Battling Heartworm Disease: Championing Heart Health

February is American Heart Month, a time when we’re reminded of the vital role heart health plays in our lives. While we often consider our own cardiovascular well-being, it’s crucial not to overlook the heart of our four-legged companions. Dallas Pets Alive! is shining a spotlight on this critical issue through the story of Snoopy, a young dog whose recovery from leg injuries is made all the more challenging due to heartworm disease. Snoopy’s fight is a poignant example of why we must be vigilant about the heart health of the animals we hold dear.

Snoopy’s Intake & Initial Exam

Just before the holidays last year, a skinny stray named Snoopy was discovered hobbling along on his own. At only one year of age, he had a body score of three (out of nine) and was facing severe fractures in two limbs. One non-weight bearing leg dangled lifelessly at his side and might require amputation.

X-rays and tests revealed more bad news — he was heartworm positive. The veterinary staff suspected he had been struck by a car and was wandering around in agony for weeks before he was found. With such extreme trauma complicated by heartworms, euthanasia was a looming consideration. They knew his medical journey would be arduous, involving ongoing orthopedic surgeries, mandatory crate rest, physical therapy, pain management, and only then could they begin heartworm treatment. They immediately sent out a plea for an emergency foster.

Understanding Heartworm Disease

Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal condition, caused by parasitic roundworms residing in the heart and pulmonary arteries. It can be contracted year-round in all 50 states, but rates are higher in warm-weather locations. While outdoor animals have a higher likelihood catching the affliction, indoor animals are also susceptible.

Animals are exposed heartworms through the bite of an infected mosquito, and once inside a host, these parasites can grow and multiply, leading to dangerous symptoms. Not only are these parasites life-threatening on their own, but they also introduce an extensive list of deadly complications like cardiovascular damage, respiratory issues, blot clots, immune system reactions, hemorrhaging, and other post-operative difficulties — making other medical treatments and surgery difficult, if not impossible.

Managing heartworm disease often involves the use of specific protocols to reduce worm burden and ameliorate heart and lung damage before any surgical procedures are considered. In Snoopy’s case, his leg surgeries had to take precedence, and they had to proceed cautiously. Despite the risks, the heartworm treatment will have to wait until after he has healed from his orthopedic procedures — emphasizing how important your pet’s heart health is to their overall wellness.

The Best Treatment is Prevention

As a cure is not available for all animals, prevention is the best way to combat the disease. Cats, for example, are atypical hosts and worms often do not survive to adulthood. However, even immature worms can cause a condition known as heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD). As for dogs, treatment is risky, extensive, and pricey.

Left untreated, heartworm disease in both animals can lead to lung disease, heart failure, and even death. The prognosis can vary depending on several factors such as the animal’s overall health, the severity of the disease, and how quickly it is diagnosed and treated. For these core reasons, veterinarians recommend regular administration of preventive medications, avoiding mosquito-prone areas, and annual heartworm testing to catch potential infections early.

Snoopy’s Heroes

Fortunately for sweet Snoopy, the plea worked. As the medical team got his pain under control, Dallas Pets Alive! volunteers and fosters stepped up to save his life. He was able to snuggle-up to a temporary foster for a few nights while he waited for an opening with a permanent fosters, where he’ll stay while he’s going through treatment and recovery. The urgent plea even reached a woman in Minnesota, who fell in love with him over social media and promptly committed to his adoption!

But until he is healed and ready to travel to his forever home, he’ll be treated like royalty by his adoring DPA! fosters. During the short time they’ve been together, they formed an unbreakable bond. The fosters describe Snoopy as a loving, affectionate pup who has a zest for life, constantly wants to be near his humans.

“Snoopy will bury his big head right into you, said his foster mom. “He just wants to be loved. He is the definition of resilience. When I look at him I can’t imagine a more deserving dog. We just absolutely adore him.”

An Ongoing Medical Journey

Recently, Snoopy underwent his first of orthopedic surgery to inspect and evaluate the non-weight bearing leg. The surgeon decided to place pins and plates in an effort to avoid amputation. So, he got to keep his leg and he is healing nicely so far! After his reexamination in a few weeks the medical team will decide how to best proceed with the remainder of his treatment. So make sure to follow our socials and keep an eye out for updates on this darling pooch. Hopefully, the lowest point of his journey is over and can look forward to the health, happiness, and family he so deserves.

Make a Donation to help cover Snoopy’s $6000+ medical expenses!

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