Metairie dog contracts rare, drug-resistant strain of heartworms

METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - A Metairie dog contracted an extremely rare, drug-resistant strain of heartworm, despite being on medication.

Labrador retriever Maddie was a loving member of the Roberts family for 14 years. In 2014, her vet discovered she had a re-occurrence of heartworms, so Cynthia Benbow, DVM, decided to send some blood samples to the University of Georgia for evaluation.

"Maddie's owners agreed that we would draw lots of blood from Maddie over days and weeks to give them the opportunity to take this parasite and do some studies with it on a university level," Benbow explained.

They found Maddie didn't have a normal type of heartworm.

"What that means is heartworm prevention doesn't work for this particular heartworm family," Benbow said.

Picking up heartworm medication for her two pups Tuesday, Kathleen Horrigan says it's concerning to hear of something that could harm her animals, despite giving them medication.

"It's scary for all dog owners, they're like our children," Horrigan said.

But vets stress the chances are low that dogs will contract the drug-resistant strain of heartworms. Benbow thinks Maddie got hers out of state.

"We do believe she picked up the strain in Mississippi because the dog is a hunting dog," Benbow said.

Still, the strain being researched right now at the University of Georgia is dubbed "Metairie 2014." Benbow hopes the information gleaned by researchers will one day help keep other dogs safe. In the meantime, she says it's imperative that owners continue to give their dogs monthly heartworm medication and get heartworm tests performed at the vet every six months to a year.

"You need to be educated about the whole cycle. So its transmitted by mosquitoes so it makes complete sense that you use something along with your heartworm prevention that repels mosquitoes and kills mosquitoes before they can inject this heartworm into your dog," Benbow said.

Benbow stresses if a dog does contract a drug-resistant strain of heartworm, it isn't always deadly.

Copyright 2017 WVUE. All rights reserved.