Thursday, April 7, 2011

Reading About Heartworm Is One Thing; Watching A Dog Suffer Is Another

Ashley of Swamp Dog Blog agreed to share her first hand experience with heartworm infection.

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.

To read more about heartworm, check out Don't Let Heartworm Become A Heartbreak! by Dr. Lorie Huston.

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

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.

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 occassionally 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.

A few days after transport, we were off to the vet for x-rays, bloodwork, 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! (Video of them 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 excrutiating as the disease.

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


Ashley grew up on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. After completing one year of university at Malaspina University-College (now Vancouver Island University), I transferred to the University of Guelph to complete he Bachelor of Science with a major in Zoology. In 2008, she graduated, and contemplated what to do with her life.

She still doesn't know what she wants to do with her life. (
That's a lie; but it's a secret.)

You can connect with Ashley on Twitter.

Note: fostering is a mighty good life mission, Ashley.

Further reading:

Related articles:


  1. This is very sad to read, but to see Newton up on his feet again and thriving is just great.

    Our dogs have always had their heartworm pills and we never forget one. Things like this are so important.

  2. Hi Sisko, yes, very important. Unfortunately there are arguments about the heartworm prevention too. And to top it off there is talk about a resistant strain - which makes annual testing extremely important too.

  3. Heartworm treatment is pretty brutal. I've seen it up close a few times at the veterinary hospital and I'd never wish it on my dog, especially knowing that the prevention is so easy.

  4. I'll make sure my daughter hears about this. Thanks for the info :-)

  5. Hi Y'all,

    Our first Chessie was adopted and when we took her to have her vet check she was diagnosed with heartworm. We went through the entire thing with her. We had a great vet and got to go and walk her every day she was in the hospital.

    No, it would never have occurred to us to return her to the rescue. We'd recently lost our 16 yr old retriever and we needed her and she needed us.

    BrownDog's Momma

  6. Nothing like a loving home! :-)

  7. Heartworm disease is nothing to overlook! This was such a great article! I have heard so many people say that their dog is not on heartworm prevention because they are not outside dogs, but when asked if their dog goes outside for walks, or to do their business they say yes. Educating these people is key!

    One of the vets where I work just adopted a 2 year old dog. She did all the routine checks and the dog came up heartworm positive. So sad, but so good that she did the test and is able to treat him.

  8. Hi Jen. Yes, the "reasons" are many. But this is definitely one where prevention is by far the lesser of the evil.