Keep Worms out of Your Pet’s Heart

What is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease. Approximately 1 million pets in the US have heartworm disease. It’s caused by foot-long roundworms that settle into the heart, blood vessels, and lungs of an affected pet. These worms can cause severe lung disease, heart failure, and damage to other organs in the body. Heartworm disease can cause lasting damage to a dog’s health and quality of life even after the parasites are gone. It takes 6-7 months for larvae to mature to adulthood where it begins its reproduction cycle. A single heartworm can live up to seven years. 

Dogs are natural hosts for heartworms, meaning that heartworms live inside the dog mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring. Dogs can have several hundred worms in their body. Heartworm disease in cats is very different. Cats are atypical hosts for heartworms, meaning most worms in cats do not survive to the adult stage. Cats typically have just one to three worms. 

How do Pets Get Heartworm Disease?

Mosquitos are the most common carrier of heartworm and play an essential role in transmission. Female mosquitos pick up larvae in the bloodstream of infected animals and then transmit the larvae to the next animal it bites. Unfortunately, all it takes is one bite. Once inside the new host, it takes about 6 months for the larvae to develop into adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms can live for 5-7 years in dogs and 2-3 years in cats. 

What are the Symptoms of Heartworm Disease?

Signs of Infection in Dogs: In the early stages of the disease, many dogs show few symptoms or no symptoms at all, making it almost impossible to notice in dogs, which is why testing is so important. The longer the infection persists, the more likely symptoms will develop. 

  • Coughing
  • Easily fatigued
  • Lethargic
  • Lack of interest in play or exercise
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss

How can Heartworm Disease be Prevented?

Regular heartworm testing is key. All dogs should be tested annually for heartworm infection, which can be done during a routine visit or a low-cost Wellness Clinic, like Planned PEThood. Even when dogs are on heartworm prevention year-round, they should still be tested annually to ensure that the prevention is working. 

A monthly preventative is recommended and gives your dog the best chance of avoiding these parasites. Heartworm preventative is available only by prescription through a veterinarian. Some preventatives also protect against other types of parasites. 

Puppies under 7 months can be started on heartworm prevention without a test, but should then be tested 6 months after starting the preventative. Adult dogs over 7 months and dogs previously not on a preventative need to be tested prior to starting heartworm prevention. If there has been a lapse in prevention (one or more late or missed doses), dogs should be tested.

FAQ About Heartworm Preventatives:

Can Heartworm be Treated?

Yes, heartworm can be treated, but it is an expensive and complex process that is extremely tough on the dog. The earlier the disease is detected, the better. 

How Do Monthly Heartworm Preventatives Work?

Monthly preventatives work by eliminating any immature heartworm parasites. Because the preventative cannot effectively eliminate juvenile or adult larvae, it is important to administer heartworm on a strict schedule. 

Do I Need a Prescription for Heartworm Preventative?

Yes, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that heartworm preventatives must be purchased from your veterinarian or with a prescription from a pet pharmacy. 

Are Heartworms More Common in Certain Areas of the US?

Heartworms have been found in all 50 states. Weather (temperature and humidity) and the presence of mosquito breeding areas both affect the level of risk of heartworm infection. 

Learn more about heartworm disease.

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So You Found Kittens Outside…Now What?

Updated 3/21/2024

Spring marks the beginning of Kitten Season, where unsterilized, outdoor female cats continually go through a heat cycle, giving birth to dozens of kittens. During kitten season, it’s not unusual to discover a nest of unattended kittens. Do you know what to do if you find kittens? When you come across kittens outdoors, it can be very tempting to scoop them up and bring them indoors. You want to help, right? It’s important to know that removing kittens from their current environment may not always be the right answer. 

So, what should you do if you find kittens outside? 

Leave them be, but keep an eye on them! Even if you see kittens alone, their mother is most likely nearby – she could be getting food, hiding from you, or in the process of moving her babies from one location to another (especially if you’ve found one kitten alone). She could be gone for several hours. A mother cat is the kittens’ best possible caregiver, so please LEAVE THEM BE! Momma cats are resourceful. There is a reason they survive cold temperatures and continue to breed. They find warm spaces to keep their babies, and they know when their babies are in danger. Taking kittens who are not weaned away from their mother puts the kittens at greater risk.

While it can be hard, sometimes walking away is the best thing to do. As long as the kittens are safe for the moment and you can come back to check on them within a few hours, LEAVE THEM BE. Wait a few hours to a full day to see if the mother cat returns. Be sure to watch from a hidden spot or from inside where you won’t be noticed. If the kittens are cuddled together and sleeping quietly, look pink, warm, and clean, and have full bellies, their momma has most likely been back, you just didn’t see her. 

If there is a mamma cat, it’s best to leave the kittens with their mom until they’re weaned. You can help momma cat by providing regular food and water, an outdoor shelter to create a safe space, and peace and quiet to avoid causing stress. Just be sure to pick up the food at night so it doesn’t attract predators. Here are some tips on how to care for momma cats and kittens.

When the kittens are older and weaned, you can help them find homes and get them and momma spayed, but intervention at such a young age can be detrimental. 5-6 weeks is the optimal age to take kittens from a feral momma cat for socialization and adoption placement. Can’t tell how old the kittens are? Check out this kitten progression article. Cats can get pregnant as young as four months of age, so it’s ideal to get the momma cat and her kittens spayed or neutered as soon as possible.

If the kittens are 8 weeks old or older, they don’t rely on their momma, so don’t hesitate to take them to a veterinary clinic or shelter. They can be spayed or neutered. If the momma cat is still with them, you can spay her at the same time through a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program, like Planned PEThood’s.

If you’ve waited and monitored for several hours and see no sign of the mother cat, now’s the time to step in and help the kittens. It’s best to act quickly because young kittens are fragile. If you or someone you know is able to provide foster care, a local rescue, like Planned PEThood, can give you tips, tricks, and even supplies to help care for the kittens. There are plenty of online resources to help you. Keep in mind that kittens can be a significant commitment for you, especially if they are unweaned. Local rescues might have lifesaving programs and foster programs that can provide care for kittens. Most shelters do not have the resources to provide the care unweaned kittens need to survive, so it’s best to reach out to local rescues or contact the shelter before arriving to check. We have some listed here. 

Remember, if you find kittens alone outside, fight your instinct to pick them up and care for them, at first. If they are safe, leave them alone and keep an eye on them from a distance, watching for their momma. If the momma is not back in a few hours to a day, then it is time to step in and have a plan to care for them. You can drastically help kittens by being educated, knowing when to take action, and getting involved when help is needed.

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$10,000 Gifted In Honor of 10,000th Surgery

We have a HUGE announcement and accomplishment to share! Last month, the Planned PEThood surgery team helped talented veterinarian, Dr. Murphy, perform her 10,000th surgery at Planned PEThood of Georgia. In honor of the incredible accomplishment, Fix Georgia Pets and Georgia Pet Foundation generously donated $10,000 to help our spay/neuter efforts as we continue our mission to help Georgia’s pets. 

Planned PEThood’s surgery team makes an incredible, positive impact on the pet overpopulation crisis. Across Georgia, thousands of dogs and cats end up in animal shelters each year and are killed for lack of space and existing homes. This puts an immense burden on animal shelters, who work tirelessly to provide care for way too many unwanted animals. Pet overpopulation is not just a shelter problem, it’s a community problem, typically caused by uncontrolled breeding. Fortunately, there is a simple solution – please make sure that all of your pets and those of family and friends are spayed or neutered. Planned PEThood offers affordable, accessible spay/neuter services to help make it happen.

In addition to our extensive spay/neuter efforts for pet owners, Planned PEThood continues to make a tremendous impact on animals in rural shelters and communities across Georgia. Our unique Go Fix Georgia program is dedicated to improving spay/neuter access to rural animal shelters and underserved communities across Georgia. Each week, animals from various rural animal shelters travel to Planned PEThood’s Duluth clinic, where our veterinary team performs spay/neuter surgeries and, on occasion, emergency procedures, before safely transporting these animals to their shelters where they await their forever homes. While these rural counties do not have access to affordable veterinary care options, Planned PEThood of Georgia is here to help. 

The generous gift from Fix Georgia Pets and Georgia Pet Foundation will help Planned PEThood continue to provide low-cost, affordable spay/neuter services to pet owners and these rural shelters. Fix Georgia Pets strives to provide strategic grants and solutions for spay/neuter programs to help end pet overpopulation and stop the euthanasia of healthy animals in Georgia. Georgia Pet Foundation is committed to making Georgia a no-kill state. To accomplish this goal, we must end pet overpopulation. The most effective means of doing so is providing widespread low-cost, statewide spay/neuter programs. Georgia Pet Foundation is the sponsor organization for the Spay Neuter license plate and uses these funds for spay/neuter grants. By purchasing a Georgia Pet Foundation License plate, you help fund free and low-cost spay and neuter programs across the state. Learn how to purchase a Georgia Pet Foundation License Plate and help save lives today.

Learn more about Fix Georgia Pets and Georgia Pet Foundation.

We want to give a huge THANK YOU to Fix Georgia Pets and Georgia Pet Foundation for their amazing gift. Their generous donation will help save lives and keep pets with their families.

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Benefits of Spay and Neuter

February is Spay and Neuter Awareness Month! A whole month dedicated to encouraging people to save animals’ lives by spaying and neutering pets and community cats. Here at Planned PEThood of Georgia, we love to encourage spaying and neutering every day!

There are dozens of benefits of spaying and neutering your pets, but they can be divided into three main categories: health, behavior, and population control.

  1. Eliminate unwanted behaviors.Spaying and neutering can have a big impact on your pet’s behavior. Spayed and neutered animals are less prone to spraying and marking and may even stop it altogether. Spaying/neutering also reduces the urge to roam, especially when females are in heat. Less roaming will make your pet less likely to be injured in fights or auto accidents and decrease the risk of contracting diseases. Spay/neuter also reduces aggressive behavior, including biting.
  2. Help your pet’s health. The chances are greatly reduced that your pet will get several serious, life-threatening, and expensive health problems. Spaying/neutering reduces or eliminates the risk of certain cancers, such as uterine, breast, or testicular cancer. It can also eliminate pyometra, a very severe infection of the uterus, andeliminate prostate problems in male dogs. Spaying and neutering your pets will increase his/her chances of a longer and healthier life. Altering your pet will increase their lifespan by an average of 1-3 years for dogs and 3-5 years for felines. The life expectancy of spayed/neutered pets is up to 26% longer than that of intact pets, according to the University of Georgia.
  1. Help prevent pet overpopulation.Spaying/neutering is the only way to reduce the number of unwanted litters. In the greater Atlanta area, thousands of dogs and cats end up in animal shelters each year and are killed for lack of space and lack of existing homes. Unwanted litters place a tremendous burden on shelters. Many times we tend to blame the animal shelters, but pet overpopulation is a community problem. There is a simple solution – be a responsible pet guardian and make sure that all of your pets and those of family and friends are spayed or neutered.

At Planned PEThood, we offer low-cost spay/neuter options to help keep pet ownership affordable and to keep pets with their families. Learn more about our services and book an appointment today!

If your pets are already spayed/neutered, spread the word and put your support behind this important cause. The more people that know about the importance of spay and neuter, the better!

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Help for 240 Habersham County Pets and Their Parents

In December, Habersham County pet owners and their pets received much-needed assistance. Planned PEThood’s team, Go Fix Georgia, teamed up with Habersham County Animal Care and Control to host a Community Pet Clinic offering, free vet care and supplies to pet owners in need, just in time for the holidays.

The need for outreach events like this was obvious as people started to line up hours before the event even started. Our team and Habersham’s team worked tirelessly helping a continuous line of animals whose owners drove through the pop-up event. It was brutally cold and the wind made things hard for our team, but we persevered. In just over four hours, we were able to see 240 adorable, deserving pets. That’s 20% more than what we promised! 

We are thrilled that we were able to help so many cats and dogs receive free vaccines, microchips, flea preventative, pet supplies, and more. More than half of the pets served applied for spay and neuter vouchers which demonstrates a huge need for the service in the county. Providing spay and neuter services helps with reducing the overcrowding pressures animal shelters face.

There were many amazing organizations and volunteers who came together to help make this event such a success. THANK YOU ALL! Our team could not have done it without the assistance of Habersham County Animal Care and Control and the Allen Family, who sponsored this incredible event. Without their contributions, this event would not have been possible. We hope to work with Habersham County Animal Care and Control to help more pets and people in Habersham County in the future. 

Other Assistance Provided By: Atlanta Humane Society and Petco Love

Make sure to check our emails and social media for upcoming outreach event dates. We are always looking for partner companies or individuals to sponsor outreach events. Please email if you or your company might be interested in giving back.

Read more about the event in this excellent article that explains the need for community outreach events.

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Get to Know Dr. Murphy, Our Superstar Vet

Dr. Murphy had always dreamt of becoming a veterinarian since her childhood. Her family fondly referred to her as Ellie May, after a character from an old TV show, due to her immense love for animals. This nickname from her childhood foreshadowed her future career path as a skilled and devoted veterinarian. 

She recalls one of her most memorable experiences working with animals during her time at the University of Tennessee. She worked in the rehab department during clinics where she encountered a yellow lab named Max. Max was suffering from disc disease that eventually caused hind limb paralysis. Though he had undergone surgery and an intensive two-month rehabilitation, he couldn’t regain control over his hind legs or bladder.

Dr. Murphy formed a deep bond with Max during his stay. Recognizing the importance of providing him with proper care, she decided to adopt Max and became his devoted caretaker for the final four years of his life.

Fostering animals also holds a special place in the heart of Dr. Murphy. Her favorite part is observing the transformation of the animals as they regain their health and confidence in the comfort of her home. She says that the happiness she feels when her fosters find their forever homes is both heartwarming and bittersweet. Dr. Murphy has fostered 43 animals since joining the Planned PEThood team.

Dr. Murphy’s journey is a story of compassion and dedication. Since joining the team in June of 2022, Dr. Murphy performed 9,598 surgeries, some of those including leg amputations, prolapse repairs, and several other emergency surgeries. 

At Planned PEThood, her expertise and love for helping animals shine as she contributes to making a huge impact! Please join us in thanking Dr. Murphy for her incredible efforts to help animals in Georgia!

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Keep Your Pets Safe This New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve can be such a fun time for us but can be a frightening and overwhelming experience for our furry family members.

The loud noises from fireworks can cause stress to our pets and result in unwanted situations. Frightened, panicked pets tend to bolt and run far away from whatever spooked them, leading to lots of lost pets. This is an extremely busy time of the year for animal shelters and rescues across the country as more pets panic over fireworks and end up lost. The only other day on which more pets go missing is the Fourth of July.

Here are a few simple tips for a stress-free, safe day for both you and your pets:

Microchip and ID Your Pets. Proper identification may be the only way to help reunite with your pets should they become lost. Having an up-to-date microchip and collar with an ID tag can make a huge difference. Tags are available at most pet stores and even many Walmart locations. Planned PEThood offers microchips for only $25 and that includes registration. All other veterinary clinics offer this service as well, ranging from $24-$75

Work Them Out Before the Festivities Begin. Take your dog for a long walk or a run several hours before the festivities begin. Indoor playtime exercise is great for cats. Giving your pets lots of exercise during the day can help so they’ll be worn out once the fireworks start. A tired pet is a calmer pet and can help with stress and anxiety levels.

Keep Them Indoors. Loud sounds can scare your pets, causing them to bolt. Put them in an indoor, cozy spot well before the fireworks start. If possible, stay home with your pets. When home alone, pets are more likely to panic. Having someone can comforting for your pet.

Provide a Safe, Quiet Place. Help your pet feel safer in a quiet room to crate that is escape-proof. Try blocking out the light from outside.

Provide Distractions. Focus their attention on things such as toys or treats to encourage their minds to focus on that, rather than the noises outside. Use TV or music to mask the sounds outside. Consider a Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter or a cat nip toy.

Ask a Veterinarian for Help. Some pets are more terrified of fireworks than others. There are medications and techniques that might help with your pet’s fear and anxiety. If your pet’s anxiety is severe, it might be helpful to book an appointment with your vet well in advance of the holiday to discuss how to best help your fur baby.

Do your pets a favor and make sure they are well-protected and safe for the holidays so they’re with you for many years to come! 

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Drumstick, a Tripod Kitty, Finds His Forever Home

After a rough start to life, Drumstick found his forever home!

Drumstick, a resilient and spunky kitten, faced a truly traumatic start in life. While we may never fully understand the hardships he endured, what we do know is heart-wrenching. Drumstick arrived at Gwinnett County Animal Shelter malnourished and had ringworm. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Drumstick also had a degloved back leg (a traumatic injury where the top layers of skin and tissue are torn away from the limb) and was missing a foot. We knew we could help Drumstick so we welcomed him into Planned PEThood’s foster program.

After some serious medical intervention from our wonderful vet team and some much-needed TLC from his incredible foster mom, Drumstick started his road to recovery. He ended up needing his leg amputated and undergoing several weeks of treatment for ringworm. After a few weeks, he made a full recovery and was ready to go to his forever home. 

His new family, who are past adopters of Planned PEThood, opened their hearts to this special guy. We couldn’t be more excited for this sweet kitty. Even with three legs, nothing slows him down! 

Happy life Drumstick! ❤️

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Meet Maddie

Maddie’s journey began in Madison, Florida, where she was discovered in the aftermath of Hurricane Adalia. She was wandering the area dragging a chain and was so weak that she had to be carried to safety. 

The local shelter had been destroyed, resources were few, and Maddie’s positive heartworm test led to discussions of humane euthanasia due to the lack of immediate aid. 

However, fate took a turn when a woman named Paula heard about Maddie’s situation and stepped up to be her foster. She took it upon herself to be Maddie’s advocate and find her help. 

Despite steep treatment quotes from various clinics, Paula kept calling and looking until she found Planned PEThood. She was in tears to learn how affordable Maddie’s treatment would be with us and that we would be able to save her life!

Fast forward to the last week, Maddie has completed her last round of heartworm treatment at our clinic. Under the loving care of her foster mom, Maddie is on the path to a full recovery and will be ready to find her forever family very soon. This sweet girl with gentle energy radiates gratitude for her second chance at life and our team is behind her cheering her on!

To learn more about adopting Maddie, please contact

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Help for Walton County Residents and Their Pets

This December, Walton County pet owners and their pets received much-needed assistance. Planned PEThood’s outreach team, Go Fix Georgia, teamed up with Walton County Animal Control to provide free vet care and supplies to pet owners in need. 

This was our second Walton County Outreach Event and it was one of the most successful outreach events to date! Our team worked tirelessly to see 253 adorable, deserving pets in just over four hours. Way more than the 200 pets we promised! We ended up seeing patients until the supplies ran out. We are thrilled that we were able to help so many dogs and cats receive free vaccines, microchips, flea preventative, pet supplies, and more. Now, these pets have basic medical care and will be spayed or neutered within the next few months.

These events ensure the wellness of pets in the community and reduce overpopulation through free spay/neuter. The need for outreach events like this was clear as dozens of people lined up early in the morning despite the unfortunate weather. 

There were so many amazing organizations and volunteers who came together to help make this event such a success. THANK YOU ALL! Our team could not have done it without the assistance of Walton County Animal Control, who sponsored this incredible event. We hope to work with Walton County Animal Control to help more pets and people in Walton County in the future. Another huge thank you to Best Friends Animal Society and The Humane Society of Walton for sponsoring the spay/neuter vouchers. 

Other Assistance Provided By: Atlanta Humane Society and Petco Love

Make sure to check our emails and social media for upcoming outreach event dates. We are always looking for partner companies or individuals to sponsor outreach events. Please email if you or your company might be interested in giving back.

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