ImageMany of you have been following the story of survival with Piper playing the lead. She’s the 8-month-old Catahoula Leopard dog named after the type of private plane that flew her to the safety of Midwest Animal ResQ. But Piper didn’t always lead a charmed life. She was found stabbed and near death in a ditch in rural Illinois. Her exterior wounds have been patched up, but an equally deadly disease was lurking inside Piper too … heartworms. 

Sadly, many dogs go without the basic safe guard of heartworm prevention and run the risk of getting sick just like Piper. The treatment is painful, expensive and lasts a month. The cost of prevention is $10.

Mosquitos spread these small thread-like worms, and when they attack a dog’s system, they can go virtually undetected without a test by a veterinarian. Some dogs show now outward symptoms, but early signs include a cough, especially when they are exercising because heartworms actually attack the arteries of the lungs and damage the vessels and tissues there. The most advance cases can cause a dog to have severe weight loss, fainting, coughing up blood and finally congestive heart failure.

Once a dog tests positive for heartworm, treatment costs hundreds of dollars. The dog must undergo two weeks of antibiotics, painful injections into their spine,  then more drugs and weeks of enforced rest. In this recovery period, if a HW positive dog gets too excited, the dead worms may break loose and travel to the lungs where they could cause respiratory failure. Imagine trying to keep an energetic puppy like Piper from getting excited for a month. It’s like another kind of abuse.

A simple pill from your vet can protect your pooch. There are even organizations that will help low-income owners get heartworm prevention pills at a discount (contact the Heartland SPCA or Spay and Neuter KC for more info). But all too often, these warnings are ignored. I’ve had 5 dogs so far this year test positive for heartworm. Don’t let your furry friend fall prey to this very preventable disease.

By the way … we’re still raising funds to pay for Piper’s treatment. Click here to help.