I read a story recently about a lady who had adopted a heartworm-positive Labrador.
This dog is around five years of age and has probably had the disease for some time.
As I have explained in previous articles on this site, a heartworm antigen test is a good way to tell if a dog is infected and until the later stages when symptoms tend to appear, the test may be your only way of telling if your dog has these worms.
This lovely dog had the antigen test and it came back positive.
This test has an indicator which shows whether worms are present or not and the faster the indicator shows up indicates the level of severity of the infestation because there are more antigens present in the blood sample. As the owner explained, as a dog ages, it is natural to expect him to slow down a little but this lack of stamina can also be indicative of an impaired heart function because of adult worms blocking the chambers and she had no idea until the test results, that this was the problem with her dog.
As she went on to explain, the cost of treating a dog with heartworm is huge by comparison to the few dollars a month for preventative treatment. Depending on the severity of the disease, treatment can be around the $1,000 dollars mark. Also there are many other possible complications that will require additional treatment and rack up extra costs.
Of course all this for a dog-lover is secondary to the anguish that they, as owners, have to endure – to see the animal they love go through such pain and distress. If a dog is left untreated, heart failure will be the end result. If you live in an area where heartworm is a risk factor, the monthly preventative heartworm pills will kill any larvae present in the blood and prevent them from developing into adults. Perhaps it is simply because people do not realise just how serious this disease can be that they do not get the annual check and monthly meds that will reduce the chance of any infection to almost negligible. Anyone who has a dog in a heartworm area is taking a huge risk with their pet’s health if they do not get the preventative treatment.
This dog certainly does not mind taking heartworm medicine!
As mentioned earlier, symptoms do not present until quite a late stage in the disease so the first you may know about the fact your dog has been infected is when he collapses – by this time, sadly it may be too late to save him.
This dog was lucky enough to get a diagnosis at an early enough stage to make a full recovery. Take a look at our pages on heartworm prevention and medications to see how you can keep your dog safe.