Monday, May 4, 2009

Heartbreaking News

According to those in charge--and it depends on who I ask--we don’t provide preventive heartworm treatment at the Shelter because: 1)Heartguard and other preventive tablets are too expensive. 2) The dogs aren’t in the Shelter long enough to warrant the expense. 3) If a Shelter animal tests positive for heartworm, the Shelter will provide treatment.

One of the dogs on my advocacy list, Sweetheart, a beagle-hound mix, is heartworm positive. Sweetheart has been the subject of two previous posts (see March 15th and April 20th). Sweetheart had been in foster-care during early April, but is back at the Shelter. I continue to take her to off-sites, but people don’t even pause to look at her if we have puppies. She is a happy, kid- and dog-friendly girl who just happens to be an ordinary, medium-sized black dog.

Currently, we’re working on placing her in rescue. To further that goal, I had the vet tech run the snap blood test on her on Thursday, April 30th. The results came back positive. Depending on who is reading the test, Sweetheart is low- to medium-positive for heartworms.

If she was my dog, the next step would be to take a radiograph of the chest and heart to determine how “heavy” her heartworm “load” is. This information would dictate the treatment medications, and could make a difference in how severe the side-effects of the treatment might be.

But Sweetheart is a Shelter dog who has been at the facility since January 15, 2009. Her kennel record shows that a heartworm test was administered and that the results were within the normal range. Although the January blood test alone could not guarantee that Sweetheart was completely heartworm free, she has now gone more than 3 months without a preventative heartworm tablet.

Here in the Houston area, where mosquitoes are a year-round issue, that’s too long. Sweetheart will not get a radiograph—we don’t have the equipment at the Shelter or the money to spend.

So now, this medium-sized black dog has yet another strike against her—she’s heartworm positive. Right now, she doesn’t show any apparent signs of the disease. We’re looking for a foster who can provide a quiet home and a large crate for the forced-rest period she needs so as not to stress her system. The Shelter generally administers the two-shot treatment (one shot, followed by another shot a month later). Sweetheart can have this treatment this Thursday morning, between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., when the vet who does the treatments is on duty.

It made my heart crack when that second turquoise dot appeared on the test bed. I know that three months of Heartguard tablets as preventative would have made it far less likely to put Sweetheart through the rigors of treatment. So much heartbreak, and it shouldn’t happen.


  1. that just sucks!!! I am feeling your pain and frustration... I't like you can't win for losing...

  2. Ivomec, administered orally once a month, is a very effective heartworm preventive and dirt cheap. Can't your shelter Vet get some? If not, you can buy it online.

  3. I know Ivomec would be useful and that it is economical. Right now, we don't have a Shelter Vet on full-time staff, and the entire facility is in chaos. Our shelter takes in about 200 animals a week, and is currently undergoing a big construction process--paperwork and animal placement gets shifted daily. We don't have a good way to track medications even though we're treating animals for all sorts of ailments. Until we get a new Shelter Director (who is supposed to be a licensed vet) the chaos of disorganization will make it hard for our Shelter to change its methods.

  4. I would propose that one staff member or volunteer take on the responsibility of administering the Ivomec and noting it in the animal's records. Should be simple enough and will get you through til you have a more comprehensive organizational plan.

  5. Rest assured, dear readers, we are not ignoring this dog's situation. Sweetheart will receive heartworm treatment beginning this Thursday--and she is going to a foster home so she can get the quiet she will need.


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