This story has been shared with owner’s permission.
Heartworm disease is a preventable disease caused by the larva Dirofilaria immitis, but it could be fatal if not treated. In the past months in practice, I have seen a few pets with heart disease, but I have not yet treated a positive heartworm case.
I recently met a heartworm survivor—a dog named Honey. She is the cutest pitbull mixed breed. Honey was a shelter dog at Lifeline Animal Project when she was diagnosed with heartworm disease. They estimated her to be around three to four years old. Honey was treated with the adulticidal heartworm treatment protocol. During her treatment, Honey needed a foster home where she would not have to deal with the stresses of being in a shelter environment. One of my friends became her foster and made sure Honey could rest and stay calm. She did great, and her treatment was successful.
Her foster fell in love with Honey and adopted her three months later. Honey is now heartworm negative and living her best life in Decatur. She enjoys going on walks and playing with her giraffe plush toy.
Although Honey had a positive outcome, not all heartworm-positive dogs are as lucky. In severe cases of heartworm disease, dogs may need surgery to remove the worms or they can die from pulmonary thrombosis and heart failure. Back home in Puerto Rico, many dogs do not survive heartworm disease.
Honey’s story will always remind me of the significance of heartworm disease, especially in the South, where it is more prevalent. We can prevent heartworm disease by educating clients on heartworm prevention and annual heartworm testing. If pets have had a lapse in heartworm prevention for at least six months, don’t forget to retest them before starting heartworm medication again!