Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sealing that Can of Worms

Do you know about the condition Dilofilaria Immitis, otherwise known as heartworm?

It is a threadlike parasite that uses mosquitoes in the air as a means of transmission into an animal's bloodstream. Such an animal is most commonly a dog, but can also be a cat, wolf, fox, leopard, sea lion or even a human being.

The larvae take about six to seven months to develop while in the body of the dog. Upon maturity, it would attack the lung arteries of the dog and destroy the lung vessels and tissues. It is also common for heartworm to debilitate the heart and damage the veins and liver of the dog.

On rare occasions, the larvae are known to get lost in the body and can infect the brain, eye or an artery in the leg, causing seizures, blindness and lameness respectively.

The symptoms of heartworm aren't apparent until its later stages, when the condition turns serious. The coat of the dog will continue to remain as it is, betraying no sign of the internal destruction being wreaked on the vital organs of the dog.

The dog will cough frequently and experience acute chest pains. The downward spiral of the health of the dog can be a very painful process.

Though heartworm infection can lead to heart wrenching consequences, it is very easily prevented. Early detection of the condition also makes it easy to treat and eliminate the parasites.

Here at Gentle Paws, we take no chances on the health of our dogs. Being exposed to the elements, and in turn the mosquitoes in the environment, our dogs are even more vulnerable to the onslaught of heartworm.

With such a mighty opponent (the detestable heartworm!), the Gentle Paws team hasn't been sitting on its laurels. We've been carrying out Operation Heartgard, a project in which we channel sponsor-a-dog funds to immunise our dogs from this terrible disease.

A healthy dog is a happy dog. Look at this silly boy!

In the past sixteen weeks, led by Wei Feng, Chin Leong, Ann and Edwin (a team I like to call Gentle Hands), we've sent 30 dogs for blood tests to determine the presence of heartworms and tick parasites in their bloodstream. 11 dogs have tested positive for heartworm. 4 have successfully undergone complete treatment. Another 5 have started on treatment but have been interrupted due to lack of supplies at the clinic. Of the remaining 2, Doris was considered too old to undergo treatment and Daryl's results were determined much later due to a discrepancy.

Doris is on monthly Heartgard treatment administered orally. 

As advised by the vet, all 30 dogs are now administered with a monthly dosage of HeartGard, a product designed to prevent canine heartworm. The remaining 14 furkids include Dooney and Dozer, newcomers who were immediately administered HeartGard prior to their entry into the shelter. Wanda and Junior are under yearly heartworm injection. Debbie, Buddy and Baby are not receptive to the human touch, making it difficult for us to bring them for a check-up. The remaining 7 are dogs boarding with the shelter and the decision to administer heartworm preventive treatment lies with their boarders.

It's a tiring journey... ferrying the dogs to the vet and back each week, keeping track of the medical records of 44 dogs, recalling which dog needs to be administered with HeartGard each week... but it seems like Team Gentle Hands has done it all. They make no fuss about it, going about their job quietly and efficiently each Sunday morning. It's so easy to overlook their contribution, so easy to take the good health of the dogs for granted, but truly, the difference they have made to the lives of the furkids is immeasurable.

Dillon is heartworm free!

Our dogs are healthy and in turn happy because we have people who care. I wrote this entry partly to inform you about what we've been up to and partly because I'm bursting with pride about having kind, dedicated and generous people here with us at Gentle Paws.

You, me, them, us... help to make the world a better place for our 40-odd dogs at Gentle Paws.

On that positive note, I bid you goodnight.

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