Deadly Disease Targeting Local Dogs

by Diane Tuazon
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - Most people look forward to Spring's warmer temperatures, but it can also be a bad time for your pets.

For dog owners like Erin Williams taking care of a four-legged friend takes a lot of responsibilty.

"If I had a kid I would take him or her for shots and keep checkups. So that's kind of how we feel about our dog," Williams said.

Dr. Jennifer Johnson of Greenbelt Veterinary Hospital says she's seen an increase in heartworm disease; a deadly 12 inch worm that lives in a dog's heart.

"In the last year, we probably treated about 15, we have 6 going on right now that we're treating in some stage. Either they're getting injections or just treated the baby heartworms," Dr. Johnson said.

Dr. Johnson says the change in weather is to blame for the increase in heartworm cases.

"Heartworms are passed by mosquitoes so when the environment goes from winter, spring, summer season, then we're going to see more heartworm disease, because the mosquitoes are going to be around in higher quantity," Dr. Johnson said.

The symptoms of heartworm disease are similar to congestive heart failure in people.

"Coughing, exercise intolerance, they'll stop eating their normal diet and be lathargic and lay around. You'll see that they don't feel good," Dr. Johnson said.

A simple pill can save your dog from a pain and even death.

"They undergo a series of injections that are pretty painful. They're in the lower back and they kill out the adult heartworms and then a month later follow up on the baby heartworms that calculate in the bloodstream," Dr. Johnson said.

The pills or injections can also treat other intestinal parasites in dogs that could be spread to humans.

"So once a month, not only are you treating them and protecting them, you're also protecting your family," Dr. Johnson said.

"We give her heartwarm pills once a month, every month. I think if you purchase a dog, then you know there's going to be some extra expenses," Williams said.

The extra expenses that can save your best friend's life.