Pa. Animal rescue saves lives of heartworm-positive dogs

CHESTER SPRINGS, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "Of all the dogs I've had, I've never seen a more sweet, sweet girl," said Andrea Deutsch about her new furry friend, Ladybird.

Although Ladybird looks like a typical dog, the two-year-old pup was diagnosed with heartworm disease.

"Apparently, she was in a hoarding situation in Virginia, and now, she came up here to Main Line Animal Rescue and I fell in love with her."

Ladybird is a success story in the making thanks to the new Healing Heartworm program. It is the result of a partnership between the BISSELL Pet Foundation and Main Line Animal Rescue, the latter of which is an affiliate of the Pennsylvania SPCA.

"Heartworm is a disease that is endemic in the southern states," said Nichola Redmond, the Site Director at Main Line. "So through this program, we take those dogs that are basically getting ready for euthanasia in most cases."

Redmond says they have a goal of rescuing 100 dogs by the end of 2021.

"They're lovely and adoptable in every other way," she added, "And we basically save their lives."

Veterinarian Alicia Royer has the opportunity to watch these dogs transform over a four-month-long treatment process.

"After they are negative, as long as they remain on their heartworm preventative as every dog should be on, it should not acquire it again and it should be kind of in their past," she said.

Royer and her team follow the American Heartworm Society's guidelines to kill all stages of heartworm and prevent further damage caused by the disease. In addition to heartworm-preventative medicine, each dog receives a flea and tick preventative. This is designed to ward off mosquitoes, which are the key vector of heartworm disease transmission.

Once the treatment has been completed, these dogs should go on to live mostly normal lives.

"You've got to be patient, but at the end of the process, I hope to have a perfectly healthy, incredibly sweet dog, which I couldn't ask for more," said Deutsch.

Deutsch is currently fostering Ladybird and will proceed to formally adopt her in the coming weeks. While they enjoy time spent together at home on the couch, they aren't afraid to work hard.

"Luckily, I own a pet store, so I get the chance to give her all kinds of treats every day," said Deutsch, who created "Spot's - The Place for Paws" in Narberth, Pennsylvania, 18 years ago.

When Deutsch is not taking orders for pet food and toys, she is busy working as the Mayor of Narberth. But she finds her job as a dog mom to be important as well.

"I feel life is more complete when you have a pet in the home," she said.

Main Line Animal Rescue hopes to create more success stories like Ladybird's in the future. However, they are relying on the community's help.

"The BISSELL Pet Foundation awarded us a grant and it requires matching funds," said Redmond. "So we are asking people who care about these dogs who are at risk for dying at southern shelters to help us keep them alive."

To learn more about Main Line Animal Rescue or to donate, visit their website.
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