortage.

Although this shortage was not supposed to last after the first quarter of 2010, there are still concerns about the supply being adequate enough to treat existing cases.

Becasue of this they also cannot control the explosion of cases that are affecting all types of shelters.

There does not seem to be a real concern for the ongoing preventive measures for treating heartworm disease in dogs in the tablet form.

However there is still a real concern for the supply that will actually treat a dog that has developed heart-worms.

As of this date, it is very difficult to find any real concrete updates on the supply.

Immiticide can eliminate over 90 percent of all the worms in your dog and it is given by intramuscular injections once a day for two days.

If your dog is severely infected, it may have to be given in doses that are divided and will be given in 30 day intervals.

However, although it considered being the safest and most effective product available, it can often cost between 300.00 dollars to a 1000.00 dollars in the most severe of cases.

It can also be extremely dangerous in treating heartworm disease in dogs in some cases.

Older dogs and dogs with any type of an immune compromised condition can be placed in severe danger, even with this form of treatment.

Summary

Treating heart worms in dogs from shelters in the majority of cases can be effective, unless the dog is severely infested or it is considered to be too late.

The real question for any owner that may be considering adopting a dog is to ask which kind of shelter it is, as well as what kind of prevention and as treatment has been used.

And then ask the real question; does this dog have heart worms.

If they do, make sure you are ready for the consequences of your dog not surviving for very long, even if you can afford the best of treatments.

However, even a year or so with this special friend can be extremely rewarding.

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