Heartworms in pets easily preventable

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There are few things more frustrating to those of us who work in the animal-welfare field than having a dog or cat come in that is heartworm positive. With regular preventive care, your pet should not ever get this disease.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Aiken does not consider heartworm-positive dogs candidates for euthanization. In fact, the shelter euthanizes animals only for extreme temperament problems, injury or catastrophic illness.

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms living in the arteries of the lungs and occasionally in the right side of the heart of dogs, cats and other species of mammals. Dogs and cats of any age or breed are susceptible to infection. Currently, 19 dogs at our shelter are heartworm positive simply because their previous owners didn't take the steps needed to prevent it.

How do you prevent your animal from becoming heartworm positive? Ivermectin, Heartguard, Interceptor or ProHeart are given monthly.

Many veterinarians recommend, and many owners use, a year-round heartworm-prevention program.

If your pet has already had a yearly checkup, call your veterinarian to schedule a heartworm check. If he's due for yearly vaccination, be sure to include a heartworm check in the visit. Please take the necessary steps to keep your pet safe from heartworm disease.

When you adopt a heartworm-positive dog from the Aiken SPCA, we pay for the heartworm treatment, which can cost several hundred dollars for a large dog. That is why the Hope Fund was established. It helps us pay for the cost of treatment so these dogs can enjoy a long and healthy life.

The board of trustees, many of whom own shelter dogs who were once infected with this disease, considers this to be a worthwhile expense. Many times, adopters will share the expense. After all, the adoption fee for an adult dog or cat is only $75, which includes spaying or neutering, worming and age-appropriate vaccinations.

If you would like to make a contribution to the Aiken SPCA Hope Fund, you can send a donation to the Aiken SPCA, 401 Wire Road, Aiken, SC 29801.

GARY WILLOUGHBY IS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE AIKEN SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS.

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