What the Heart Wants

I enter the room and Spider crosses the floor to greet me with his entire back-end wagging. I am the lucky recipient of a big wet dog kiss on the chin. Spider is such a beautiful boy, and I love him already.

Spider is a 3 year old boxer in the prime of his life, and today is my first meeting with him. He hasn’t been to the veterinarian since he was a puppy, and the owners tell us that he’s always been really healthy. My nurse informs me that Spider’s visit today is focused on his bulging belly. The owners haven’t changed his diet, but they’re worried because he’s eating less and still seems to be gaining around his mid-section.

I start my exam by giving Spider a good overall petting/rubbing. As I run my hands down his back and onto his rounded belly, I become concerned about his girth as well. I recognize that this isn’t Spider getting “chubby.” He looks more like he is full-blown pregnant. I give a quick push on the widest part of his abdomen, and a fluid wave bounces back to my fingertips, (think waterbed). This definitely isn’t extra body fat.

I listen to his heart, which sounds a little soft, but mostly normal. His gums are pink, but when I press on them, they take too long to return to their normal color.

I ask the owners when they started noticing the belly bulge.

“It’s been really noticeable this last week,” replies the husband.

Spider chuffs softly and curls up at his owner’s feet.

“Does he do that soft cough a lot?” I ask.

“From time to time,” he says. “Especially if he’s been out playing.”

Pieces of the puzzle start clicking into place in my mind. The final picture is a serious one.

“Let’s do a quick heartworm test,” I recommend.

The owners’ expressions flash concern, but they consent to the testing. We wait a few short minutes, and receive the answer we feared.

Spider is positive for heartworms, but overall we are lucky. We still have time to fix this.

For more information about heartworms, please click here.

I wish that this story was rare or unusual. Sadly, it is a reality for patients in our hospital every week. In fact, the prevalence of heartworms in the Shawnee area has nearly doubled over the past 10 years. Every dog that is not on prevention is at risk.

I hear arguments about this all the time.

Client: But Dr. Keith, my pet lives inside. 

Me: Yes, and so do three species of mosquitoes in Oklahoma. Also, I live inside, but I still manage to get bit by mosquitoes every year.

Client: But Dr. Keith, I’ve never had my pets on prevention, and they’ve never had heartworms before.

Me: So statistically, the odds are that your next pet is the unlucky one. One in every 4 pets in the Shawnee area will develop heartworms in their lifetime if not on prevention.

Client: But Dr. Keith, it’s too expensive.

Me: You can get heartworm prevention for as low as $5.00/month. Also, the cost of one heartworm treatment is roughly the same as 7 years of preventatives. So you really can’t afford to NOT prevent this disease.

Client: But Dr. Keith, it seems like a lot of trouble to go to for just one worm.

Me: Actually, heartworm preventions also treat common intestinal parasites that can potentially even be contagious to your human family members. Also, some heartworm preventions can even treat fleas!

And the list goes on and on. So if your pet isn’t on heartworm prevention, please tell me why so we can help with any reservations you might have.

This is not a sales pitch. This is us caring about your dog.

In fact, we are so passionate about this that for the entire month of April we are giving away:

FREE HEARTWORM TESTS AND ONE MONTH OF HEARTWORM PREVENTION for any dog that is not currently on prevention.

No catch. No kidding.

If your dog isn’t on heartworm prevention, we can help. Just call our office at 405-273-3700, or request an appointment online through our PetDesk App.