The Mournful Face of Heartworm Disease

The Mournful Face of Heartworm Disease

Nights were below freezing, but the dog did not move from the spot by the edge of the road. An indentation in the fur around his neck gave an indication that he may have worn a collar for a long time, but now he was a stray or possibly an abandoned animal companion. His abdomen was so distended that at first glance one would think he was a very pregnant female. 

A kind woman had been feeding and giving him water for several days. She desperately wanted to move him from the edge of that road, but he was in pain and did not want to be moved. He was cold, he was alone, he was very sick, and he needed help. 

When this concerned woman made a phone call to Sharon Stone, Operations Manager for our Hope Animal Sanctuary, and explained the situation, we knew we had to help.

Staff members from Hope Animal Sanctuary were dispatched to the location. Although we had been warned that his condition was dire, still we were shocked at the size of his abdomen. Experience tells us that many times when a dog has such a swollen abdomen, it is likely that he or she is in the last stages of heartworm disease, a disease that can easily be avoided by giving heartworm prevention on a monthly basis.  We named him Michael and gently led him to our warm vehicle, placed him in a crate, and headed to our veterinarian’s office. 

An examination by Dr. Daniel Hill of Winona Veterinary Hospital confirmed our worst fears. He was indeed in the final stages of heartworm disease. During this stage, the abdomen and lungs fill with fluid, which makes breathing hard. We knew Michael was about to drown in his own bodily fluids. At this point there was no treatment, nor magic pill to make him well. There was quite simply nothing to be done but to relieve his suffering.

Easily 80-90% of all adult dogs that we rescue are heartworm positive. Without early medical intervention in the form of expensive treatment, almost 100% of dogs will succumb to this horrible disease. Michael’s eyes were full of pain and despair, and we could only help by ending his suffering by ending his life.

However, with your help we can provide life saving treatment to other dogs who would otherwise suffer and die. Please consider making a donation to support our critical work.

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