Saturday, September 24, 2016

Heartworm Rescues

Col. Potter Cairn Rescue Network (CPCRN) rescues Cairns and Cairn-mixes in need from all types of situations, including owner surrenders, strays at a shelter, owner surrender to a shelter or a vet, impounds from hoarders, puppy mill survivors, and even Cairns found on Craigslist or other social media.  Sometimes the dogs are perfectly healthy, but very often there are underlying health issues that may or may not be known at the time of intake.  One such health problem is a diagnosis of being heartworm positive at any of the five possible stages.  A Cairn at a shelter with such a diagnosis is usually put to sleep because the cost of treatment and personnel to manage the critical care of the dog is not something they have the ability to offer. 

An average of six to eight times each year, Col. Potter rescues just such a little Cairn, giving them the chance to overcome this dreadful condition and live a happy, healthy life.  The prescribed treatment program runs an average cost of $1,000 and is not for the faint of heart, requiring a dedicated Volunteer to be there for a three or four month duration, managing every aspect of every day for the dog undergoing treatment.

Treating a Cairn who is Heartworm Positive

There are 5 stages in a heartworm diagnosis.  Harv was Stage 1 (mild) so he was on a 2 month protocol of antibiotics, steroids, and heartworm medications, plus supplements, as well as 2 Immiticide injections - 1 one day and the 2nd 24 hrs. later.  This requires 2 months of inactivity - only outside to potty and then either in a crate or on the Foster Mom or Dad’s laps. 

No running, jumping, playing.... 

The initial medications start killing the microfilaria (small eggs/worms) and the injections kill the large worms (11 - 14" long).  The inactivity is essential as the bloodstream must absorb all of the dead worms and anything that makes the heart beat faster can cause a dead worm clot to be thrown (like a blood clot) and can be deadly for the dog.

Harv after his injections


Harv endured 2 month protocol of medications, supplements, and 2 Immiticide injections in a 24 hour period, along with almost total inactivity like a trooper, bonding closely with his Foster Mom and Dad.

Recovering from being Heartworm Positive
Harv the day he was declared heartworm free!

This is  Harve the day he was declared heartworm free!  What a joy to be able to romp in the yard again without being restrained by a short leash!  Harv now enjoys a happy, healthy life in his loving home, playing to his heart’s content with his two Cairn sisters.  A perfect ending for this special little boy!  


Beating Stage 2 Heartworm Positive

McQuinn was Stage 2 (moderate) so he had a series of 3 Immiticide injections, following the course of medications and supplements.  With Stage 2, McQuinn had his first Immiticide injection and then waited a full month before having the next two within a 24 hour period, so he had 3 months of strict inactivity.
McQuinn during his heartworm treatment

The protocols used by Col. Potter are very effective, with the initial medications killing the microfilaria (small eggs/worms) and the injections killing the large worms (11 - 14" long).  The inactivity is difficult, but essential as the bloodstream must absorb all of the dead worms.   Activity or anything that makes the heart beat faster can cause a dead worm clot to be thrown (like a blood clot) and that can be deadly for the dog.

The good news is that once McQuinn got through his successful treatment, after which he was able to romp and play, and he too had the chance to live a normal, happy and healthy life with his Forever family.

Beating Stage 3 Heartworm Positive

Houston came into Col. Potter in early 2010 as part of a group of 28 Cairns called The City Slickers.  A handsome seven year old Black Brindle boy, Houston was determined to be was Stage 3 (severe), so his neuter and dental were postponed as he started treatment right away to stop any further progression of the disease.  He had a series of 3 Immiticide injections, following the course of medications and supplements, again with forced inactivity.  With Stages 4&5 (Critical) vets will try the Immiticide injections first, but then may have to revert to surgery to remove the worms, so Houston was lucky we were able to treat him when we did.


Houston was happy to get a chance to live a normal life!

By mid June, Houston was declared heartworm free and was then able to have his neuter and dental, before settling down to the business of learning how to live in a home.  Seven years as a caged stud for a commercial breeder had not prepared him for dishwashers and carpets and such, but thanks to being cured of his potentially deadly condition, Houston had the opportunity to learn the finer points of Freedom, and he did eventually find his perfect Forever home!



Understanding Heartworm Disease
Lucy Liu is currently undergoing heartworm treatment at a Col. Potter Foster Home
How does a sweet little Cairn girl like Lucy Liu get heartworm disease?  A single mosquito bite will do it.

An adult female heartworm, living in a host animal, will lay their eggs (microfilariae) in the animal’s bloodstream.  A mosquito, drawing blood from the same animal, will become infected with the microfilariae and, within two weeks’ time, these microfilariae mature into infective larvae, after which the mosquito will infect any dog, cat, or other vulnerable animal it bites, passing the infective larvae through the bite wound.  In six months, the worm will mature into an adult and can then live in a dog up to seven years.


Please help fund Lucy Liu’s Heartworm Treatment!

Preventing Heartworm Disease


What is the best way to keep your own sweet little Cairn girl or boy from getting heartworm disease?  A single monthly pill will do it.

Keep your Cairns and other pets safe with monthly heartworm prevention
HeartGuard, Iverhart Max, Canimax, and other veterinary-recommended preventative medications in tablet form are available to give your pet on a monthly or every-6-week basis, as a rule.  They may be chewable and you might get lucky and have a dog that will take it like a treat, but even if you have to wrap your little Toto in a towel and push the tablet to the back of the mouth, then stroke the throat with one hand while you hold the mouth closed, it is a great deal less costly and, without a doubt, less painful than having to treat your dog for that one infected mosquito bite.

Heartworm has been reported in all 50 states of the United States, so please check with a reliable vet for the best recommendations for your region, and don’t take a chance with your dog’s health and well-being.  Remember: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Adopting a Cairn with Heartworm Disease
Orva was about to be adopted from a shelter when she was found to be heartworm positive, so she came to Col. Potter instead for lifesaving treatment
Why do dogs with heartworm disease often face death in a shelter?  Money.

Most shelters do not have the financial resources to treat a dog with heartworm disease, and potential adoptive homes face the same dilemma, therefore, unless a rescue group steps up to accept and treat the infected dog, it will be put to sleep, even if it is otherwise a healthy, wonderful little dog.

Thank you for helping to support our efforts to fund the critical treatment needed for rescued Cairns who have tested heartworm positive, and please help spread the word about the importance of prevention.


Please follow this link to the American Heartworm Society website to learn more about this awful disease, including prevention, and to see graphic photos of adult heartworms in a dog’s heart.




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