Heartworm Infection in Dogs: Reading About Heartworm Is One Thing; Watching A Dog Suffer Is Another

Heartworms are mosquito-borne parasites that live in the heart and blood vessels of an infected dog. 

These worms cause damage, often significant damage, to the cardiovascular structures and can lead to serious illness in the infected dog. In severe cases, heartworms can be fatal.

Ashley agreed to share her first-hand experience with heartworm infection.

Heartworm Infection in Dogs: Reading About Heartworm Is One Thing; Watching A Dog Suffer Is Another

Newton’s story

It is one thing to hear about it, and it is another to watch an actual dog suffering. Next time you hear or read about the importance of heartworm prevention, don’t only take note, take action.

First time I met Newton was on his last leg of transport from Ohio, the USA to Barrie, Ontario, Canada where he would live in foster care with me for the next month or so.

Newton is heartworm positive

Newton entered into rescue (Barlee’s Angels Rescue Network) having tested positive for heartworm.

He wasn’t the first heartworm positive dog that the rescue had brought in, but he was the first I’d had direct experience with.

I’d heard the term heartworm before, seen the posters and prevention brochures in vet clinics, and definitely researched it before he arrived, but seeing the effects of the disease and treatment first hand was a totally different ball game.

Newton is very ill

When I brought Newton home, I was immediately hit with the realization that this dog was really not healthy.

All of my foster dogs before had been young and in tip-top shape. Newton just couldn’t seem to lie down and sleep enough. He moved slowly, fatigued extremely quickly, and occasionally coughed.

Going up the stairs to go out to pee and then back in the house made him lay down and go to sleep for hours. He also had the stinkiest pee I have EVER smelled. However, his big ol’ tail thumped away whenever you spoke to him, looked at him, or even muttered to yourself.

Newton’s recovery

A few days after transport, we were off to the vet for x-rays, blood work, and urinalysis. He was nearing 6 weeks or so post-treatment by then. Thankfully, despite all of the signs being there, there was minimal enlargement of his heart. Urinalysis results were odd but turned out to be a false alarm.

Slowly, Newton began to show signs of improvement.

He began showing more interest in my own dog, and then one day, they were playing!

Newton has moved on to a new foster home, and he’s absolutely thriving. I got the chance to see him again not long ago, and he is a completely different dog.

He may not feel the effects of heartworm anymore, but I will never forget how terrifying it was seeing a dog so sick, where the treatment is as excruciating as the disease.

Prevention is a negligible price to pay compared to the potential alternative.

Related articles:
Canine Heartworm Infection: Don’t Let Heartworm Become A Heartbreak!
Canine Heartworm Disease: Veterinarians Share Insights About Heartworm Disease And Prevention in Dogs

Further reading:
Heartworm in Dogs

Categories: ConditionsHeartworm infectionInfectionsReal-life Stories

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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