Heartworm disease is a serious condition that can ultimately be fatal for your pet if left untreated. But, treatment can be difficult and, for cats, is nonexistent. Because of the disease severity and treatment challenges, year-round heartworm prevention is critical to keep your furry pal safe from harm. Take a look at Ruby and Diamond’s stories, which illustrate how heart disease can affect your pet’s life. 

Ruby the dog’s story

Ruby was born in Chula Vista, California, one of a large litter of tiny dachshund puppies. At 10 weeks old, she was separated from her siblings, and taken to a new home with a loving family and two older dachshunds. She settled in quickly, despite her new playmates’ lack of enthusiasm about a young pup who disrupted naptime. Ruby loved her new life. She especially enjoyed meeting her veterinarian, Dr. Williford, during her puppy wellness visits. At her first visit, Ruby was given a clean bill of health, and Dr. Williford started her on parasite preventive care to help ensure she stayed in tip-top shape for years to come. 

Since Ruby lives in California, she’s exposed to a wide variety of parasites that can plague her year-round. Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and intestinal parasites are the biggest cause for concern, as our Chula Vista winters are too mild to make a dent in the parasite population. Therefore, Dr. Williford stressed the importance of year-round heartworm, flea, and tick prevention. Although Ruby is a small-breed dog, her weight would change, and she would require a different dose as she grew. So, at each visit, Ruby was weighed to ensure she received the correct preventive dosage.

Ruby remained on year-round parasite prevention her entire life, and her health status was closely monitored through routine screening. Each year, she was tested for heartworm disease to check for the presence of adult female heartworms, and ensure she received her monthly heartworm preventive on time. Fortunately, she never missed a dose and her test result was always negative. 

Ruby’s sister, Diamond, had a much different story …

Diamond’s story

Also born in Chula Vista, as Ruby’s littermate, Diamond experienced a vastly different life. She was purchased by a family as a gift for their young daughter, but the girl quickly lost interest in caring for her pup. The busy family did not have time to spend on regular veterinary care, training, and socialization, and Diamond had a rough puppyhood. However, although she received no preventive veterinary care, Diamond stayed healthy during her first year of life.

Then, poor Diamond was shifted back to her original owners, as the family who had purchased her was no longer interested in training and caring for their puppy. Fortunately for Diamond, Ruby’s family learned that her sister was available, and they quickly welcomed their dog’s littermate into their home.

After she settled in, Diamond was scheduled for her first veterinary visit with Dr. Williford at Otay Pet Vets. Dr. Williford devised a plan for Diamond to catch her up on all her vital preventive care, including vaccinations, spaying, microchipping, and parasite prevention. Since Diamond had previously received zero veterinary care, Dr. Williford also performed screening tests to check for parasites, organ function, and overall health. 

Unfortunately, because of her total lack of preventive care, Diamond had multiple parasite infections, including roundworms, fleas, tapeworms, and heartworms. While the roundworms, tapeworms, and fleas were fairly easy to eradicate, the heartworms were much more difficult. 

Diamond had tested positive for heartworm disease, so Dr. Williford scheduled more testing to stage the disease severity, and created a treatment plan based on Diamond’s blood work results, chest X-rays, and signs. As Diamond was only a year old, her heartworm infection had not had much time to develop, and she showed no signs, such as coughing or exercise intolerance.

Because Diamond’s heartworm test was positive, she must have been bitten by an infected mosquito at least six months earlier, when she would have been no more than 6 months old. This highlights the importance of parasite prevention from a young age. The family requested that Diamond be treated as quickly as possible, taking no chances, although heartworm disease cannot be directly transmitted from pet to pet and Ruby had received her monthly heartworm preventive.

Fortunately, Diamond had early stage disease, so treatment would be easier on her body. Regardless, she still needed multiple injections deep into her lumbar muscles, and required total exercise restriction until her treatment was completed, which took two months. But the harsh treatment protocol was successful, and Diamond tested negative for heartworm at her appointment six months post-treatment. Her family kept her on a monthly heartworm preventive, and Diamond remained as healthy as her sister, although she would always tire more quickly than Ruby when they played.

Although Ruby and Diamond’s stories are fictional, heartworm disease is no made-up tale—it’s a real concern for cats and dogs. In fact, no heartworm treatment is available for cats, which makes year-round prevention critical for your feline friend. To help your furry pals live a long and healthy life, ensure they receive their heartworm preventive on time each month. Stop by our Otay Pet Vets hospital to restock your heartworm preventive supply, to ensure your pets are protected year-round.