SAN MARCOS, Texas -- While mosquito bites may be a nuisance to us, one bite could potentially be a death sentence for dogs if they become infected with heartworms and go untreated.
- More dogs get heartworms in spring, summer
- Higher abundance of mosquitoes
- Treatment costs a lot of money
The spring and summer months in Texas bring a higher intake of heartworm-positive dogs to area shelters due to the amount of mosquitoes transmitting the disease.
HELPFUL LINK | American Heartworm Society Incidence Map
"There is a little bit of a struggle more so with heartworm positive dogs than regular dogs, especially if they're large," said San Marcos shelter supervisor Erin McCann.
MORE INFORMATION | Heartworm Basics
On the San Marcos shelter adoption website, a dog with heartworms will be indicated with a "HW+" next to its name. At the shelter, a kennel will have a pink tag to mark which dogs have heartworms. When choosing to adopt a dog with heartworms, be prepared to possibly pay hundreds of dollars for treatment, depending on the dog's size and disease severity.
LEARN MORE | Emancipet Treatment FAQ
"It can cost with a small dog, about $300 to $400. But with a big dog, bare minimum, you're looking at somewhere between $500 and $800. And if there's any kind of complications, the price just keeps going up," McCann said.
Treatment involves steroids, heartworm preventative antibiotics, and injections. Adopters must be dedicated to getting rid of the heartworms, and laying low with the dog to prevent over-exertion for a few months post-treatment.
"The most careful time to monitor them is really that four to six weeks after the injections, just to make sure that those heartworms are breaking down and not causing any problems. Don't be scared of them. They're great dogs, they deserve a chance just as much as the next dog without heartworms does,” said shelter volunteer Jen Harris.
Harris is no stranger to the process of treating heartworms in dogs. Former fosters and heartworm positive dogs, Cash and Penny Lane, found their forever homes in the Harris household.
"My two heartworm survivors are just like any other dog, We're running around the dog park, they can do anything any other dog can," Harris said.
Due to the warm climate in Texas and amount of mosquitoes, veterinarians say dogs should be on a monthly heartworm preventative medicine. Dogs who already have the disease should be treated, and without complications, those dogs can live a normal life.
"Treatment is not a scary process. It's not a death sentence. It's really just their previous owners didn't take care of them or didn't have the knowledge that they needed to take care of them,” said Harris.
Many times shelters or veterinarians offer discounted heartworm treatment packages, as was the case with Cash and Penny Lane.
"We decided to open our home to two heartworm positive dogs and go through that process with them. We knew that it was going to be more difficult for them to get out of the shelter versus other dogs because that heartworm condition is scary to some people,” said Harris.
She doesn't regret anything about choosing her two babies.
"I don't know what life would be like without them. We're sure glad we decided to make the plunge and pull a heartworm-positive dog. They might even be better than other dogs because they're so thankful," Harris said.
You can donate to the San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter to help sponsor treatment for the heartworm positive dogs on their Facebook page.