Heartworm: A deadly, but preventable, disease in pets

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Marnie, Animal Charity, severe case of heartworm

BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) — Mahoning County animal activists are warning about the dangers of heartworm in pets.

A dog named Marnie had to be euthanized on Saturday after she was diagnosed with a severe case of heartworm.

According to the American Heartworm Society, the disease is characterized by footlong worms that live in the infected animal’s heart, lungs and other blood vessels. It’s a blood-borne disease that causes lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs. The disease can be spread by mosquitos.

In the early stages of the disease, pets may show no symptoms. The longer it is untreated, pets may experience the following symptoms:

– Mild, persistent cough
– Reluctance to exercise
– Fatigue after moderate activity
– Decreased appetite
– Weight loss
– Heart failure
– Appearance of swollen belly due to excess fluid in abdomen
– Blockages of blood flow within heart, leading to life-threatening cardiovascular collapse (Signs of this include labored breathing, pale gums and dark, bloody or coffee-colored urine. Without quick surgical removal of the blockage, few dogs survive.)

Volunteers at Animal Charity took Marnie out for a “bucket list” of sorts before she passed. She rode in a police car, got ice cream and got to visit a lake.

Mary Louk, with Animal Charity, said it was an early death caused by a preventable disease.

“The preventative can run you anywhere from $8 to $15 a month, depending on the size of your dog. Treatment is $500 to $1,500 after they’ve been diagnosed with heartworm.”

Louk said all dogs need annual exams and a monthly heartworm preventative. This can be a pill, a spot-on topical medication or an injection.

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