Dog survives heartworm disease, finds new ‘fur-ever’ home

A will to live helped Ritz the dog overcome heartworm disease.

Six months ago, Ritz was brought to the Gulf Coast Humane Society where veterinarians say she was on her death bed.

“We thought she was gonna be a hospice foster. She had congenital heart failure, high heart worm positive. She had some tumors on her tummy, she had some mammary gland tumors,” said Jennifer Galloway, CEO of Gulf Coast Humane Society.

WINK News/ Taylor Bisacky

Heartworm disease, transmitted by mosquitoes, was the cause of Ritz’ complications.

“A lot of mosquitoes here in Florida, its super common,” Galloway said. “We probably have 20 cases at any time here on the adoption floor and maybe 20 to 30 of dogs that have already been adopted that were still treating.”

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If the disease is not treated, it can get progressively worse.

“We call it the slow kill which takes up to six months,” Galloway said. “These worms grow within the heart and it starts choking the dog out and it turns into congestive heart failure.”

Dog owners are advised to treat their pets every month with a heartworm preventative, according to Galloway.

“Every month $15 to $20 … you can do a heart worm preventive,” Galloway said. “There’s a lot of choices depending on your dog your lifestyle and your income.”

Ritz, who is part Chihuahua, is now going to a new home heartworm and tumor free.

“I asked her if she wanted a forever home, and if she wanted to stay with me, and she licked my face,” said Carol Melby, Ritz’ new owner.

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Symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs include coughing, laziness, loss of appetite, weight loss and a swollen belly.

Pet owners concerned about their dogs condition should contact their local veterinarian for a check-up.

Reporter:Taylor Bisacky