Special Report: Keeping your dog safe from heartworms - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Special Report: Keeping your dog safe from heartworms

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Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
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Did you know that one in every twelve Mississippi dogs will be diagnosed with heartworms? That's nearly seven times the national average! The treatment is painful and costly, but fortunately, there are ways to prevent your dog from going through the same thing.

Meet Turc! He came into Meteorologist Julia Weiden's family just a few months ago when he was scooped off of the Mississippi streets.

She wanted to get the pooch a clean bill of health right away, so she took him to visit Dr. Shawn Patterson.

"At that time he actually tested negative for heartworm," said Dr. Patterson.

But about ten to fifteen percent of dogs with heartworm won't show up positive if they've been tested too early.

"So we recommended a follow up test in 6 months and low and behold he was positive," added Dr. Patterson.

It was a diagnosis that was painful for to hear, but would hurt Turc even more.

"We actually use a two and a half inch needle to inject it deep into the muscle," said Dr. Patterson. "It's an extremely caustic medication."

And it's not cheap, either.

"It's going to range anywhere from 880 to 1500 dollars," said the doctor.

Still, heartworm is a fate that's common to Mississippi mutts. Turc is just one of over 1300 dogs diagnosed with heartworm in our state this year alone. The reason it's so widespread? The mosquito.

"What the mosquito is, is the intermediate host," said Dr. Kristine Edwards.

Dr. Edwards explained that heartworm parasites live inside the mosquito, and our warm, humid, central Mississippi climate is just right for mosquito breeding all year round.

"It's probably one of the most conducive areas for mosquito development," added Dr. Edwards

And it's even worse in the Delta.

"As far as the United States, it's the top," said Dr. Edwards.

The cycle all starts when a mosquito bites an infected dog. Larvae develop inside the mosquito going from stage one, to stage two,

"When it gets to stage three, it's the infective stage to a dog," said the doctor.

When a stage three infected mosquito bit Turc, the larvae entered his blood. Those parasites grew into foot long worms inside of his heart and lungs.

"Today Turcotte went through what we call the second phase," said Dr. Patterson.

Remember that two and a half inch needle? Turc's pain, on a scale of one to ten...

"I would probably put him on a scale of 9 today," added Dr. Patterson.

And if that wasn't hard enough, the doctor delivered more tough news.

"Strict confinement for up to six weeks," the doctor added.

Because if not, the dying worms could cause him to have a heart attack, a clot in his lung, or even sudden death.

With these kinds of risks, our two doctors agree on one thing.

"So of course, prevention is what we want to focus on today," said Dr. Patterson.

"If you invest in anything, invest in heartworm prevention, especially in Mississippi," added Dr. Edwards.

Most common is a monthly pill, but you have to be precise.

"I'm probably like a drill sergeant when I talk to my clients. Same day of the month, every month. Same day of the month, every month," said Dr. Patterson. "There's also topicals you can use, and there's also an injection that lasts 6 months. People that it's a problem to remember, I really push for the injection,"

After two months of treatment, finally some good news...

"All right, kiddo! You are free to go! And he is free to go back to whatever he wants and needs." said the doctor.

Turc is healthy, happy, and heartworm free.

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