Community Pulls Together to Save Dogs During April’s Heartworm Awareness Month

CHARLOTTE, NC (News Release) – As April ushers in the beauties of Springtime, with it comes the dangers of mosquito-borne illnesses including heartworm disease in dogs. Heartworm disease can be fatal if not treated. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Animal Care & Control is kicking off a fundraising and education campaign during April Heartworm Awareness Month to help pet owners protect their pets and raise funds to treat heartworm-positive dogs in the shelter.

“Heartworm is a leading cause of heart disease in dogs,” says Melinda Whitaker, DVM, Shelter Manager.“ Since we live in a heartworm endemic area, if dogs are not on preventative, the risk of a dog becoming infected is very high and can ultimately result in death.” Dogs become infected with heartworms from mosquitos carrying the “baby heartworms.” These baby heartworms (microfilaria) are transferred to a dog’s bloodstream when the infected mosquito bites the dog.Heartworms live in the chambers of the heart and in the large vessels that carry blood from the heart into the body. Once these vessels become clogged with the worms, the heart is forced to work harder which can ultimately lead to heart failure.”

“The best ways to prevent heartworm disease is to control the mosquito population around your property, have your dog checked for heartworms annually at their yearly check-up, and keep them on preventative medication year-round,” advises Whitaker. Even “inside” dogs are at risk if they go out for potty breaks or if mosquitos get into their living space, she says.

Ways to keep mosquitoes from your yard include avoiding standing water around your property, using Citronella or other mosquito deterrent products when you are outside with your dog(s), and reducing damp wooded areas or piles of natural materials. These are all areas where mosquitos can breed.

Shelter Dogs Show Higher Cases of Heartworm Disease

In the past three years, with the generous support of the community, CMPD AC&C has treated over 350 heartworm positive dogs and adopted them out into loving homes. 12.5 percent of dogs entering the shelter are heartworm positive.

This means that we have an increased cost as well as a need for more resources to treat all these heartworm-positive shelter dogs. “We estimate that we could see as many as 500 heartworm positive dogs by the end of this year,” said Whitaker. Most of these dogs are otherwise healthy and would make excellent pets, she says, “so being able to attract potential adopters with treatment at no cost to them increases their chance of survival and makes finding the right home for them a bit easier.”

Community Working Together to Save Lives

CMPD AC&C started a campaign last fall for supporters to sponsor a heartworm positive dog with a $250 donation that proved to be a successful way to align the needs of the dogs with the passion of animal advocates.

“Many people have come forward to help save these dogs – both as adopters and financial donors,” stated Dr. Josh Fisher, Director of AC&C, “this generosity is why we have been and will continue to be able to treat and place so many over the years.” Fisher explained that the shelter’s “Foster2Adopt” program depends on an individual or family’s commitment to fostering a heartworm-positive dog and completing a heartworm treatment plan determined by the shelter medical team then adopting them permanently, and financial donors who fund the medication and treatment.

During the month of April, AC&C is building on Heartworm Awareness Month with a fundraising campaign to raise $5,000 to save 20 heartworm positive dogs at the shelter and find them forever homes by the end of the month, announced Fisher.

You can sponsor a heartworm-positive dog by making donations at animals.cmpd.org. With a $250 donation, you will receive a card with a photo and story about your sponsored dog, and when treatment is completed the animal’s family will receive a certificate stating the dog’s treatment was made possible by you.