With tremendous gratitude, we are excited to announce we have received a generous grant from the Ronald R. Bork Fund of DuPage Foundation to rescue and treat at least 35 additional heartworm positive dogs this year! So what better way to celebrate than to take it back to our very beginning and check in with Dixie, formerly Dolly, one of the OGs of Fetching Tails Foundation? Dolly started out on the rural streets of Tunica, Mississippi. Volunteers at the Tunica Humane Society are so dedicated, they have been known to lie in the mud under abandoned buildings for as long as it takes to gain trust with strays. It took several days to capture ol’ Dolly — she was so scared — after being seen roaming around by herself. Also heartworm positive, this was her life back in the spring of 2015, when FTF first got started.
But you know this story has a happy ending, right? Mere weeks after our inception, we set up our first transport with our friends at THS and made sure Dolly got to hop on board for a new life in Chicagoland. Dolly’s health recovery began with a loving foster family willing to take on a heartworm positive dog. And that is another reason to choose this girl as our success star, to shine a light on heartworm, unveil the mystique of this nasty disease, and learn more about treatment. Lucky for now-Dixie, when her adoptive parents found out she tested positive, “We weren’t too worried about her diagnosis. After researching it and talking with (her foster) Jenna, we felt very comfortable that she was getting the right treatment and would have a good outcome.”
So today, we want to make everyone more comfortable with the idea of adopting a heartworm positive dog, knowing that proper treatment makes all the difference for a good outcome, and the process isn’t that scary after all. This is important because heartworm exists in all 50 states, and dogs who test positive are at a higher risk of not making it out of high-intake shelters because of the high treatment costs (up to $500-$1000 per dog) unless rescue groups like FTF and THS step up to help. If people shy away from adopting a dog because they are heartworm positive, who knows how many gems like Dixie would not get adopted, and what a shame that would be! (Now is a good time to remind everyone that prevention is key; a simple and inexpensive monthly tablet or topical liquid keeps dogs from ever getting them in the first place.)
So what happens once a dog tests positive? Basically, before being given medication to kill off the heartworms, dogs take a month-long course of doxycycline to get rid of any bacteria that could be present. That’s the easy part. Then your vet will determine the injection schedule for an arsenic-containing drug that will cause adult heartworms to die. Yes, taking this drug is very serious, as it needs to attack the worms that bond themselves around a dog’s heart like cooked spaghetti, but not cause damage to the rest of the body. And once the dead worms start to disintegrate, they still can cause serious damage as they dissolve in the bloodstream, potentially causing blood clots in the lungs and other dangerous health complications. This is where your job as a foster or adoptive parent comes in, keeping your pup calm for at least six weeks, while their body works to get rid of all the busted-up worm pieces. But you can do that, in exchange for the lifetime of joy our pets bring! And once gone, as long as you treat your pet with preventative meds, heartworms don’t come back.
What is life like now for Dixie? Well, a lot has changed since joining her family seven years ago. As soon as her post-treatment rest period was over and her follow-up blood tests came back heartworm negative, Dixie was ready to make up for lost time! “She loved being able to run and play and get all that silly energy out. Saturday mornings at the dog park were her favorite activity post treatment,” her adopter Susan shared. Now about eight years old, Dixie doesn't have the endless energy of her younger days, but she is still full of endless kisses for everyone she meets. She is also no longer the only “child” in the family, having been blessed with a human sister and brother, welcoming them both to the family with lots of slobbery kisses. Dixie still loves long walks, lounging on her special couch by the window, and keeping watch over all that goes on in the neighborhood. Now that’s an adoption success story if I ever heard one.
And what advice can her parents give to potential adopters? “Don’t let heartworm diagnosis scare you off. Dixie is the sweetest dog. Once she got through the treatment, you’d never suspect anything was ever wrong with her. We are so lucky to have her as a part of our family!”
If you are curious about fostering or adopting a heartworm positive dog, check out our adoption page to meet recovering cuties including Pfiefer, Lovely Rita, and Viollet, or fill out a foster application to learn more from our team. We are so excited to continue our work to give more Dixies a second chance at happy, healthy lives thanks to this amazing grant from the DuPage Foundation!
Written By: Deanna B.