Best Friends Worst Enemy

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011 - 12:57pm

New drug resistant heartworms pose deadly threat to dogs.

If you have a dog chances are you give them heartworm prevention medicine every month.

Unfortunately new strains of heartworms are making some medicines less effective, putting your dog's life at risk.

Ashleigh and Josh Bishop know this story too well.

Their four-year-old Weimaraner, Porter, is like a third family member.

"I proposed to Ashleigh with a t-shirt on him," recalled Josh. "Our art in the house is a picture of him and me together. "

That closeness meant Porter received a heart worm preventative on the first day of every month since he was a puppy.

It was a huge surprise when Porter tested positive for heartworms just a few weeks ago.

"It's like finding out someone really close to you is sick from something that's completely preventable and that's what was hard for us both to accept, " Josh said.

The Bishops aren't alone.

Dr. Laura Mehaffy said she's seen more and more cases of heartworms at her Little Rock, Arkansas practice, Pinnacle Valley Animal Hospital.

According to Mehaffy new strains of heartworms are the problem.

"It's not that the medications aren't good," explained Mehaffy. "They're still doing what they're supposed to do for that particular strain, it's the new strains that are a problem. "

There are some medicines successful at preventing all of the strains.

Dr. Mehaffy highly recommends dog owners talk to their veterinarians about which preventatives are working against 100% of all heartworm strains.

Heartworms are just what they sound like.

They are worms that grown up to 14 inches long and invade a dog's heart.

Mosquitoes can pass the disease on with one bite.

Dogs generally do not show symptoms of heartworms until the worms are fully mature, which takes about six months.

At that point, the dog may develop a cough, lose weight or get tired easily.

Porter did not show any symptoms before he was diagnosed.

"Knowing what I know now, I'd probably go in every six months if nothing else, just for that, " Josh said checking for heartworms.

For now, Porter is taking antibiotics, preparing for two months of serious and expensive treatment during which his heart rate must stay low.

"He knows code words like walk and squirrel and treat," said Josh. "We'll have to watch what we say to keep him from getting excited."
 

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