A View to No-Kill: Heartworm is costly to treat

August 13, 2013 

A typical work day for Animal Services' Officers is like Forrest Gump's proverbial box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get.

The officers typically pick up more than 15 dogs and cats per day. Some just wandered away from their homes and will be happily found at the shelter by their people. Others are victims of cruelty and neglect. Then, there or those that "stray," sadly with no one to go home to and no one to come looking for them. They are destined to wait until their disposition can be determined.

You may be surprised at the variety of dogs and cats in that last category, just waiting. We get plenty of what appear to be purebred dogs, from Chihuahuas and Yorkshire terriers to beagles, pointers, Labrador and of course, American pit bull terriers. We also have terrific mixed-breed dogs, with lineage often leaving us guessing and searching through breed books to identify them.

Unfortunately, a large percentage have heartworms. Heartworms in dogs are caused by a parasite transmitted by mosquitoes. All dogs, regardless of age, gender or habitat, are susceptible to heartworm disease. The moment a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, larvae transfers into their bloodstream where it will incubate for several days and then be transported through the bloodstream into the heart.

This is the reason heartworm preventive in so important.

It takes a little more than six months for the infective larvae to mature into adult worms. Once the parasites find their way into the right ventricle, they multiply, eventually damaging vital organs. The initial symptom is coughing as the parasites find their way into the lungs, veins and liver where they can damage the organs.

Heartworm disease is treatable in most dogs. Adult heartworms are killed by a drug injected into the muscle. Fortunately, thanks to many generous supporters, we have been able to treat and place a large number of heartworm-positive dogs into forever homes.

One such dog, Axel, made the news and found his way into our hearts when Officer Steve Bell found him bleeding from his head where he had apparently been struck with a sharp axe type weapon. Axel required 42 stitches to close his wounds.

Sue Kolze, vice president of Animal Network, was called in to help pay for Axel's medical bills. The not-for-profit organization helps promote animal rescue groups, raising

funds through donations to help with needs such as this one.

Apart from Axel's grievous injuries, he also had heartworms. Axel went to live with foster mom and dog trainer, Trisha Robinson Antonelli of Dog Phonics in Bradenton, for his recovery. Trisha not only trained Axel, she made sure he was comfortable while going through the heartworm treatment. Trisha fell in love with Axel, ultimately adopting him.

Another heartworm-positive dog, Dot, has an equally remarkable story. Dot's new family spotted her on our website, finding a striking resemblance to their dog, Leo, who had been rescued from Afghanistan during a tour of duty. They adopted Dot, appropriately changing her name to Lea. Lea has responded well to heartworm treatment and her new mom, Renee Brunelle, tells us she can't imagine life without her.

The hard truth is a large percentage of dogs impounded at our shelter have heartworms and funding is needed to ensure continued treatment for dogs like Axel and Lea. If it wasn't for Animal Network's help, many of these dogs may have to be euthanized.

If you would like to help save the lives of heartworm-positive dogs or to help with extra medical funding for injuries such as Axel's, please donate at mymanatee.org/pets and look for the donate button on the right column or by mailing your donation to No Kill Manatee, P.O. Box 1992, Holmes Beach FL 34218. Funds are low and the need is great.

• • •

Visit us from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the DeSoto Mall for an Adopt-A-Thon event. We will have pets available for adoption.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Animal Network is hosting a Neighborhood Pet Pride Day at Pride Park, 815 63rd Ave. E., in Bradenton. Information will be available including vaccination clinics and the importance of spaying and neutering. There will be raffles, hot dogs and soda and goody bags.

Kris Weiskopf, chief of Manatee County Animal Services, writes this weekly column for the Herald.

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