Heartworm – Information to Know Before Adopting a Dog

Recently there has been a vast movement in bringing shelter dogs from the southern USA (where high kill shelters are abundant) to adopt in more northern regions. While this is great in that more dogs are finding homes, PLEASE be aware that heartworm is a REAL risk when adopting one of these animals. Here are some things to consider before adopting a southern belle/gentleman into your home:

1. Heartworm tests can take up to 6 months post infection to turn up positive (for example, if a dog contracts heartworm in April, a test may not be positive until September). This is to say that if a dog tests negative at the time of adoption, it does not mean it will still be negative six months from then.

2. Monthly administration of a heartworm preventative for a “slow kill” treatment approach should not be done. Heartworm is a SERIOUS infection that kills dogs, and this type of approach is often ineffective and dangerous.

3. The recommended treatment method is a series of drug injections over several months’ time that could also kill the dog if the worm burden is heavy enough and costs a significant amount of money.

4. Heartworm positive dogs coming into our province act as reservoirs for infection of our healthy dogs at home – most of which are not on a monthly preventative as it is not considered necessary here (yet).

This information is by no means meant to discourage adoption but to bring awareness of heartworm to our clients and friends so that all the resources are available to them when considering bringing home a potentially heartworm positive dog. This issue is close to home for Dr. O’Hanley – she treated her own dog for heartworm after she adopted her from Georgia during vet school. For more information on heartworm, please visit the American Heartworm Society website at https://www.heartwormsociety.org/

Written By: Dr. O`Hanley

Diagram of heartworm life cycle in a dog