Madonna, a three-year-old pit bull mix with a sweet disposition, arrived at the ASPCA last May, part of a group of eight dogs rescued by the New York City Police Department (NYPD). All of the dogs were in extreme stages of neglect and were suffering from skin and ear infections, intestinal parasites, dental disease and other illnesses, but only Madonna tested positive for heartworm.
Heartworm is a serious disease: The spaghetti-like worms, which can grow up to a foot in length, live in the hearts, lungs and associated blood vessels of infected animals. They are carried in a microscopic form (known as microfilaria) by mosquitoes that transmit the worms when they bite other animals. They can circulate in the bloodstream, mature, multiply and can eventually obstruct the flow of blood to the heart and lungs. If not treated, heartworm can be fatal.
While dogs are the most common hosts for this parasite, they can also be found in other species, including cats, ferrets, foxes, even wolves and horses. Dogs can live for years without symptoms after infection, but the heartworms’ long-term effects in an untreated dog may cause lasting damage to the heart, lungs, and arteries. Cats may develop chronic respiratory disease and, unfortunately, the first signs in infected cats can be sudden collapse or death.
Fortunately, the ASPCA caught Madonna’s case early. She was successfully treated for her infection and subsequently tested for both adult heartworms and microfilaria. Today she is in a happy home and takes a monthly preventive medication.
Heartworm treatment in dogs is a multiple-step, three-to-four month process that involves injections and oral medication to kill the heartworms, as well as prolonged periods of exercise restriction. Since it is very challenging to treat cats for heartworm disease, it is essential to prevent the disease in the first place.
“The best way to avoid heartworm disease is to give your dog heartworm preventive, a once-a-month oral or topical prescription medication,” says Dr. Louise Murray, Vice President of the ASPCA Animal Hospital in New York City. Prevention comes in several formulations and your veterinarian can advise you as to the best choice for your pet. Heartworm preventives commonly also treat a variety of other internal and external parasites.
Puppies should start on preventives no later than eight weeks of age without a test, but should be tested in six month intervals after the first dose and then yearly after that.
Heartworm infection is harder to detect in cats, because they are less likely to host adult heartworms. Cats should be tested before being put on medication and re-tested as vets deems appropriate to monitor exposure and risk.
Heartworm symptoms in dogs include persistent coughing, fatigue after exercise, decreased appetite, decreased desire to exercise, and weight loss. Heartworm in cats can cause wheezing and respiratory symptoms, as well as vomiting, loss of appetite and weight loss.
April is National Heartworm Awareness Month. Visit our Pet Care section to learn more about heartworm in dogs and in cats.
Update: The ASPCA has helped to reunite two formerly missing cats with their guardian following a large explosion and fire in New York City’s East Village neighborhood last week. The Office of Emergency Management granted ASPCA responders access to a residential building where they searched for and located the cats.
The two cats belong to East Village resident Kathleen Blomberg, who has been displaced and is staying with a friend. The ASPCA will provide transportation and medical exams at the ASPCA Animal Hospital for Kathleen’s cats, Kitty Cordelia and Sebastian, and we have also offered free boarding for her cats as she secures new housing.
This post was originally published on March 27, 2015.
At the request of the Office of Emergency Management, the ASPCA is providing coordination of animal-related issues at the city’s emergency reception center for pet owners in the area surrounding the site of Thursday’s explosion and fire in the East Village neighborhood of New York City. Residents in the evacuation area who need to access their pets should speak to a police officer for more information.
The damage and resulting needs of residents affected by the explosion and fire are still being assessed.
Curious pup Otis leaves no stone unturned! This inquisitive guy loves to sniff around and explore his surroundings—there’s nothing he’d like more than a Saturday by your side roaming Central Park. This funny guy will keep you laughing with his playful antics, but, like most city dwellers, he’s in a rush to get to where he’s going!
At times, Otis will bark to let you know he wants something and may be protective of his food, but our Behavioral team is available to give you tips on how to control this behavior. Otis would do best in an adults-only household with an experienced adopter who can give him lots of exercise and playtime. Adopt Otis today!
Otis is available for adoption at the ASPCA Adoption Center. If you are interested in adopting, please call our Adoptions department in New York City at (212) 876-7700 ext. 4120. To learn more about Otis, please visit his profile page.
Even though we work to prevent cruelty to animals all year long, April is special at the ASPCA because it is officially Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month! Every year, we ask supporters to celebrate this month by helping us raise awareness about important issues facing animals—and we hope that you’ll join in! We’ve come up with some exciting ways you can get involved and make a difference all month long:
Start a Fundraising Campaign Create a personal ASPCA fundraising page for an important event in your life and share it with your friends and family. Whether you donate your birthday, honor the memory of a beloved pet or decide to run a 5k with Team ASPCA, the money you raise can make a big difference for animals in need nationwide.
Commemorate Dog Fighting Awareness Tuesday, April 8, marks our second annual National Dog Fighting Awareness Day. The ASPCA designated this day to advance the conversation about dog fighting and to encourage animal-lovers across the country to take action against this brutal form of cruelty. This year, you can add your voice to the cause by joining our Get Tough campaign.
Make Adoption Your First Option Bringing a four-legged friend into your family? Shelters have lovable dogs and cats of all shapes, sizes and ages who are looking for a good home, so please make adoption your first choice. Check out our nationwide database of dogs and cats who are looking for good homes.
Show Your Support Online During April, use Your Facebook page, Twitter account or blog to spread the word about Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month—and be sure to tag us at @ASPCA in your posts! If you don’t already, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
It’s spring at the ASPCA, which means we’re busy preparing for kitten season—the time of year when felines breed and shelters across the country receive an influx of homeless and newborn cats. The season lasts from April to September, and this year we’re prepared to take in up to 2,300 kittens at our facility in New York City. In anticipation of this, we thought it would be nice to check in on some of last year’s babies and bring you an update. Here is the story of one lucky kitten who is growing up happily after beginning life at the ASPCA.
Luna the kitten was born in August, 2014, in a home with too many cats. Fortunately, the overwhelmed owner decided to surrender Luna and two of her siblings to the local city shelter. She was barely three weeks old at the time. The shelter realized that the kittens needed specialized care, so they sent them to the neonatal ward (a.k.a. “kitten nursery”) at the ASPCA.
Once at the hospital, Luna and her siblings received round-the-clock attention from our expert Animal Care Technicians. The tiny kitten weighed less than a pound and needed to be syringe-fed every two hours, day and night, until she grew big enough and strong enough to start on solid food. After a month in the kitten nursery, Luna was ready for adoption at last.
While all of this was going on, Fanny F. and her fiancé had taken two trips to our Adoption Center in search of a pet. “I’ve always wanted to adopt,” says Fanny, whose parents never had animals in the house. “Watching the ASPCA commercials and doing a little research on my own, I knew that the right thing to do was to help by opening my home to a furry friend of my own.”
Initially, the couple had been looking for an older cat. It was only on their third visit that they were taken to meet the babies. “I didn’t expect to adopt a kitten, but when I made way to the kitten section, I immediately had a change of heart,” Fanny recalls. “When met Luna, she was eager to play and socialize. I knew she was the one when I held her.”
Luna seemed to feel an instant connection as well. Fanny says, “She was super friendly, affectionate and loved to be held. My fiancé was with me at the time, and it really clicked to see them both bonding and playing together.” Prior plans aside, the couple realized that Luna was meant to be their new pet. On the day they adopted her, she was four months old. Her siblings were both adopted two days later.
Back at Fanny’s apartment, Luna made herself comfortable right away. “Each day we have our morning rituals together before I leave for work and when I come home at the end of the day,” Fanny says with a smile. “I really feel she was made to grow up with me. It’s fate that we met.”
It’s amazing to think how different Luna’s life might have been had she stayed in that overpopulated house. But she was a lucky one—she was rescued by the ASPCA and adopted into a loving family. Fanny says, “She has shown me so much love and affection that it gave me the confidence to know I’m doing a good job raising her. A happy kitty is a very happy kitty mommy!”
Congratulations to baby Luna on her perfect new life!