Animal shelters must frequently make difficult decisions regarding the allocation of limited resources to appropriately care for the millions of dogs and cats that enter their doors annually. Lack of funds for staffing, expertise, and guidance on heartworm disease management in animal shelters creates significant confusion on how these facilities should appropriately address heartworm infection in dogs and cats.

The American Heartworm Society (AHS) issues comprehensive guidelines for the diagnosis, prevention, and management of heartworm disease in pets, but shelters are often unable to fully comply with these guidelines due to resource constraints.

In response, shelter staff is forced to either ignore the disease or implement compromised management practices. Such compromises lead to sub-optimal treatment of infected animals, adoption of infected animals to the public, and subsequent backlash from community veterinarians, as well as increased risk of disease transmission throughout the shelter and community. Unfortunately, when shelters lack the resources to address heartworm disease appropriately, this treatable condition may serve as grounds for automatic euthanasia in infected yet adoptable animals.

Animal Shelters sorely need additional funding to address the dilemmas they face when managing heartworm disease.

Dr. Sarah Kalivoda
Mountain View Animal Hospital & Holistic Pet Care
Reno, Nevada