TUPELO • If all the furry, four-legged residents at the animal shelter needed was love, staff and volunteers at Tupelo-Lee Humane Society shelter would have it made.

But the animals have to be fed, vaccinated and their living spaces have to be cleaned.

And when the animals are found wandering or are abandoned at the shelter, they’re likely to face multiple health issues – like testing positive for heartworms.

“A good solid 75 percent of dogs come in to the shelter heartworm positive,” said shelter director Rachel Allred.

That’s not an automatic death sentence – there’s treatment available. But it’s not cheap, and it can be tough on the affected animal.

Of course, the ultimate goal of the shelter is to place as many animals as possible in permanent homes.

“Quite frankly, it’s easier to place animals that are healthy, that won’t have the added expense of heartworm treatment,” Allred said.

That’s why, for the second year, Music, Mead & Mutts is happening.

It’ll be an evening of live music, good food and drink and lots of fun, but perhaps the best part? It’s all for a great cause.

“The money raised will be to help the shelter pay for heartworm treatment for our dogs to make adoption less expensive for the adopters,” Allred said. “The average cost for treatment is around $350, but it can go much higher.”

Heartworm treatment is based on the weight of the dog. Costs aside, the dogs facing treatment face a long road because many are older dogs, said Joy Deason, a shelter volunteer.

The fundraiser will be from 5 until 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, at the Queen’s Reward Meadery, 1719 McCullough Blvd., in Tupelo.

Tickets are $35 a person. There’ll be live music by The Alley Cats, a Mexican buffet by Woody’s and a specialty slush by Queen’s Reward.

TLHS adoptable dogs will be on hand for meeting and greeting. Leashed pets are welcome, too.

The evil mosquitoSadly, a dog’s zip code can have an impact on its risk for contracting heartworms.

“Mississippi is a beautiful breeding ground for mosquitoes,” Allred said.

And mosquitoes are ultimately the bad guys, playing an essential role in the life cycle of the heartworm.

Explained in laymen’s terms by the American Heartworm Society, here’s how it happens: Adult female heartworms living in an infected dog, fox, coyote, or wolf produce microscopic baby worms called microfilaria that circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites and takes a blood meal from an infected animal, it picks up these baby worms, which develop and mature into “infective stage” larvae over a period of 10 to 14 days. Then, when the infected mosquito bites another dog, cat, or susceptible wild animal, the infective larvae are deposited onto the surface of the animal’s skin and enter the new host through the mosquito’s bite wound. Once inside a new host, it takes approximately six months for the larvae to develop into sexually mature adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms can live for five to seven years in dogs. Because of the longevity of these worms, each mosquito season can lead to an increasing number of worms in an infected pet.

The Tupelo-Lee shelter started its heartworm program three and a half years ago.

“We wanted a better plan of action,” Allred said. “So we began mandatory testing of all dogs, raising adoption fees to help with the expense.”

Animals cannot be transferred for adoption out of state if they are heartworm positive.

“It’s a big dead-end for dogs if they are not treated,” Allred said. “With our testing and treating them, there are life-saving outcomes.”

The funds raised through Music, Mead and Mutts will help heartworm-positive pups at the shelter with treatment, starting with the residents that have been at the shelter the longest.

Once you’ve purchased a ticket and have shown up for the fundraising event, there’s yet another opportunity to help, said shelter volunteer, Anastasia Curry.

You can sign on to sponsor a heartworm positive shelter dog, paying in part or in full for its treatment.

For your sponsorship, you’ll receive a bio of the dog your donation will help. You’ll also get updates, letting you know how the dog is doing during and after its heartworm treatment.

“It just gives the sponsorship a personal touch,” Deason said.

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