Friday, August 20, 2010
Heartworm Treatment and Video
The above video is actually a newer treatment option for dealing with an advanced case of heartworm. Heartworms take over the cardiac cavity and constrict its ability to pump blood.
I'm bringing Mr. Wiggins - the minipin mix I adopted from Louisiana in March - in for his second treatment for heartworm today. He'll stay over night and receive a shot of melarsomine today and also one tomorrow. Originally we thought he'd be getting one shot and would come home the next day. I could have picked him up but since one of the stipulations is that treated dogs remain calm for four weeks afterwards, a near impossibility with a two year old dog, I wanted him to stay at the vet's office. They said he would be sore at the injection site but I didn't see evidence of that.
I adopted Wiggins from a rural dog shelter in Louisiana in March. I knew he had the beginnings of heartworm, or heartworm larvae, which are gotten from a dog ingesting a mosquito. As such, the general guideline was that he be treated with his monthly Heartgard pill. I was to get him checked two months after adopting him, and that's when we discovered he actually had adult worms. He went on an antibiotic for three weeks, to kill off any infections and prepare him for the heartworm treatment. Just prior to his treatment, the doctors recommended xrays to see if his heart was enlarged or if his lungs had been affected (the heart is right next to the lung cavity and occasionally the worms make their way through). They had not, but I did opt for an additional test, the more expensive echocardiogram so that they could see the actual worms (xrays show the overall organs and the contrasts between shapes or their size, not close up detail). Sure enough, they saw numerous adult worms and the treatment changed from his getting one shot to three. Since we knew more about the size of the worms, the doctor could, with greater certainty, prescribe treatment, and she opted for it happening over a longer time period (easier on the dog). So I'm glad I spent the extra money have the echocardiogram performed. It gave me confidence in the treatment decisions I was making. It wasn't completely necessary but did give, literally and psychologically (for Mom!), a greater degree of information.
The past four weeks have been busy. Wiggins's (and Renaldo's) walks have had to be shorted greatly since he cannot exert himself, lest one of the now-dead worms that has to dissolve into his system as it breaks down actually break off in pieces and cause a blood clot, which can in turn cause a heart attack or a stroke. This is a major worry. So their walks have been increased by an additional two a day (to six now), though far shorter than before. I also had to pick his toys up so he didn't get any ideas about romping through the house with his squeak toys. I run after him whenever he starts to run around the house annd have to tell him to be calm.
Though that last part has been sad, and we're about to embark on another four week stint of low movement, it'll be worth it!
Any dogs adopted from the south quite possibly have heartworm so know that as you adopt and be prepared to act. If you live elsewhere, be sure to get your dog tested yearly or every other year if you never skip a monthly heartgard pill, and make sure they are medicated all year round. Heartworm is a serious condition and it absolutely can kill your dog if left untreated.