With April being Heartworm Awareness Month, we’d like to take the time to answer any frequently asked questions regarding this disease and how you can help.

Yes, heartworm disease is serious in dogs, especially if it is left untreated. But it is also easy to prevent and is treatable. Dogs treated for heartworm — especially if is it caught early — can go on to live completely normal, wonderful lives.

Let’s get started:

What exactly is heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is a parasitic worm that inhabits the heart, lungs and associated major vessels in both dogs and cats. Dogs are considered a primary host, which means that heartworms can grow and reproduce in an infected animal. In fact, hundreds of worms can inhabit the heart and lungs of a single dog.

How do pets get heartworms?

Heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes; the baby heartworms, called microfilaria, are found in the bloodstream of infected dogs. Mosquitoes pick up the larvae of the heartworms when feeding and then transfer them to other animals. The larvae then grow and mature into adult worms.

What are the symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs?

The most common signs in dogs are coughing, exercise intolerance (or getting tired easily with exertion), collapse or fainting episodes, decreased appetite and weight loss. Many dogs, however, show no signs at all early on.

How do you test a dog for heartworms?

Early detection is key to treating the disease successfully. Because many dogs show no signs during early infection, a positive test can guide early treatment and help to avoid potentially fatal complications. The test involves collecting a small blood sample, which can either be analyzed at the veterinarian’s office or sent out to a diagnostic lab. The results are usually acquired rapidly, within a few minutes if run in-house or in a couple of days if sent out.

Because of the worm life stage that the test detects, it will take a dog about six months to show up positive on a test from the day he was infected by the mosquito. For this reason, for dogs not previously on prevention, it is recommended that the test be done immediately, and then again in 6 months.

I found out my pet has heartworms, now what?

If your dog tests positive for heartworm disease, there are several steps to treatment. Your veterinarian may want to perform additional testing to confirm the diagnosis and to look for evidence of infection on blood work or X-rays. This can help to determine the likelihood of complications occurring with treatment. (Despite potential treatment risks, however, heartworm disease will most certainly prove to be fatal if left untreated. That’s why early detection is so important.)

Treatment at JHS:

During treatment, it is imperative that your dog’s activity be restricted. Increased activity before and during treatment (and for up to six weeks afterward) has been associated with an increased risk of complications. What this means is that the dog should go on leash walks only, with kennel confinement at all other times. Sedatives can be used to keep a dog calm while undergoing treatment; your veterinarian can help determine if this is necessary.

Are heartworms contagious to other animals/pets?

The only way heartworm spreads from host to host is if a mosquito bites a dog with heartworms and then moves on and bites another dog. Even under this circumstnace, the microfilariae can only be spread if conditions are just right.

*Humans cannot get heartworm

How can I prevent my pets from heartworms?

There are several options for preventing heartworms in dogs, all of which require a veterinarian’s prescription. A monthly chewable tablet is usually all it takes. This product works by killing off heartworm microfilaria in the pre-larval stage before they can grow into adult worms. Bonus: Some heartworm preventives contain other ingredients that also help prevent roundworm, hookworm and parasites such as fleas and ticks.

How does JHS help dogs with heartworm disease?

JHS provides compassionate care to nearly 9,000 animals each year, some of which come to JHS as heartworm positive. JHS will cover the entire cost of heartworm treatment for each dog, averaging to a total of $50,000 each year in heartworm treatment alone.

JHS will also place all dogs on heartworm preventatives during their time at the shelter to ensure each pet is protected.

How can I help homeless pets with heartworms?

Do you still have questions? Feel free to reach out to us any time! Email us your questions or concerns at info@jaxhumane.org. 

Have you ever heard that owning a pet makes you healthier? It’s true!

The antidote to relieving stress and living a happy life can come from having a four-legged companion that is ready to give you unconditional love. Studies have shown that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets. Let’s examine five ways that pets can improve your health.

 1 – A Sense of Purpose

Caring for a living thing can give you a sense of purpose. Because pets have to stick to a schedule, it will give you a structured routine. Instead of staying in bed all day long, you would have to get up in the mornings to take your dog out and feed them breakfast. If you have a cat, well, sleeping in isn’t an option when food is on the line. This pushes people to also care for themselves because they are already up and taking care of their pets and being productive.

2 – Goodbye Stress

You may not realize what is happening while playing with a dog or cat besides that you are having a good time and it’s making you happy. Interacting with an animal for five minutes lowers your levels of cortisol, aka, the stress hormone. When playing with your pet, it increases the release of oxytocin, which is a chemical in the body that naturally reduces stress. Serotonin and dopamine also get released while you play, helping relax your nervous system. The same thing happens to your pet when you play with them and it helps reduce their fear and anxiety.

3 – Easy Exercise

Dogs need to be taken out whether it’s for them to do their business outside or go for a walk. Getting outdoors can benefit you because you are able to receive vitamin D from the sun and get a break from being inside.  Not only are you benefitting from exercise, but so is your dog. Taking them out for a walk helps your dog bond with you and release some of their energy.

4 – Social Skills

According to experts at Harvard, having a dog can make you more social. This is because when you’re out on a walk with your dog, more people tend to stop you and talk about your dog. Taking your dog to the dog park also gives you a chance to be social with other pet parents while your dog is also being social and getting exercise. It gives you a connection with people when you talk about your dog while relieving social anxiety because it’s a common and easy topic to talk about.

Photo by: Lauren Neal Photography at BrewHound Dog Park + Bar

5 – Constant Companions

Because of the unconditional love that our pets give us on a daily basis, it helps diminish the feeling of being lonely because having a pet can satisfy the basic human need for touch. Pets do not judge you for having a bad day or doing silly little things.  Although our pets cannot speak back to us in a language we understand, they know how to show love.

Caring for an animal can do wonders for your self-esteem. These different kinds of benefits from owning a pet do not only come from having a dog or cat. People who have a fish or a hamster can have the same benefits. If you are not too sure about adopting a pet for yourself, fostering is always an option to help dip your toes in becoming a pet parent to a dog or cat.

Check out the pets waiting to meet you or sign up for our foster program!

If you have questions about adoptions, you can reach out to our team at any time.


Written by: Briana Svagdis

Here in Florida, hurricanes can seem commonplace.  There’s a temptation to take them lightly.  But it’s worth remembering that they are unpredictable forces of nature that command respect.

When Hurricane Dorian battered the southeast coast, my mom and I were prepared to evacuate, but even with preparation, things can go wrong.  Our plan hit a snag when we learned the hotel overbooked, leaving us stranded.  The manager was able to make arrangements with another nearby hotel:  a pet-free hotel, meaning no pets allowed.  Thankfully, they made an exception and we waited out the storm safely.


Davi last year during Hurricane Dorian, hunkered down in a hotel!

Rule of Paw:  expect the unexpected.

June 1st through November 30th is hurricane season.  This can be a frightening time for pets and humans.  Having an emergency plan in place is the key to survival. Your human should take measures to prepare now to dodge the devastating effects from these storms.

Make a Plan: 

Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare for a hurricane.  It is important to plan ahead to avoid last-minute surprises and confusion when the storm hits.

If you have to evacuate, find a safe place ahead of time. If you plan to stay at a local shelter, find out which locations allow pets and know all requirements – shelters require up-to-date vaccinations and certain supplies for pets.  If you plan to stay at a hotel, know which locations will accept pets.  Once a storm is approaching, hotels fill up quickly, so be sure to call ahead and make a reservation.

If you must ride out the storm at home, be prepared for what could be a rough 12 to 24 hours. Identify a safe room to hunker down and store emergency supplies. Be sure all windows and doors are closed and stay tuned to local reports.

Always Wear ID:

If you go missing during or after the storm, you’re more likely to be found if you are wearing a collar with identification tags. Better yet, get microchipped.  Have your human store your ID number and chip records in her phone and share with a friend or family member. That way, if her phone gets lost, you can still be reunited.

Take pictures.  Lots of pets look alike, so keeping a current photo showing your unique features will help eliminate mistaken identity.

Create a Pet Emergency Kit:

This is not that much different from a human one.   Pack enough food and water for five days and sturdy bowls to store and serve meals.  Include plenty of poop bags and litter scoop to clean up waste. Keep medication and health records handy and stored in a waterproof pouch.  A pet first-aid kit is also necessary, and don’t forget toys to keep entertained. Prepare a comfortable crate in case you need to evacuate.

After the Storm: 

While assessing the damage with your human, stay leashed.  Unfamiliar scents stirred up by the storm may excite or alarm pets – animals can easily get disoriented in such situations.  Hazards like downed power lines and trees are also dangers that could harm pets.

Remember, animals need emotional support, too. Comfort your pet with kind words and lots of pats or hugs while weathering the storm together.


Would you like to know more about resources available in Jacksonville to help pet owners prepare for a disaster? The Jacksonville Humane Society has a list of available options for you.



About the Author:
Davi is a brown dachshund with an appetite for adventure. He is the former canine columnist for Folio Weekly Magazine and is currently sniffing out stories for Unleash Jacksonville. He loves sweet potato treats, playing at the park with friends, and exploring the unknown.

In the wake of COVID-19, it’s easy to focus on the negative. The bad news on your news feed, the tragic updates on your tv screen … it can be so hard to avoid. And when we are forced to be alone, one truth becomes painfully obvious – we belong together.

With support from our community, the Jacksonville Humane Society continues to bring pets and people together during these challenging times. From finding homes for pets in need to providing jobs to those without, to keeping pets with their families and performing lifesaving surgery – without you, none of it would be possible.

Here’s a look at some of our favorite stories from the past six weeks in honor of #GivingTuesdayNow, a global day of giving in response to the needs created by COVID-19, that show the importance of finding ways to be together.

Bonnie (now Lexi)


Courtney and Amy were hired at JHS as temporary staff after the restaurant where they worked closed due to COVID-19. While working, they met and fell in love with Bonnie, a brindle pup who arrived at JHS as a stray. When the hold period of seven days went by and no one had come to claim Bonnie, Courtney and Amy knew that Bonnie belonged with them.

There was just one problem … they couldn’t come to JHS to get Bonnie on the day she was ready! JHS staff has been working in split shifts to prevent exposure and ensure that we can continue serving our community. Not wanting Bonnie to wait four more days, we devised a plan to remotely get her in the arms of her new moms by keeping with social distance protocols. Now Bonnie, called Lexi, is in a loving home and provides lots of cuddles to her new family when it is needed most.


When Esmeralda arrived at JHS on April 6th, the outcome was bleak. The long-haired black kitty had a large, gaping wound on her forelimb with a protruding bone. The senior cat was clearly in pain and did not want human contact. Our veterinary team decided that the best course of action was to amputate her leg.

After surgery, ten-year-old Esmeralda was hopping and playing like a kitten again! Her personality started to shine and her desire to be with people was evident with every head bump and gentle purr. A mom-and-daughter duo spotted her on the news and came right over to adopt! Esmeralda now belongs to a loving family.


Mya’s family came to JHS in tears late this March. This family of six had suddenly lost their home. They were able to stay temporarily with family, but dogs were not allowed in the apartment building. They wanted to surrender their sweet dog in hopes that she would have a better life.

Seeing the love between Mya and her family, we knew they belonged together. Thanks to your support, we were able to have Mya temporarily boarded for thirty days while her family secured a new home that allowed dogs. Mya was also spayed, fully vaccinated, and microchipped. When Mya was reunited with her five brothers and sisters – she could barely sit still for the picture!


When COVID-19 began, JHS put out a plea to the community for foster families. Zoey, a JHS volunteer, found herself working from home with plenty of time on her hands and decided to give fostering a try. She met Buster and knew his goofy, sweet demeanor would be a great fit for her first time fostering.

Meanwhile, the Batemans felt ready to add to their family and were searching for a dog to adopt. They did not have any other pets at home, but did need a kid-friendly pup for their 2 boys. Zoey saw the Bateman’s inquiry on Facebook for a pup and so she posted with a picture of Buster and description of his laid-back personality in the comment section. That very same day, the Batemans met Buster and fell in love! It was a match made in heaven as he instantly took to the two young boys.

They made it official – Buster was adopted and was in his new home that very day! The unconditional love from our pets, the devotion of our supporters and the resilience of our community is proof that we belong together.


Do you agree that we belong together? Show your support for our #GivingTuesdayNow campaign. 

For a limited time, gifts of $50 or more that are designated to the “Giving Tuesday Now” campaign will be matched by a generous donor. Click here to give.

#GivingTuesdayNow #WeBelongTogether #UnSelfie #GivingTuesday #JaxHumane #GenerosityBreedsJoy



Return to JHS Blog Menu



Mutt March, Jacksonville’s largest dog walk and pet festival, is coming soon. Register to walk on April 11, 2020 at the Jacksonville Humane Society.

JHS can’t wait to see you and your four-legged friends on Saturday, April 11th as we bark down Beach Blvd and paw-ty in the sunshine. Mutt March helps to raise funds to benefit the nearly 9,000 pets that walk through our doors every year.

This fun-filled day will include:

Anyone who registers online will get our custom wag bag filled with goodies from our sponsors, including plenty of treats and toys for your pup. Wag bags go fast, and registering online is your only chance to secure one!

Who’s ready to march? Join us and raise the “woof”!

To register or donate, visit jaxhumane.org/muttmarch

Our CEO, Denise Deisler, is here to explain why Mutt March matters to Jacksonville and how you save lives by walking with us!

 Mutt March Presenting Sponsors













Love saves lives – do you agree?

Has your love saved the life of a dog or cat? Has the love from a pet ever saved you?

This Giving Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019, we’re asking you to show the world that you believe in love. By making a donation to JHS in support of love, you will help save …

Heroes like Justin, one of our volunteers who proudly serves in the U.S. Navy. When he was stationed in Jacksonville, Justin devoted more than 1,100 hours to walking dogs in less than a year. He quickly became our go-to guy for helping some of our more challenging dogs. The dogs’ progress with Justin helped them find homes, making him a hero to us all.

Buddies like Kaiya, one of our Pawsitive Readers. Reading to the dogs and cats at JHS helps them relax and provides quality enrichment. Kaiya is here almost every Friday to read to her best buddies – the big dogs in our adoption suites.

Companions like Harry, whose owner, John, brought him to JHS after their home was destroyed by a hurricane. John thought his only option was to surrender Harry to JHS.  Instead, we were able to provide emergency boarding for Harry through our Pet Safety Net program while John found a new home and then reunite them a few weeks later. Now, these two will always be together.

Friends like Audrey and her pals, who come to JHS and take a dog on an adventure with our Dog Day Out program. Not only is this a great way to make memories with friends, but it’s a wonderful enrichment activity for our dogs to help them find new families. Although Audrey can’t adopt a dog right now, sharing the love is lifesaving for the friends in our kennels!

Families like David’s, who chose to adopt a senior, special needs dog. David’s love for his new parents filled them with such joy that they saved another life by adopting a new doggy sister for David named Sadie. David and Sadie now have a family to share their love.

Lives like this precious little kitten, one of the more than 3,000 orphaned babies who arrived at our door in 2019. With the support of foster parents and adoptive families, JHS was able to save the lives of these neonatal cats, who are more at risk than any other animal in a shelter. In saving them, love continues to grow and save both pets and people in our community.

Love is lifesaving. If you agree, please join us on Giving Tuesday and make a gift with love!



Last week on October 8, JHS held a free Pawsitive Planning Lunch and Learn event for the public that focused on the importance of estate planning, having a will and beneficiaries, and health care options for seniors. Participants also had the opportunity to meet a JHS pup and go on behind-the-scenes tours of the JHS Adoption, Education & Pet Help Center.

A number of local professionals participated in the program, including Douglas A. Oberdorfer, Esquire, Thomas Green from Dedicated Senior Medical Center, and Lisé Everly, the JHS Board of Directors Vice President.

This was our first Pawsitive Planning event but won’t be the last! Due to successful attendance and interest levels, we plan to make this an annual event. Our next Pawsitive Planning Lunch & Learn will take place in February 2020 – stay tuned for the date! If you’d like more information on estate planning with JHS – or if you’d like to be placed on our invitation list for future events – please email Theresa Scordo at TScordo@jaxhumane.org or call 904-493-4606.

Next up: JHS will be hosting a lunch and learn event for business partners in the Jacksonville area on Tuesday, October 29, at 11:30 a.m. Click here to RSVP. This event will highlight the impact and benefits of the JHS Paw Partners program, which includes access to Mutt March and Toast to the Animals – our large annual fundraising events – plus year-round marketing recognition.

Huey – currently available for adoption – had a blast greeting all our Pawsitive Planning guests on October 8!

The Jacksonville Humane Society was awarded a generous grant from Maddie’s Fund in 2019 to host eight veterinary externships with students from around the world! Thanks to Maddie’s, the students experienced hands-on learning in our veterinary services division. They completed rounds, performed surgeries and assisted in medical emergencies under the guidance of our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Stan Hill, and JHS veterinarian, Dr. Katie Green.

The externs shared these reflections about their experience at JHS:

My time at JHS was certainly well spent. My learning in this time period was exponential and I will carry the things that I did and saw with me for the rest of my career. In addition to my learning, I also made lasting connections with some fantastic mentors to help guide me in the future. I will be a better, stronger, more competent and humble veterinarian because of the time I spent at Jacksonville Humane Society.” – Kayla, University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, Class of 2020

I am originally from the Jacksonville area and am very interested in shelter medicine which is what led me to the externship opportunity at the Jacksonville Humane Society. This organization has confirmed my interest in this part of veterinary medicine. I loved seeing the way the entire veterinary team worked together and communicated. The work done here is very meaningful and you can see the passion that each employee carries with them towards their work. It was refreshing to see such an efficiently run clinic with people that seemed to genuinely enjoy the work that they do.” – Madison, Massey University New Zealand, Class of 2019

Two weeks at Jacksonville Humane Society flew by as I was enveloped in the world of shelter medicine. Each day consisted of surgeries, medical rounds, and even some emergency surprises. I fell in love with this shelter from day one and left feeling confident that this was the type of career I wanted to do. The veterinarians, Dr. Green and Dr. Hill, are both incredible doctors and teachers. They challenged me to think and work independently while also providing an abundance of information whenever I asked questions or needed clarification.” – Rainey, University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, Class of 2020

A Maddie’s veterinary extern performs a spay surgery at the Jacksonville Humane Society.

This educational opportunity was made possible #ThanksToMaddie.

A Conversation with our Honorees – Betty and Tom Petway

For the first time ever at our premier event, Toast to the Animals, we are featuring honorees Betty and Tom Petway. The Petway’s generosity and dedication the Jacksonville Humane Society has helped our organization grow and flourish.

Betty and Tom Petway’s history with the Jacksonville Humane Society started with a fieldtrip taken by their son, Ty, when he was in elementary school. Betty was chaperoning the students when a white, fluffy dog caught her eye.

“As soon as I dropped the children back at school, I drove right back to the Humane Society and adopted that dog,” she laughed.

This year’s Toast to the Animals Honorees cannot remember a time in their lives without animals. Both grew up with pets and made sure that their children knew the joy of having pets in the home, too.

Betty’s daughters loved cats and the family had many – even though Betty is allergic. The Petway family has included everything from hamsters to horses, and the current resident is Champ, an eight-year-old Springer Spaniel who loves the water.

“He may not be the brightest dog,” Tom joked. “But he is smart enough to crawl in Betty’s lap every chance he gets.”

Like many of you, the Petways believe that pets are family. As loyal friends, they were not hesitant to share why they support JHS.

“The Jacksonville Humane Society has excellent leadership, both volunteer and executive. It makes Jacksonville a better place … to have a strong humane society,” Tom remarked. “I believe that education plays a strong role, and (JHS) has programs to reach children which is what matters for the long-term.”

Betty also remembers a time when stray dogs and cats were an everyday sight. “You hardly see them now, which means that what you do at JHS is working.”

Betty and Tom hope that sharing their love of pets will inspire others, not just to adopt, but also to support the mission.

“My hope is that one day there will not be any more homeless animals,” said Betty.

Please join us is raising a glass to our honorees, the Petways!

It may not be Girl Scout Cookie Season, but this story is just as sweet. 🍪

Meet Girl Scout Troop 2286. When it came time to pick a project for their “Bronze Award”, the girls decided to support animals in their community by making “Pet Starter Packs” for dogs and cats in their communities.

The scouts spent time learning what supplies would be needed, shopping for the best prices and tie-dying the pillowcases. Each pillowcase was transformed into a bag and filled with the supplies a family would need to care for a pet during the first few days in its new home.

The bags had items such as dog/cat food, bowls, toys, litter boxes and scoops, and dog/cat treats. Labels were also attached so we could easily identify which bags were for dogs vs. cats.


Girl Scout Troop 2286 with JHS team member Allie Plummer.
Not only will this project benefit families and pets in our town, but the girls learned many valuable lessons. They researched supplies needed to care for pets, comparison shopped, designed a bag that serves dual purposes as a pillowcase, and even learned how to tie-dye! Perhaps the biggest lesson of all was the joy that comes from helping others.

The project also has another layer – sustainability. According to Troop Leader Débora McCarty, “We are providing a simple flyer to be posted on the Jax Humane Society’s counter, so all who come can see how easy it is to put a bag together. We are also spreading the word on social media.”

Each bag had a label for “dog” or “cat” and supplies inside.
As a local, independent 501c3 non-profit, the Jacksonville Humane Society relies on donations to support our mission. Donations come in all shapes and sizes – some even come in tie-dyed pillowcases. We are delighted that these young ladies chose to support keeping pets and people together. As we say … generosity breeds joy!

If you would like to conduct a similar project, here are the steps to take:

  1. Answer the following questions – how do you care for a dog or cat? what supplies are needed?
  2. Decide how you will purchase the necessary items. Shop around!
  3. Purchase pillowcases and tie-dye.
  4. Make a list of items to go in each bag. Label as dog or cat.
  5. Select an animal shelter in your area and deliver!

More Info:

Find other fun ideas on the JHS Pinterest: