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Have you treated a heart worm positive dog?


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It is all my fault. I have his preventative in the cabinet but sometimes the first of the month comes and goes and it is well into the month before I remember to give my pup his heart worm preventative. 

We went for annual vaccinations today and he tested positive for heart worm. We are going to treat it because he is an otherwise healthy almost 3 year old and my constant companion. I cannot imagine not treating him, but I am a little overwhelmed at what the vet laid out as our treatment plan: 4 pills a day for 30 days, wait 30 days, sedate and do x-ray and a series of 3 shots requiring sedation and limiting all physical activity and excitement during the duration of treatment ending hopefully with better test results in June. 

Has anyone been through this before?  Please tell me about your experience and your pups health after treatment.  I am also open to ideas on how to keep a young dog from getting bored without any kind of active play.  If your pet required extended rest for any reason, what did you do to keep it calm and happy?

Feeling guilty for allowing my pup to become infected and nervous about what comes next. 

Edited by Bensmom2
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I have not, but my daughter in law (who is a vet tech) brought home an abandoned dog whe was clearly ill. It was heart worms. They treate d him and he recovered and was then rehomed as they already had a dog.

he recovered nicely.

 

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We had a dog test heartworm positive when she was about 8. Due to the winters in Nebraska, we didn't need to give preventative during the winter months and I believe somehow that's when she contracted them. We completed the treatment and she was healthy until she passed away about 4 years later. Because keeping her so still was so important, she spent most of her time in a kennel. We let her out to eat and go to the bathroom outside, but that was the only activity she was allowed. If you have general questions, I'd be glad to answer them, but specific questions probably should be directed to your vet. I know the guilty feeling!

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Hugs OP.   I personally haven't had this happen , but I have a friend who is currently working through this with her dog.  She has an outdoor dog and was concerned  that one of the treatments for heartworm- like the one you were told- would be too stressful for the dog. 

Her dog is a working cattle dog, bonded with her cattle as her pack, and used to roaming around pretty freely .  Their vet gave them another option of just giving the regular heartworm pill exactly every 28 days for two years and that should clear it up.  You may want to ask if that is an option. It seems like it would be less invasive if the vet ok's it.

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Not my own dogs, but I have known many shelter dogs who have been successfully treated for heartworm and lived healthy lives afterward (been involved with animal rescue for many years). Good luck to your dog!

We live in a cold climate but I always give heartworm preventative year round. Just the other day, we found a mosquito in our house, even though the temperature outside was in the teens.

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1 hour ago, SilverBrook said:

Hugs OP.   I personally haven't had this happen , but I have a friend who is currently working through this with her dog.  She has an outdoor dog and was concerned  that one of the treatments for heartworm- like the one you were told- would be too stressful for the dog. 

Her dog is a working cattle dog, bonded with her cattle as her pack, and used to roaming around pretty freely .  Their vet gave them another option of just giving the regular heartworm pill exactly every 28 days for two years and that should clear it up.  You may want to ask if that is an option. It seems like it would be less invasive if the vet ok's it.

My vet offered this as an option. She said it doesn’t get rid of the heart worms completely. The disease is still present and fatal, it just slows the progression and buys them more time.  She thought it might give him a a couple more years than no treatment, but since he isn’t even quite three years old yet (and I am super attached to him!) we want to try to completely get rid of the heart worms.  I see how for a working dog who would absolutely hate being confined during the many weeks of treatment, it may be a better option. My Australian Shepherd is super chill and loves just being with me so I think he will handle it better, but we do play and go to run at the dog park regularly and he is going to wonder why we won’t play anymore😕

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Yes we did--

We inadvertently skipped a month and that was enough! Young dog we were all invested in so worth the cost to get him well.  He is VERY active-- so keeping him slowed down was a pain-- we did luck into a series of bad/wet weather so those days he wasn't wanting outside anyways!

We did not kennel-- but limited the areas of the house he could get to.  LOTS of chew toys and extra grooming helped to keep him settled.

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Not personally but my sister did.  The dog had been hacking and wheezing since she was adopted and my sister was convinced she had heartworm but tests kept coming back negative.   She'd try a different vet hoping for an explanation. Another vet found them on a routine test. After the dog recovered she was much more healthy and ended up living probably 8 years more.  I think she was 16 when she died and 8 when they adopted her from a friend's grandmother who was moving into a nursing home.

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We did for a dog we rescued from Texas. Our vet was very cautious due to not knowing the exact age or anything about the health history of the dog. She was approximately a five year old, very fit and active golden lab at the time of treatment. She was on completely restricted activity for three months with one shot into her spine at the beginning of each months and prednisone throughout the whole treatment period as a precaution. I believe at least some of the shots were quite painful for her, although she was not sedated for them. Because she’s always been calm and mellow indoors, we didn’t have to crate her in a windowless space while inside as suggested. But she only got to go out for bathroom breaks, quite a change from the high amount of ball chasing, swimming, and walks she was used to.

She completely recovered and is still going strong almost five years later. She did lose some muscle mass she never completely regained despite resuming her vigorous exercise schedule, but the vet said her heart is very strong and healthy for her age, definitely better than average. We also had before and after X-rays of her heart that showed complete healing and her heart murmur disappeared.

Edited by Frances
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Things to keep pup busy are chews, kongs stuffed with food, puzzle games, and lots and lots of training - I'd recommend scent discrimination games. I think Fenzi has online classes for scent training, that might be fun to work through during this!

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Thank-you for all the responses. It makes me feel a little better hearing from people who have been through this and knowing that their pup survived the boredom of activity restriction and went on to live a healthy life. Thanks Katie for mentioning scent training. I have never heard of that but will definitely be looking into it. The next few months just seem like they are going to stretch out forever and having some “fun” ways to pass the time will hopefully help my pup stay relaxed and content. 

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17 hours ago, Selkie said:

Not my own dogs, but I have known many shelter dogs who have been successfully treated for heartworm and lived healthy lives afterward (been involved with animal rescue for many years). Good luck to your dog!

We live in a cold climate but I always give heartworm preventative year round. Just the other day, we found a mosquito in our house, even though the temperature outside was in the teens.

 

Same here. My vet always asks when I last gave ours heartworm preventive, so I know that he thinks it's important. 

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I have but it was in the 1990s. I don't know if/how much treatment has changed. At the time you had to keep the dog fairly calm and while it was tricky, it was doable. Good luck. Don't beat yourself up. Here in Florida dog owners have to give heart worm meds year round. I think it would be harder to remember a seasonal med than a year round one.

November and February are actually big months for mosquitoes. I was at a book club meeting at a restaurant the other night and we tried to eat outside. The mosquitoes chased nearly us indoors (where it was louder and harder to have our discussion). We had to ask the manager to put the screens up.

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When a heart worm test (the most common form of testing) diagnoses your dog with heart worm disease, the veterinary surgeon will conduct a few more diagnostic tests to confirm diagnose.

A study is carried out for microfilariasis (young heart worms in the blood stream). If no microfilariae is detected, a confirmatory test should be carried out for adult heart worms with the sample sent to an appropriate laboratory.

Complete blood cell counts (you can may use some good health crystal "arthritis crystals" for it), blood chemistry checks, urinalysis and X-rays to determine the overall condition of your dog and prepare for the safest way forward. In moderate to severe cases, an echo cardiogram is recommended.

Additional tests based on a single case of a dog may also be required.

 

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By the way thank you for this. I am out of Artman prevention and meant to get some yesterday when I was at the vets office but got distracted because we found a possible tumor and forgot to ask for it. I will call there now.

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2 hours ago, Lady Florida. said:

I have but it was in the 1990s. I don't know if/how much treatment has changed. At the time you had to keep the dog fairly calm and while it was tricky, it was doable. Good luck. Don't beat yourself up. Here in Florida dog owners have to give heart worm meds year round. I think it would be harder to remember a seasonal med than a year round one.

November and February are actually big months for mosquitoes. I was at a book club meeting at a restaurant the other night and we tried to eat outside. The mosquitoes chased nearly us indoors (where it was louder and harder to have our discussion). We had to ask the manager to put the screens up.

It’s not yet possible, temperature wise, for a dog to even acquire heart worm in my state, yet vets here still recommend heartworm pills year round. We were fortunate in that a recently retired vet from the south had just started a six month temp position at our vet, as they so rarely see heartworm here. While I agree that people shouldn’t beat themselves up about missing a dose, according to the guest vet, many people in the states where it is most prevalent don’t bother with preventatives at all, despite it being a horrifically painful way to die and the treatment also being very rough on the animals.

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2 hours ago, Frances said:

It’s not yet possible, temperature wise, for a dog to even acquire heart worm in my state, yet vets here still recommend heartworm pills year round. We were fortunate in that a recently retired vet from the south had just started a six month temp position at our vet, as they so rarely see heartworm here. While I agree that people shouldn’t beat themselves up about missing a dose, according to the guest vet, many people in the states where it is most prevalent don’t bother with preventatives at all, despite it being a horrifically painful way to die and the treatment also being very rough on the animals.

It wasn't until she developed heartworm that we started the preventative year round. The vets at the time suggested not giving the med to dogs from Oct to about April. It sounds like many vets don't give that advice anymore.

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21 minutes ago, wilrunner said:

It wasn't until she developed heartworm that we started the preventative year round. The vets at the time suggested not giving the med to dogs from Oct to about April. It sounds like many vets don't give that advice anymore.

And some of the meds work backwards - so the dose you give in October kills any worms they were exposed to in September. So by skipping October, if the fall was warm, the dog is not protected. 

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19 minutes ago, Ktgrok said:

And some of the meds work backwards - so the dose you give in October kills any worms they were exposed to in September. So by skipping October, if the fall was warm, the dog is not protected. 

That's interesting. I didn't know that.

One of the things we were told when she had heart worms was that continuing her heartworm med would be dangerous for her, so we stopped until she tested negative. It sounds like either the medication has changed since the 90's or the recommendations have changed if an option is to give a heartworm positive dog heartworm medication. It's been interesting to follow this thread and hear different information than what was given to us.

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4 hours ago, wilrunner said:

That's interesting. I didn't know that.

One of the things we were told when she had heart worms was that continuing her heartworm med would be dangerous for her, so we stopped until she tested negative. It sounds like either the medication has changed since the 90's or the recommendations have changed if an option is to give a heartworm positive dog heartworm medication. It's been interesting to follow this thread and hear different information than what was given to us.

I think it continues to be an ongoing area of study and research. Our guest vet had just attended a conference about it, so was up on all of the latest treatments. Due to global warming, they are predicting we will start seeing it in the southern part of our state in the near future. Currently, the only dogs they see with it acquired it out of state.

And I vaguely recall that perhaps we also were advised to take her off preventatives while she was undergoing treatment, but I actually can’t recall for sure. Anyway, she’d already been on them for her first six months with us. A friend who had also adopted from TX advised getting a test at six months post adoption, even though she tested negative at adoption. It was the six month test that showed positive, just as it had for her rescue dog. She also for the first time had a heart murmur at that checkup.

Edited by Frances
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1 hour ago, wilrunner said:

That's interesting. I didn't know that.

One of the things we were told when she had heart worms was that continuing her heartworm med would be dangerous for her, so we stopped until she tested negative. It sounds like either the medication has changed since the 90's or the recommendations have changed if an option is to give a heartworm positive dog heartworm medication. It's been interesting to follow this thread and hear different information than what was given to us.

It partly depends on which medication it is, if I'm remembering right. Some were safe for continuing, some were not. 

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