SHRF feels very strongly about the use of a Heartworm preventative and all foster/adoption applicants must agree to use a Heartworm medication on any SHRF dog fostered or adopted. SHRF may occasionally request fosters/adopters to show proof of purchase and use.
The following is an
excerpt from an August 2005 American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
What you should know about heartworm disease
Heartworm disease is a preventable, but serious and potentially fatal,
parasitic disease that primarily affects dogs, cats and ferrets. It also
infects wild animals such as foxes, wolves, coyotes, and California Sea Lions.
There are documented human infections, but they are thought to be rare and do
not result in clinical disease.
How is heartworm disease transmitted and what does it cause?
Heartworms are transmitted from animal to animal by mosquitoes. When an animal
is bitten by an infected mosquito, young heartworms (called microfilariae) are
transmitted to that animal. In about two weeks, the microfilaria develop into
larvae. The larvae, as they mature, move through the animal's body and
eventually enter the heart and blood vessels. Over the next several months, the
growing heartworms reach adult size (female worms can reach up to 14 inches in
length) and reproduce. In time, the worms cause injury to the pulmonary vessels
and heart. This can lead to severe lung disease, heart disease and damage to
other organs. Heartworms may survive for 5 to 7 years in dogs.
Where is heartworm disease found?
Geographically, heartworms are a potential threat in every state except Alaska,
as well as in many other countries around the world. All dogs, regardless of
age, sex, or living environment, are susceptible to heartworm infection. Indoor,
as well as outdoor, cats are also at risk for the disease. If you plan to
travel with your dog or cat to a different part of the country, ask your
veterinarian about the risk of heartworm disease in the area where you are
going to relocate or visit.
NOTE: Since the weather must be warm enough to allow heartworm
larval development within a mosquito, Florida's climate makes the risk of heartworm in your
dog a year round problem. Even skipping one month's treament may place your dog in jeopardy.
How can I tell if my pet has heartworm disease?
If your dog has been recently or mildly infected with
heartworms, it may initially show no signs of disease. However, as the disease
progresses, your dog may cough, become lethargic, lose its appetite or have
difficulty breathing. You may notice that your dog seems to tire rapidly after
only moderate exercise.
Your veterinarian will test your dog's blood for the presence of adult
heartworms. Further tests, such as chest x-rays and an echocardiogram, may be
necessary to confirm the diagnosis and to help determine the severity of the
How can my pet be treated?
As with most medical problems, the best defense is
prevention. However, if your dog is infected with heartworms, there is an
FDA-approved treatment available. Although there is some risk involved in
treating a dog for heartworms, serious complications are rare among dogs that
are otherwise in good health and if the disease is detected early.
The goal of heartworm treatment is to kill the adult worms that are present
in your dog's body. While your dog is hospitalized and for a period of time
afterwards, it will require complete rest and may need additional medications
to help limit inflammatory reaction as the worms die and are absorbed by the
Can heartworms be surgically removed?
Some veterinarians are equipped for surgical removal of heartworms from dogs
and/or cats. This procedure, however, is typically reserved for severe cases.
Can heartworm disease be prevented?
Heartworm disease is almost 100% preventable in dogs and cats. There are
several FDA-approved heartworm preventives available in a variety of
formulations. Your veterinarian can recommend the best method of prevention
based upon your pet's risk factors and lifestyle.
A blood test for existing heartworm infection is recommended before
beginning a prevention program to confirm that your pet is not already infected
with the disease. In addition, annual re-testing is recommended to check your
pet's status and ensure that the appropriate medication is being prescribed.