A Little Prevention Can Save A Lot Of Heartbreak When It Comes To Heartworm

Heartworm is a problem in all fifty states and across a number of species but today we’re talking about dogs specifically. In New England the risk of contracting the disease is considered mild to moderate.  Below we’ve put together a handy primer on what heartworm is and why it’s important to protect your pup from it by using prevention.  Remember to always consult your vet before starting a medication on your pet!

What Is Heartworm?

Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite called Dirofilaria immitis.  It’s transmitted by mosquitoes which bite an infected animal like other dogs, coyotes or raccoons, pick up larvae along with the blood meal, and then transfers those larvae to your pet when it bites them.  The parasite larvae enter the bloodstream through the bite and make their home in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels, where they develop into full-fledged worms. Disease transmission is similar to the tick-borne transmission of Lyme disease.

When a dog contracts heartworm the larvae hatch, grow, and reproduce until the dog is hosting hundreds of adult worms. These worms clog up the heart, lungs, and larger arteries, multiplying and causing long-lasting damage.  If left untreated, the worms will eventually kill the host. Heartworm disease is difficult to treat once contracted but can be successfully prevented with medication.  

What Are the Symptoms of Heartworm in Dogs?

According to the American Heartworm Society:

Signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. Dogs with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockages of blood flow within the heart leading to a life-threatening form of cardiovascular collapse. This is called Caval Syndrome and is marked by a sudden onset of labored breathing, pale gums, and dark bloody or coffee-colored urine. Without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage, few dogs survive. (www.heartwormsociety.org)

How Is Heartworm Treated?

Once a dog contracts Heartworm treatment is expensive and lengthy.  Most treatment plans take 1-3 months to kill most of the adult worms through a series of injections.  Lab work will also be performed frequently to monitor the progress of the treatment.  Your vet will probably prescribe pain medications as well.  In severe cases surgery may be required.  Even once treatment is complete there are often long-lasting effects from the damage done by the worms.  The best option, therefore, is preventing your dog from contracting heartworm in the first place.


Preventative medication can come in several different applications such as injections, topical “spot-on” treatments, and chewable.  The most common are monthly chewable “treats” that contain medication to kill heartworm larvae.  These must be administered every 30 days to continue to protect your pup. Preventatives are available by prescription from your vet and are specific to the weight of your dog.  They cost $40-$50 for 6 months of chewable medicine tabs compared to $500+ for heartworm treatment once the parasite has infected the dog.

In conclusion, we think our partner veterinarian Dr. Jackie Fullerton at VCA South Shore Weymouth Animal Hospital sums it up best. “Heartworm disease is a serious, potentially fatal disease for pets that can be very painful and costly to treat. Fortunately, year-round monthly preventives are highly effective.  Working with a veterinarian is key to establish a plan for monthly preventative medication for your pet to prevent heartworm disease.”


Let’s Interview The Ferrets!

Happy National Ferret Day!!

Wiggy & Ziggy are at the shelter waiting for their forever families

Ferrets are unique and interesting pets and right now we have 2 at the shelter. Wiggy and Ziggy are 2-year-old silver and white ferrets who were surrendered to the shelter at the end of March.  To help you learn more about ferrets and what they look for in a family we interviewed them!

KK: Hi Guys, it’s so nice of you to sit down, err… hang out in your hammocks, and talk with us.

Wiggy: Hey there. It’s awesome to see you too!  In addition to our regular care we really need 2-4 hours of exercise and interaction a day so this is great for our health as well as fun for us.

Ziggy: Fun!

KK: So, to start why don’t you tell me about your set up here at the shelter?

The ferrets have a pretty sweet set-up at the shelter with multiple levels, water bottles, hammocks, and toys. Their corner litter pan is tucked away in the back left.

Wiggy: Sure! We love the multi-level ferret cage we have here.  It’s got hammocks, shelves and climby things, and toys for us.

Ziggy: No rubber toys!

Wiggy: Right Ziggy, no rubber toys! We chew on them and eat small pieces that we can choke on or that we could develop an intestinal obstruction from that could require surgery.  Hard plastic toys are OK though as well as squeaky toys and cardboard.  In fact, we can even be trained to come to the sound of a squeaky toy.

Ziggy: Squeak!

KK:  Trained to come huh, that’s good to know.  I hate to say it guys, but ferrets do have a bit of a reputation for being, well, messy.

Ziggy: Messy!

KK: Yes, Ziggy, messy.  Are you messy?

Wiggy: We’re like many other pets in that we like to play but we are also highly intelligent and can get into spaces others don’t.  We can squeeze through really tiny holes to escape our enclosure and get into mischief. That may make us messy but it’s more about how well our families keep us occupied and ferret-proof our space.  Covering potted plants for example makes it harder for us to dig in there and buying the right enclosure for us will keep us safe.  Some people also put collars with bells on us so they can hear us when we’re exploring.

KK: I get that, but I was actually thinking more about the…other kind of messy.

Ziggy: Stinky!

KK: …Yeah.  That. 

Wiggy: Oh that!  I won’t lie, ferrets can have a reputation for being both dirty and smelly but again, that has a lot to do with our living conditions.  Here at the shelter we have a litter pan, did you know we can be litter box trained?

KK: Litter box trained? I did not know that.  Easily like a cat or eventually like a guinea pig?

Wiggy: Not quite as easily as a cat but pretty fast.  Remember, we’re super smart so the same strong brain that we use to get into mischief also helps us learn things like how to use the litter box easily and quickly.

Ziggy: In the box!

Wiggy: As for our famous and, if I may say so myself, alluring “ferret musk”, neutering your ferrets  greatly reduces the smell.  We’re both neutered, by the way.

Ziggy: The big snip!

KK: I see.  We talked a bit about cats earlier. Do you get along with cats, dogs, or other pets?

Wiggy: That’s a great question so let me give you a detailed answer.  First though, some background.  Ferrets have been bred as both pets and as “vermin hunters” for centuries so it’s part of our instinctive nature to go after small animals like mice, guinea pigs, bunnies, and even pet birds.  For that reason, you may not want a ferret of you have these other types of pets in your home.  We are extremely social though and can get along well with cats and dogs and of course, with our other ferret friends.

Ziggy: Besties Forever!!

Wiggy: Yes Ziggy, you and I are a bonded pair.  We’re besties forever and I wouldn’t dream of leaving the shelter without you.

KK: You two are so cute!!  How long have you been together again?

Wiggy: We’re 2-year-old brothers so we’ve always been a family, but ferrets live an average of 6-10 years, so we have a lot of time left together.  

KK: Love it! So, if you were bred to catch vermin what do you eat day to day? Pellets? Lettuce like a rabbit?

Ziggy: Blech!

Wiggy: Not at all.  We’re carnivores so we eat meat in the form of ferret food.  It’s similar to cat food, nothing scary.  For a treat we love a bit of cooked egg or some meat like chicken. Treats like that are rich for us though so only a little or we may get sick.

KK: That’s all great information.  Is there anything else you’d like to add for our readers? 

Ziggy: Just that while ferrets are highly social, intelligent, and inquisitive pets we do need more maintenance than a typical small animal, cat, or dog.  We need regular human interaction and socialization, supervised exercise, and annual vet visits.  With proper and consistent care however, we make highly rewarding pets.

Wiggy: Yup! 


Animal Protection Center Discovers Rare Breeds Among Surrendered Cats

Everyone thought 14 year old Chloe was a standard Calico but testing recently revealed her to be an Egyptian Sandbox Cat!

Recently a generous donor gifted the Animal Protection Center with several animal DNA kits in an attempt to help some of our harder to adopt cats find homes.  The donor’s thought was that knowing something about the breeds of the cats might entice enthusiasts to adopt.  The shelter was shocked to discover however, that several rare breeds were among the current residents of the shelter!  

“We were expecting to get a couple of Maine Coon mixes and we are pretty sure one was a Snowshoe Siamese type of breed,” says Executive director Kim Heise, “We weren’t expecting what we got though. Not at all.”

Among shelter resident cats tested were a Pygmy Lion, an Egyptian Sandbox Cat, and a Wakandan Micro-Panther.  Heise explained that one of these in particular was the most exciting. “We were especially excited about the Micro-Panther because one hasn’t been confirmed in captivity since 1968 and they were suspected to be extinct. However, it turns out some guy in Oakland was hobby breeding them and passed them down to all of his family members across the country.  Over time the story got lost and they were mistaken for regular black housecats, but the DNA test proves that they are actually very special.”

To see a full list of our adoptable cats and learn what rare breeds are currently available at the shelter please click the link below.

Rare Breeds At The APCSM