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Tails of the Mafia

  • Writer's pictureMispits & Friends

The thought of worms, especially in the body makes most people cringe. There are many types of worms that effect dogs. The most serious, and most preventable type of worm, are heartworms.

What ARE Heartworms Exactly?

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the United States and many other parts of the world. It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. Heartworm disease affects dogs, cats and ferrets, but heartworms also live in other mammal species, including wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions and—in rare instances—humans. Because wild species such as foxes and coyotes live in proximity to many urban areas, they are considered important carriers of the disease. (Source: American Heartworm Society)

Heartworm Life Cycle

Dogs are considered natural hosts of heartworms, meaning the worms live to adulthood, mate and produce offspring. The amount of heartworms inside a dog's body is called the worm burden.

How Do Dogs Get Heartworms?

MOSQUITOS! The mosquitos carry microscopic babies from one host to another. Once inside a new host, it takes approximately 6 months for the larvae to develop into mature adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs. Because of the longevity of these worms, each mosquito season can lead to an increasing number of worms in an infected pet. (Source: American Heartworm Society)

Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 states. And the bite of just one mosquito infected with the heartworm larvae will give your dog heartworm disease. Heartworm disease has not only spread throughout the United States, but it’s also now found in areas where veterinarians used to say “Oh, we don’t have heartworm disease.” Areas like Oregon, California, Arizona, and desert areas -- where irrigation and building are allowing mosquitoes to survive. (Source: WebMD) The American Heartworm Society estimates more than a million pets in the US are infected.

Heartworm disease is not contagious. A dog cannot be contract the disease by being near an infected dog. It is spread only through the bites from mosquitos.

Symptoms of Heartworms in Dogs

The severity of heartworm disease is related to how many worms are living inside the dog (the worm burden), how long the dog has been infected, and how the dog’s body is responding to the presence of the heartworms. The dog’s activity level also plays a role in the severity of the disease and in when symptoms are first seen. Symptoms of heartworm disease may not be obvious in dogs that have low worm burdens, have been recently infected, or are not very active. Dogs that have heavy worm burdens, have been infected for a long time, or are very active often show obvious symptoms of heartworm disease. 

There are four classes, or stages, of heartworm disease. The higher the class, the worse the disease and the more obvious the symptoms.

  • Class 1: No symptoms or mild symptoms such as an occasional cough.

  • Class 2: Mild to moderate symptoms such as an occasional cough and tiredness after moderate activity.

  • Class 3: More severe symptoms such as a sickly appearance, a persistent cough, and tiredness after mild activity. Trouble breathing and signs of heart failure are common. For class 2 and 3 heartworm disease, heart and lung changes are usually seen on chest x-rays.

  • Class 4: Also called caval syndrome. There is such a heavy worm burden that blood flowing back to the heart is physically blocked by a large mass of worms. Caval syndrome is life-threatening and quick surgical removal of the heartworms is the only treatment option. The surgery is risky, and even with surgery, most dogs with caval syndrome die. 

Not all dogs with heartworm disease develop caval syndrome. However, if left untreated, heartworm disease will progress and damage the dog’s heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys, eventually causing death. (Source: FDA)

Get Your Dog Tested!

All dogs should be tested annually, even those on preventative medications. A simple blood test detects the presence of the female heartworm in your dog's blood stream. If the blood test comes back positive, further testing, x-rays, blood profiles, and ultrasounds may be necessary to determine severity and develop a treatment plan.

Treatment for Heartworm Disease

The best treatment is prevention, but if a dog does become infected, heartworm disease IS treatable. The good news is that most dogs can be successfully treated for heartworms.

What to Expect

  • Confirm the diagnosis. Once a dog tests positive on an antigen test, the diagnosis should be confirmed with an additional—and different—test. Because the treatment regimen for heartworm is both expensive and complex, your veterinarian will want to be absolutely sure that treatment is necessary.

  • Restrict exercise. A dog’s normal physical activities must be restricted as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed, because physical exertion increases the rate at which the heartworms cause damage in the heart and lungs. The more severe the symptoms, the less activity your dog should have.

  • Stabilize your dog's disease. Before actual heartworm treatment can begin, your dog’s condition may need to be stabilized with appropriate therapy. In severe cases of heartworm disease, or when a dog has another serious condition, the process can take several months.

  • Administer treatment. Once your veterinarian has determined your dog is stable and ready for heartworm treatment, he or she will recommend a treatment protocol involving several steps. The American Heartworm Society has guidelines for developing this plan of attack. Dogs with no signs or mild signs of heartworm disease, such as cough or exercise intolerance, have a high success rate with treatment. More severe disease can also be successfully treated, but the possibility of complications is greater. The severity of heartworm disease does not always correlate with the severity of symptoms, and dogs with many worms may have few or no symptoms early in the course of the disease.

  • Test (and prevent) for success. Approximately 6 months after treatment is completed, your veterinarian will perform a heartworm test to confirm that all heartworms have been eliminated. To avoid the possibility of your dog contracting heartworm disease again, you will want to administer heartworm prevention year-round for the rest of his life. (Source: American Heartworm Society)


Heartworm disease is easily preventable! With testing and preventative measures you can keep your dog safe from heartworms. Heartworm preventives come in different forms: monthly chewables, topical medications, and injectable medications (6 month & 12 month). Heartworm preventives are available only by prescription from veterinarians.Owners should talk to their pet’s doctor about what product or products will be best for their pets.

  • Dogs don’t just need prevention during warm-weather months. Heartworm preventives work by treating heartworms that already infected the pet within the past month or longer; meanwhile, preventives need to be given on time, every time to be effective. The American Heartworm Society recommends year-round heartworm prevention for pets.

  • Heartworm preventives are safe, relatively inexpensive and easy to give, but if a dog becomes infected, heartworm treatment can be costly and difficult, requiring multiple veterinary visits and months of exercise restriction.

  • While there are drug-free strategies owners can put in place to reduce a pet’s exposure to mosquitoes, there’s no such thing as a “natural” heartworm preventives.

Treatment and Preventative Assistance ResourcesPAws4aCure

  • Writer's picturemispitsandfriends

We are nearing the Fourth of July Holiday. A time of cookouts, patriotism, fireworks, and fun. But for many dogs this is a time of anxiety and fear.

FACT: More dogs are lost during the July Fourth Holiday than at any other time of the year.

Many dogs who are not used to the noises, sights and smells of fireworks will react with fear or anxiety. These uncommon triggers may be very overwhelming. Their instinct kicks in and they tend to run. Fight or flight, just like humans.

There are a few steps you can take to help your pet feel more relaxed and keep them safe during the upcoming holiday.

  1. Ensure that your pet has a collar and ID tag on, so that, worst case scenario, if they do run, they have identification. Also, make sure their microchip information is up-to-date.

  2. Keep your pets indoors during the fireworks show, Designate a quiet, safe spot for your pet. Maybe at the other side of the house as far away from the noise as possible. Another tip would be to keep them in their crate where they feel safe (inside and away from the noise). And make sure to draw the curtains so they can't see the flashes of light.

  3. Turn on the TV and set the volume a little louder than normal to drown out the sounds outside. You can also use music, noise machines, or fans.

  4. When taking your dog out for potty breaks, make sure that gates are secure.

  5. Talk to your vet about medications that can calm your pet and help them feel a little more relaxed.

  6. Your dog might choose to hide under the bed or behind furniture; if they come to you for comfort, make sure that you give it to them. Ignoring your dog would only make things worse as they wouldn’t understand your withdrawal from them. (Kennel Club)

  7. Feed your dog tasty treats. Scientific American says "Before the fireworks start, cook up an irresistible food such as chicken breast, special meat or salmon cookies, microwave tiny bits of nitrate-free hot dogs, popcorn. Stock a treat bag. Feed one piece at a time to your dog throughout the fireworks to counter-condition and distract. If your dog is willing, make a game of it and ask her sit, down, 'find it', shake hands and other distracting cues. Freeze a Kong with kibble mixed with baby food. Feed dinner through the toy."

  8. Going on a long walk or having an extended fetch session will help to tire out your dog and possibly less likely to be stressed out during the fireworks.

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

Fireworks & Dogs Infographic
Fireworks & Dogs Infographic

  • Writer's picturemispitsandfriends

Updated: Jun 25, 2019

Meet Chevy! He's a seven month old beagle. Chevy came to us from Leitchfield Animal Control. They told us he had been running the streets. Apparently, he had been hit by a car and the original owners dropped him off on the side of the road because they didn't want to pay for any potential surgeries. He had gone several day roaming alone in pain and barely able to move his back legs. Luckily one of our fosters was able to say YES to bringing him into her home and Chevy officially became a Mispit!

Chevy's Freedom Ride
Chevy's Freedom RIde

We picked him up and immediately took him to Shepherdsville Animal Hospital. They performed x-rays and multiple fractures were discovered. Thankfully his pelvis was in good shape so there was an ounce of hope for the sweet little guy. He was going to need surgery and require extensive repair and specialized plates and hardware. Chevy was then transferred to Metropolitan Veterinary Services. Through it all, the transports, the x-rays & exams, this little guy remained sweet and loving with consistent tail wags.

X-Rays of Chevy's Back Legs & Pelvis

It was going to be a very extensive, and expensive, surgery. But thanks to all the people who opened their hearts to sweet Chevy, we were able to cover most of the bill with donations. (If you'd like to donate to Chevy's surgery costs, go HERE) The final cost of the surgery was about $5000. We were able to raise about $2000 to cover almost half of his surgery bill. Thank you to our donors!


May 30, 2019

Look who's home! Chevy can not only stand but WALK! We are very thankful for Metropolitan Veterinary Services and the amazing surgeon, Dr Applewhite.


June 7, 2019

Chevy is about 9 days post-op from bilateral leg repair. He is doing wonderfully! He still has weeks of crate rest but enjoys his time out soaking in the fresh air.


June 11, 2019

2 weeks post op
Chevy is 2 weeks post op. He has 10 weeks left to go until his restrictions are lifted.


June 13, 2019

Chevy is feeling wonderful! Unfortunately this means he is miserable. He is on crate rest for several more weeks. He gets out 3-4 times a day to stretch and walk around but he screams and cries when he goes back in his kennel. He is breaking his foster mama's heart 💔 He is on the max dose of his Ace (tranquilizer) and it doesn’t even affect him. He is not interested in bones, toys, Kong’s, nothing except being with her. Poor guy! But at least everything is moving in the right direction.


June 17, 2019

Chevy had a set back today. When his foster got home last night, he was limping and not putting weight on his left rear leg. It was warm and swollen with a knot by the ankle. She immediately thought the worst, and that his hardware had been displaced and he was going to have to have more surgery. She took him to MVS and they did more x-rays. The good news is everything is where it is suppose to be and his incision looks great and is completely healed. The bad news is he has an infection. They put him back on pain medication (he'd been off them for two weeks) and on antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. He is sad and not eating. He will be in the hospital at least overnight, maybe longer.


June 24, 2019

Chevy has healed nicely from his infection. He has 4 more weeks of crate rest to go! He’s ready to rip and run and explore everything his little beagle nose can smell. He still needs to be neutered since they didn’t do that during his leg repair. We are hoping to get that done his last week on crate rest so it will run together.

After that he will need some play dates because he’s so excited to play with doggy friends!

P.S. Chevy is the sweetest little nugget on the planet and is going to make some family very happy and fill their lives with laughs.

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