Every month, I have faithfully given my dogs their heartworm prevention pill. It’s expensive but my veterinarian stresses the importance of it. No cutting corners and trying to save money by eliminating this pill. Why?

I know first-hand why heartworm prevention is undeniably necessary. My current foster dogs, 4-year-old brother and sister Basset Hounds, are being treated for heartworm. They came from Mississippi where they were infected.

How does a dog get heartworms? It is carried by mosquitoes. If a mosquito bites an unprotected dog, the mosquito transmits the worm larvae into the dog’s bloodstream. The larvae travel to the dog’s heart, lungs and blood vessels where the larvae grow into adult worms, mate and produce more worms. The worms can get as large as a foot long. And it’s not just one worm, it could be a couple of hundred. Imagine these worms clogging a dog’s system? Disgusting and too awful to think about. Death is certain if the dog is left untreated because the blood cannot pump through this blocked heart and arteries, and the dysfunction of the lungs.

Thankfully, my foster dogs had a mild case of heartworm (the larvae had not fully matured into larger worms.) Nevertheless, they still required the same treatment program as an advanced case of heartworm infestation, and it can cost up to a couple thousand dollars depending on the veterinarian. My Bassets received two shots each of an arsenic compound to kill off the worms. Then after the injections, the dogs must be kept very quiet for 30 days. They are only allowed to walk slowly out to the yard to go potty, then back into their crates. Imagine having two very active 4-year-old hounds and having to tell them that they can’t go for long walks and can’t romp around the house?

It was a tough month, not so much for me but for them. They were troopers though, dutifully going back into their crates and snoozing there all day with only potty breaks every couple of hours. I did feel very guilty, especially when they would come in the front door and try to fly down the hall into the living room for wrestle time. Or when they woke up in the morning and were ready to stretch their legs and go find some bunnies.

Keeping them quiet is extremely important because the dying worms in their bloodstreams could very easily clog the dog’s arteries, causing sudden death or a stroke. Recognizing this fact made it easier for me to confine the dogs and restrict their activity for such a long time.

We made it through the 30 days, and now the dogs are happily going for long walks and playing with their toys. These dogs were very fortunate. Some are not so lucky. I have known of dogs who have died from the treatment.

Now you can see why administering monthly heartworm prevention is absolutely necessary.