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A CCSDA Volunteer's Experience with Heartworm Disease

We've all been told by our vet that dogs need monthly heartworm prevention, but just how necessary is it really?

Many dog owners have questioned the importance of monthly heartworm prevention, especially when living in cooler climates such as Wisconsin. However, although heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes, dogs all throughout the United States are at risk for developing the nasty and possibly deadly disease. One of CCSDA's longtime volunteers, Debbie, recounts her experience with heartworm disease and urges all dog owners to administer year-round, monthly prevention.

Debbie explains, "my daughter Emily and I first met Tillie at a shelter and fell in love immediately. She had been rescued from a hoarding situation and was heartworm positive. We were told that she could not be adopted until she was heartworm free, so we decided to become Tillie’s foster family while she received treatment.

Heartworm treatment consists of three injections. The first injection was administered followed by 30 days of rest. The medicine that is used is very hard on them, so it was important to keep Tillie confined with as little activity as possible for that 30-day period. The second and third injections were given 24 hours apart followed by another 30-day rest period. The treatment can cost anywhere from $400 to $1000 depending on the weight of the dog. This does not include any additional vet visits due to complications. In Tillie’s case, the heartworm treatment almost killed her. We had many trips to the University of Wisconsin Veterinary Hospital so the Cardiologist could monitor the damage to her heart. She was also placed on several medications.

It was a very long road to recovery, but Tillie is now heartworm free and off all medications. After eight long months we were finally able to adopt her. I often wonder why Tillie had to suffer through all of this when preventing heartworm is so easy and affordable."

Once a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, it can take up to six months for the heartworms to mature and show up positive on a blood test. The adult worms, which can grow to nearly 12 inches long, can live for 5-7 years in your dog's heart, lungs, and surrounding blood vessels causing extreme damage to organs.

We at Custom Canines are committed to making sure our dogs are protected from harmful diseases such as heartworm during their time in our program. We also spend a great deal of time educating our clients about possible dangers and options they have for keeping their service dogs protected. There are a variety of preventatives now available for dog owners, and any questions about heartworm disease or the need for monthly prevention can be answered by your veterinarian.


This post was written by Debbie, who has raised three dogs for Custom Canines. She and her daughter Emily have been a fantastic addition to our village of volunteers, and the service dogs they have raised are incredible partners to their people. Their kindness and big hearts are crucial in the success of our mission, and we have deeply enjoyed watching them enhance lives with our nonprofit. Debbie is pictured to the left with current program dog Hope (being raised by the Belokon family in Illinois).

Pictured above, in order:

Emily and Tillie: Debbie's daughter Emily with the dog they adopted, who has survived heartworm treatment, Tillie

Emily, Tillie and Onyx: at a veterinary appointment, Emily is pictured with her dog Tillie and Onyx, the first service dog the Raymers puppy raised for CCSDACCSDA dog the Raymers trained



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