An American teenager’s campaign to educate others about the dangers associated with heartworm disease in dogs achieves startling results
While many teenagers might be considered the centre of their own attentions, the same cannot be said of Connecticut-based Annie Blumenfeld. Aged just 14, the teenager formed a non-profit organisation and set out to educate the world about the dangers associated with heartworm disease in dogs.
The US Food and Drug Administration has this warning about heartworm disease:
Heartworm disease is a serious disease that results in severe lung disease, heart failure, other organ damage, and death in pets, mainly dogs, cats, and ferrets. It is caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis. The worms are spread through the bite of a mosquito.
“My family rescued a dog from a high-kill shelter in Texas. He was just days away from being put down, as he had tested positive for heartworm disease. Sadly, shelters worldwide are just too crowded and dogs are put down every day,” said Annie.
“Heartworm disease can easily be avoided by using a monthly preventative. Our dog, Master Teddy, was just abandoned at the shelter. He was given arsenic to destroy the heartworms, which are caused by the lava in mosquitos, in his lungs and heart. He was placed in a crate for several weeks and carefully monitored so blood clots did not form.
“Luckily, Master Teddy made a full recovery. I set out to learn more and found that heartworm disease is found in all 50 states and beyond, and that 45% of dogs are not on preventatives. I was determined to make a difference for these animals and to educate pet owners.
“I formed a non profit 501(c)3 organisation called Wags 4 Hope. I designed a heartworm flier and sent it globally to corporations, colleges and shelters. I sell my paintings and 100% of the proceeds are given to help animal shelters globally.”
But Annie’s story does not end there. Next she campaigned for a change in state licensing laws.
“I met with Connecticut legislators for more than a year and a half to make a change in our state’s dog licence by adding a heartworm disease checkbox to the dog licence application form. Each state requires pet owners to submit an annual fee with the form. There had been no change in our state’s dog licence form for eight years. I am so proud to say that Connecticut is the first state to have this message,” said Annie.
“I drew a mixed breed dog to encourage pet adoptions and over 100,000 copies were ordered. I sure hope other states will follow suit.”
Now aged 17, Annie continues to educate others about the dangers of heartworm disease.
Heartworm disease is not prevalent in the UK, although many dogs imported from the continent can develop signs of the disease. Once treated, reinfection is unlikely. The most obvious signs of heartworm disease are a dry, chronic cough, shortness of breath, weakness, nervousness, listlessness and a loss of stamina. If you suspect your dog is suffering from the disease, take him to a vet immediately.