Jellybean is a sweet energetic little Lab/Shepherd cross who was found as a stray at 8 months of age in South Western Ontario. Burlington Humane Society brought her in to Headon Forest Animal Hospital for her initial check up and full health care. On physical exam she appeared to be a happy healthy puppy so we were surprised when her initial blood testing came back positive for Heartworm!
Heartworm is a blood parasite which is spread by mosquitoes. When an infected animal is bitten, the larvae of the parasite are taken up with the bloodmeal and develop inside the mosquito. This mosquito then infects the next dog who is bitten and the heartworm larvae pass into the dog’s bloodstream. Over several months these larvae develop into worms which grow inside the heart and blood vessels in the lungs. Heartworm infection causes heart disease. The worms interfere with blood flow to lungs, liver and other organs and can lead to heart failure and death. Treatment of heartworm infection is very costly and also has risks of complications, including sudden death.
Heartworm infection is easily prevented with monthly products given during the summer months such as Advantage Multi (topical drops applied to the pet’s skin) or Heartgard (oral medicated chew).
Luckily for Jellybean her heartworm infection was detected early with a blood test before she developed any symptoms! Symptoms could include coughing, decreased stamina, heart and liver enlargement, collapse and sudden death. Symptoms often do not develop until the pet is already in heart failure. Jellybean must have been bitten by an infected mosquito when she was a young puppy living outside as a stray. If she had been on heartworm prevention then she would have been protected against infection!
Working with Dr Tina Hall, Burlington Humane Society elected to treat Jellybean according to the American Heartworm Society treatment protocol. This treatment is expensive and has some risks however Jellybean tolerated her treatment very well with only mild side effects since we detected her heartworm infection so early. During the course of her treatment, our client care advocate Alison fell in love with Jellybean and decided to foster her. She lived with Alison and her family during her treatment and eventually Alison adopted Jelly! Jellybean’s recheck testing showed that she was negative so her treatment was successful! Now she lives happily ever after with Alison and her family with 3 other dogs and 2 cats at home. Jellybean is a success story as well as a cautionary tale on the importance of heartworm prevention for dogs in Southern Ontario and early detection of disease with blood testing.