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Life As A Heartworm Positive Dog

A story about a dog who battled heartworm disease.

Written by: Floyd (the Shih Tzu) with the help of Clyde (the Lab Mix) and Stow Kent Animal Hospital

Hello it’s Floyd and I wanted to tell you about my brother Clyde’s story.  Clyde is an 8 year old lab mix and he is a great example of why year-round heartworm prevention is so important. He is proof that it is really important for dogs and cats to be on a Heartworm preventative. Heartworm disease is not only deadly but very risky to treat. It was a hard journey when Clyde was diagnosed with heartworm disease. Heartworm disease is transmitted by infected mosquitos for those of you who do not know. It was a very lengthy process of recovery for him and I am glad that Stow Kent Animal Hospital and Portage Animal Clinic were able to save my brother’s life. I turn the floor over to him and let him share his story with you.

 

My mom was always good about giving me my heartworm preventative and taking me every year for my annual exam.  In the fall-winter of 2008/2009, my mom was unable to give me HWP for about 3-4 months. I never thought anything of it because a lot of folks say it’s okay to stop heartworm prevention in the cold months.

My mom called and made an appointment with my favorite doctor in the entire world, Dr. Albers. It was time for my annual vaccines and heartworm check.

We visited Portage Animal Clinic on June 17, 2009 with the windows down so I could sniff out the window. I was so excited to visit all of my friends at the clinic and get lots of treats. They drew blood for my heartworm check and then called mom into the room and went over my annual exam and administered vaccines. A lot of owners believe that it is traumatizing to have the dogs blood drawn for the heartworm check and therefore do not have it done…but it took less than 5 minutes, lots of treats and I didn’t even know that I had my blood drawn!

The next day we received a call from Dr. Albers and she told my mom that I was heartworm positive. I remember that mom was crying, upset and kept saying that I was sick. I felt fine, so I had no idea what she was talking about. Later I learned that this is because often heartworm disease shows no signs or symptoms until it’s too late.

Dr. Albers placed me on a medication called Doxycycline. I didn’t mind this medication at first but after the first week my stomach was so upset, achy and I didn’t want to eat any food. Mom told me I had to stay on the meds because this antibiotic was killing the bacteria of the microfilaria (baby heartworms) that was in my blood stream. After 1 month of this medication, I lost my appetite altogether.

On July 21 2009, I had to wake up very early with mom and she said it was for my heartworm treatment. She said I was going to spend time at Stow Kent Animal Hospital with all of their technicians and with Dr. Albers. I was super excited but I didn’t understand why she was so upset.  Mom told me she loved me very much and that she would be back in a few days.

The receptionists checked me in and were asking mom all kinds of questions like if I was fasted, if it was okay to precede with my heartworm treatment and I needed x-rays before my treatment. Mom filled out all the paperwork and then left me at the hospital for a few days.

Tracy took me down to Beneva who placed me in my room, where I would stay for the next few days.  Just a few moments later, Dr. Angela Albers came in to say hi to me. She told me that she was going to give me an injection of Immiticide. She said that it was going to be given into my right back muscle and that it was going to be very painful, this was going to get rid of my heartworms. She drew up the Immiticide into a syringe and gave me the injection into my right back muscle.  I remember that it was very painful but it was okay because I got lots of treats and praise afterwards.

I had to stay at the hospital for the next few days. Dr. Albers instructed that I stay calm and quiet while at the hospital, this was hard when boredom set in. I had to be calm because the Immiticide killed the adult heartworms and therefore they were floating around in my blood stream. If I didn’t stay calm it could cause me to have a pulmonary embolism (a sudden blockage of a vessel of the heart from a heartworm) and die. While at the hospital my stomach was so upset, I didn’t want to eat anything. Mom brought me some special food but couldn’t visit while she was there because I would get too excited when she visited.

It got really hard to breathe after my heartworm treatment. Due to the severity of my heartworm disease it caused bilirubinuria, which is a severe chronic infection. It caused my urine to become really dark. Dr. Albers was afraid that due to blood flow abnormalities, the treatment could cause liver failure. She placed me on a steroid to help to take down the inflammation so that I could breathe better.

Finally after 3 long days Dr. Albers told me I was able to go home. Mom came to pick me up later that evening. I was sent home with medications to help my upset stomach, one to help me breathe, and an antibiotic to treat my infection.  I was so excited to see mom but Dr. Albers and mom kept telling me to calm down because I had to stay quiet.

I had to go home for 4 weeks and then come back to the clinic for my Ivermectin treatment to kill any remaining microfilaria (baby heartworms) that may be left. They gave me the medication orally and I remember it tasting really bad! Dr Albers and Brandon gave me a treat after the medication. That made it taste much better. I then was released to go home and keep quiet for another 6-8 weeks.

The next 6 weeks at home was terrible.  Mom tried to keep me quiet but I wouldn’t listen, everything made me excited. Mom put me in a large kennel in the living room. She covered it with a towel and the only time I could come out was for dinner and a potty break due to the fact I just couldn’t stop running. Mom told me she was sorry but she was doing it because she loved me (to keep me from having an embolism.) The medication that was given to me to help me to breathe made me drink, eat, and pee a lot. I was never full. Since I was unable to get any exercise, I gained almost 20 pounds. Mom even went as far as to place signs on all the windows and doors to tell people not to knock or ring the doorbell as it would excite me too much. Mom would play music all the time so I couldn’t hear any noises outside to get excited about. It was 6 – 8 weeks of nothing!

Within my 6- 8 weeks of restricted activity, I had to make several trips to the doctor’s office to have my blood drawn and my urine checked. When we would get to the Portage Animal Clinic Brandon would be there and he is my favorite technician. Even though I wasn’t supposed to I would run in the building, jump on him, and beg for treats. He would take me and we would go to the treatment area where he would draw my blood. He was the only other person that I got to see other than mom or dad in 2 months.

After my long period of restricted activity, I finally got to start to go on small walks and could be let out of my kennel with supervision. This slowly moved back to normal activity. Everything was beginning to go back to normal. My last blood draw was taken in November of 2010, almost 5 – 6 months after my treatment.  It was negative; I was heartworm free with no breathing problems!! There was only one downfall, I gained 20 pounds. I had to be on a strict diet with a lot of exercise for the next two years.  Mom told me it was important to get the weight off to keep me from getting other health issues like diabetes, arthritis, etc.

I am now a heartworm free dog for 3 years and I am currently back to my normal healthy weight at 64 pounds. Although the treatment and the resting at home were tough I wouldn’t change it for the world. My mommy and daddy did their best to help me through the long healing process. I especially want to thank Stow Kent Animal Hospital and Portage Animal Clinic for all of their help and great care they provided. Thank you Dr. Albers and Brandon for making my visits fun and much more bearable!

From this point on my parents vowed to never let me or my siblings miss a dose of heartworm preventative again and I hope that your parents will do the same! Heartworm prevention is important and should be given monthly to dogs and cats. We cannot dispense heartworm preventive to your pet until we have seen your dog at either of our locations and have proof of a negative heartworm check. This is for your safety because if I would have been placed on preventative as a heartworm positive dog then this could have been fatal to me! The heartworm check is a quick blood draw and we usually have the results in 24-48 hours. Despite the common misconception, heartworm preventatives should be given monthly and year round. Even in Ohio (especially with the fluctuating temperatures) you can still become positive for heartworm disease and other common parasites in the winter. We recommend that your dogs are tested yearly for heartworms. Preventatives are like birth control they are 99.9% effective there is always a small chance that your pet could become infected. If you have proof that you are on a preventative monthly, treated year round and tested yearly then the company of the product will usually pay for the heartworm treatment if your dog ever became positive. There are a variety of products that will protect your pet against heartworms (Revolution and Trifexis are two for example) and some of these products provide protection from other parasites like fleas, ear mites, mange, and intestinal parasites. It is important to speak to your veterinarian about which product is best for you and which fits your lifestyle best. Some of these medications can be administered orally or topically. The ones that are administered orally are important to be given with a meal. Some people believe that when the budget is tight this can be one of the first things that can be cut. There are affordable preventives and it is much more cost effective to just administer a monthly preventative year round then it is to pay for heartworm treatment.

 

For more information on Heartworms and other intestinal parasites please visit:

http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/

http://www.heartwormsociety.org/

https://www.revolution4dogs.com/default.aspx?sec=Home

Or call either one of our locations at

Stow Kent Animal Hospital: 330-673-0049

Portage Animal Clinic: 330-673-7387

http://www.trifexis.com/Default.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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