By: Annie Blumenfeld

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My family searched for three years through countless pet stores, rescue shelters, newspapers, and private dog breeders for a loving and loyal friend. Not just any dog, but a true loyal companion who would provide love and security for our family in Connecticut. A year and a half ago, our search happily ended when I was surfing the internet and stumbled upon a delightfully bouncy two-year old shaggy dog that had been rescued at a high kill shelter in Houston, Texas.

At his veterinarian check up it soon was discovered that Teddy tested positive for heartworm disease through an antigen test. This blood test detects specific proteins, called antigens, which are released by adult female heartworms into the dog’s bloodstream. Teddy had to be given two injections of arsenic and remain in a crate. He had to be inactive and carefully monitored for a couple of months.

The treatment for heartworm disease is very expensive and difficult for dogs to recover from. It can also be potentially toxic to the dog’s body and can cause serious complications, such as life-threatening blood clots to the dog’s lungs. Treatment is very expensive because it requires multiple visits to the veterinarian, with the process of blood work, and x-rays.

It broke my heart to learn that my dog had endured great pain. I researched further, and learned that heartworm disease is extremely serious and can result in severe lung disease, heart failure, other organ damage, and even death. Heartworm disease is caused by a parasitic worm, Dirofilaria immitis, from mosquitoes. These worms are spread through the bite of a mosquito and produce offspring while living inside the dog. The worms are called “heartworms’ because they live in the heart, lungs, and other blood vessels of an infected animal.

In the United States of America, heartworm disease is most common in the South because of the extreme heat in which the mosquitoes thrive in, but they are present and highly populated in all 50 states. It is not just in the United States, but also present throughout Europe Australia, and Africa. Heartworm disease cannot be spread from one dog to another it is only spread by the bite of a mosquito.

Since heartworm disease treatment is very expensive, it is cost efficient to use preventatives. There are many safe FDA approved products that can be used. All of these products require a veterinarian’s prescription. These preventatives are used monthly and are simple. There is a vast range of different products from liquids, to tablets. It is incredible to think that this condition can be avoided by giving your pet a monthly preventative method.

Having learned devastating effects of heartworm disease from my loving companion, I sought to educate pet owners across the country about the importance of heartworm protection. I cannot imagine my life without Teddy, and I am so thankful he made a complete recovery. I know I can make a difference and help save all the other innocent dogs that are at high risk.

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I founded a non-profit organization called Wags 4 Hope. I combine my love of painting with my passion for animals. All the money raised through my paintings is given to several animal rescue shelters to help pay for the dogs medical supplies till they find their forever homes.

Today it is far too easy to obtain a pet and pet owners must be responsible. Owning an animal takes lots of time, money, and responsibility. My goal is to educate pet owners across the country, and outside of the United States, about the importance of heartworm protection. I strive to get others actively involved in my cause every step of the way.

For more information on my mission and how to get involved please visit www.wags4hope.org

Join us on Facebook www.facebook.com/wags4hope

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