We Transferred A Heartworm Dog Into Our Shelter, What Now?! Treatment Advice from the Trenches

1:45PM to 2:30PM
Room: St Laurent 6
Simultaneous English-to-French interpretation available for this session.

Dr. Karen Ward, Chief Veterinary Officer, Toronto Humane Society
Dr. Tammy Hornak, Veterinarian, Grand River Veterinary Hospital

Shelters in Canada are increasingly transferring dogs from areas of need, such as the southern USA and Canadian First Nations communities. With these dogs come diseases like heartworm. It is incumbent on shelters to be cognizant of our social responsibility and ensure that imported heartworm does not become endemic in our communities. If we bring a disease in, we need to be ready to identify and treat! Outreach programs may also work with local communities with high heartworm prevalence. Heartworm can be costly and intensive to treat using "gold standard" immiticide treatment. There is ongoing controversy about using less expensive "slow kill" approaches that may be the only option in low-income communities. This talk is based on experience treating heartworm in a shelter and First Nations communities over the past several years. It describes the two approaches to treatment and management of heartworm and the pros and cons of both.

1.     Shelters that transfer in dogs with heartworm need to be prepared and able to treat this disease
2.     The "gold standard" approach using immiticide is costly and resource-intensive, but is very successful
3.     The "slow-kill" approach is slow and can be controversial, but can be very effective, and is the only approach available in some communities

Dr. Karen Ward received her DVM from the Ontario Veterinary College. She was an ASPCA UC Davis Shelter Medicine Fellow in 2012-13 and continues to act as a mentor in the Maddie’s Fund University of Wisconsin/University of California Davis Shelter Medicine Fellowship. Dr. Ward is convinced that shelter medicine is the world’s best job, and is privileged to work at the Toronto Humane Society.

In 1992 Dr. Tammy Hornak graduated as Registered Respiratory Therapist.  From 1992 to 1996 she worked in all critical care areas of a busy urban/academic health science centre and developed a strong interest in the cardiopulmonary system. Dr. Hornak graduated from Mississippi State University in 2000 and became a practice owner of a Mixed Animal Practice in 2002 in Caledonia, Ontario offering local farm call services which included the New Credit First Nation Community and the Six Nations of the Grand River.

In 2009, recognizing the need for veterinary care on First Nation Communities she organized and executed the first annual Pet Wellness Day in the community of the Six Nations of the Grand River, replacing the previously existing “Rabies Clinics”.

With the support of other volunteers, she established Canon’s Cause Rescue in 2011.  To date they have treated and rehomed more than 3000 pets from local shelters, many have been considered unadoptable due to medical reasons.  Most have been heartworm positive.

In 2015, as Veterinarian of Record for the Welland Humane Society, she established a Surgical Mobile Hospital providing wellness and surgical services to any First Nation Community in Ontario.  In 2016, she accredited another Mobile for Outreach work and has now travelled to many communities providing surgical and wellness care to hundreds of pets. She actively supports and sponsors the Outreach Program at the Ontario Veterinary College and now annually organize Wellness Clinics in 5 different communities in Ontario and has witnessed the difference regular veterinary care can accomplish in these communities.

In 2016 she presented at the American Heartworm Symposium regarding the impact of heartworm disease and well care on First Nations Communities.

Her clinic, Grand River Veterinary Hospital, has treated 100’s of dogs over the past 10 years. She has extensive experience treating heartworm disease using the “gold standard” protocol  with immiticide and “slow kill” protocols with macrocyclic  lactones. Dr. Hornak has a strong passion for Public Health/ Education and Heartworm Disease.