Our Heartworm Heartbreak

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 Posted by Dina N

Shortly after I started college, my mom got a dog. Her decision took me by surprise because we'd never had a dog until then. I think it was her way to find someone – or something – to take care of, a substitute child.

We brought Tommy home when he was just 45 days old. He was a sweet, adorable mutt with soft beige fur and a big heart. I was staying with my mom over winter break, and I took care of Tommy during the day – with a mop in one hand and a book in the other. At night, my mom had to take the puppy with her in bed because he would not stop crying for his canine family.

Tommy was a playful and happy dog until he got sick. He started coughing, especially after running around or playing. The vet told us Tommy had heartworm. I had no idea what that was – I thought maybe it was some kind of a doggy heart defect. It turned out heartworm was a parasitic roundworm spread from host to host through the bites of mosquitoes. Until then, I did not even know mosquitoes would bite dogs. Usually, I am the preferred dish for those pesky insects. Heartworm damages the lungs, and dogs show no symptoms of infection during the 6-month-long prepatent period before the worms mature.

Before the worms could be treated, the vet checked Tommy’s heart, liver, and kidneys. Then he proceeded to kill the adult worms with an arsenic-based substance. That sounded quite risky to me, and my mom was terribly worried.  Luckily, her four-legged companion tolerated the treatment with no side effects. The vet told us Tommy had to rest for a few weeks afterwards so his body could absorb the dead worms.

We survived the ordeal but just barely. If you have a dog, you probably know that the best thing to do is to focus on preventing heartworm. Heartgard for dogs is a prescription medication that helps prevent canine heartworm disease. It also kills hookworms, roundworms, and other parasites.

If you need more information on heartworm in dogs, check out the website of the American Heartworm Society.

Disclosure / Disclaimer: This post was brought to you by our friendly advertisers. Photo credit vrkm2003 on Photobucket. The opinions and experiences are all mine.


  1. Eliana said...

    Great, clear layout for your posts, btw.
    I'm kind of a cat person but thanks so much for the preventive info about heartworm. I've never heard of it before.


  2. holdenj said...

    I have always seen those posters about heartworm at the vet's office. Thankfully we haven't been touched by it...always get the heartworm pills every year.

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