Educational Blog

Heartworm Disease in the Valley: Could your pet be infected?

Meet Duke.

Duke is a 5-year-old Beagle who was rescued by the wonderful Arizona Beagle Rescue and has been adopted into a wonderful family. Duke’s story started out with a frightening, potentially life-threatening diagnosis:

Heartworm Disease

When Duke first presented to Animal Medical & Surgical Center, he appeared to be in the top of health. His vitals (heart rate, temperature, respiration rate) were normal, there was no evidence of a cough, and he was a very alert, vivacious little beagle who simply needed to find a home.

As they do with all of their new rescues, Arizona Beagle Rescue elected to pursue AMSC’s Early Detection Testing.

This testing encompasses a whole-body systems check of pets that include a complete blood count to look for evidence of anemia, platelet issues, infections etc; a blood chemistry panel to look for evidence of kidney, liver, pancreatic, or gallbladder issues; a urinalysis, a fecal to look for parasites; a valley fever titer as many pets can have this but be asymptomatic until it is too late, and a heartworm/lyme/ehrlichia snap test to identify other potential infectious diseases.

To our surprise, Duke came up positive for heartworm which was then confirmed by the laboratory through an additional blood test. Thus began Duke’s four month journey of exercise restriction, daily medications, including steroids and antibiotics, and multiple deep intramuscular injections as dictated by the American Heartworm Society Protocol.

Heartworm Disease is caused by foot-long worms, also known as heartworms, that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets. The disease causes severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body.

Pets contract heartworm disease through exposure to mosquitos that have bitten another infected animal. With the influx and movement of people and their pets to the Valley, as well as the spread of heartworm disease following Hurricane Katrina and the spread of pets affected throughout the country, we are now seeing heartworm disease much more frequently. The majority of pets are not diagnosed with heartworm disease until they have become very ill.

Pets should be tested at least every 12 months for heartworm disease and should be on monthly protection. Treatment for infection can be life-threatening in and of itself, and costs can range upwards of thousands of dollars, whereas prevention is typically less than 15 dollars a month.

To schedule an examination and heartworm test or better yet, an Early Detection panel to make sure your pet is as healthy on the inside as they look on the outside, call AMSC today!

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