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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Bear got his first immiticide shot yesterday. WARNING, this may be slightly difficult for people to read due to the medical nature of it. Just giving a head's up.

*All advice here about giving heartworm pills is for people who live in an area where heartworms are possible. If they don't exist (legitimately) in your area, congratulations! But they exist and are very common in my area and in many areas.

Quick backstory on Bear -
Bear was found by my coworker wandering the streets with no collar, no ID, no microchip, etc. Fully intact and heavy heartworm positive. He was neutered on the day that I met him; I watched him get neutered. I agreed to take him home for monitoring after anesthesia, fell in love with him, and decided to keep him.

Heartworms background:
As stated, Bear is heavy heartworm positive. This means that there are heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) living and reproducing within his heart, and a lot of them. They look kind of like long, thin spaghetti. They suck blood. They can live for years and grow up to a foot long (females). The stuff of nightmares, right?

Testing for heartworms:
The way that we find out if a dog is heartworm positive (generally) is by doing a SNAP test. We get some blood from the dog being tested, then drop 3 drops of their blood into a little vial. Then we put 4 drops of conjugate with the blood and mix it up. The blood/conjugate mixture is then dropped into the bank of the SNAP test. The fun way I was taught to remember is that RED has three letters, so three drops of blood, and BLUE has four letters, so four drops of blue conjugate. After the blood/conjugate travels up the SNAP test, we either press down on the test or have a machine do that for us. Then we wait for the results.
The SNAP test will be positive if it detects any antigens from a female heartworm. This means there are heartworms actively breeding within the dog. Sometimes there can be male-only heartworm infections that wouldn't show up on a SNAP test, but this is really rare, and in that case, they would not be breeding. Sometimes in a blood sample from a heartworm positive dog, you can see baby heartworms, called microfilariae, swimming around. Microfilariae, ear mites, and ringworm are really strange under the microscope, if anyone was wondering.

First steps of treatment:
After being tested, the first step was that Bear's vet put him on an antibiotic called Doxycycline, or 'Doxy' for short. This helps to kill a bacteria that lives in heartworms, called Wolbachia. He was on Doxy twice daily for a month. He had no side effects besides vomiting if he didn't eat enough/soon enough after taking the pill. I started telling Bear that the antibiotic would kill his 'Wolbacheerios'. He in turn would roll on his back and flail around with his mouth wide open. He's a silly guy.

The month of fun and walks to the mailbox is now up. Yesterday Bear got his first treatment. There will be a total of three treatments.

Bear's first immiticide treatment:
When it came time for Bear's appointment, he had a slow-ish heart rate. He always does; it usually hovers between 68-72 beats per minute. But just to be safe I opted for X-rays. His heart looked surprisingly good. There was a bulge due to the heartworms, but he was clear for treatment. They brought him out, and I distracted him as they shaved his thick hair off his back in a little square for the injection. The needle injecting the immiticide went in at a nearly vertical angle. Think epidural. He wagged his tail the whole time. I love that dog.
Bear was then forced to eat a pill pocket with Prednisone hidden in it ('Pred' is a steroid for inflammation). Still wagging his tail. Thirty minutes later, he wasn't feeling very well. He pooped in his run (not like him), was panting and pacing, and limping on the leg closest to the injection site. He was prescribed Trazodone for pain. This makes him really loopy, but it helps him not be in so much pain. He is now on strict bed rest. If he wasn't so calm naturally he'd have to get tranquilizing drugs to keep him calm.
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Treatment at home:
Bear has a leash tethered to a table in the living room, and a leash tethered to a dresser in my bedroom. Any time he is not on that leash on his bed, he is on his martingale collar with a 1 foot leash. He can't walk except to use the bathroom. He can't be off leash, run around, play, run up stairs, or get excited. If his heart sped up too much, it might dislodge dying worms and create a blockage in his heart. This could be deadly. The Trazodone makes him loopy and the Prednisone makes him pee rivers.
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Continuing treatment:
In a month, Bear will have two back-to-back shots of immiticide, then another month of bed rest. He may not be able to be off-leash again in the house until Christmas. After his treatment is over, he'll get heartworm pills like a normal dog would. Six months after his treatment is done, he'll get a new heartworm test. If the test is negative, we throw a celebration. If he's still positive, he has to go through yet ANOTHER round of immiticide. Low chances of this, but a possibility.

Cost:
I am lucky to work at a vet's office. My vet was kind enough to offer me services at-cost for Bear. Even with this, his treatment will come to somewhere between $400-$700. Without this discount, treatment would be at least double. So think $800-$1,400+ normally. This doesn't even include costs if there are complications. This is just treatment.

Conclusion/Rant:
I'm sure everyone here does, but if someone is reading this and is debating whether or not to give their dog heartworm pills each month, if you are in an area that has any chance of heartworms (which is a lot of areas), please just give your dogs the pill each month. I know it's inconvenient, I know they're not super cheap, but if I can spare any dogs from going through what Bear has to go through, this'll hopefully be worth it by the end. I do know that some dogs, like Bear, were adopted already heartworm positive. Hopefully this will be something helpful to read. I will continue to update as Bear's treatment progresses.

Give your dog heartworm pills. On the compassion for living animals side of things, your dog will not have to deal with foot-long blood-sucking monsters reproducing in their body, causing them to become exhausted easily and possibly drop dead if the infection gets bad enough. Heartworms reduce dogs' lifespans. They can cause irreparable damage to the heart and lungs. Your dog will not have to deal with a giant needle being vertically pushed into their back. Your dog will not have to deal with side effects of the drugs they have to take. Your dog will not have to be forced basically to not move for three months.
On the price side of things, basic Heartgard (or whatever you want to use, but this is a cheap-ish good one to use as a baseline), is only around $10 a month for a 70lb dog like Bear, or $120 a year. Generally, heartworm treatment for dogs is usually priced at around $1,000-ish if all goes right. For the amount that the treatment costs, you could buy over eight years of heartworm medication, and this is just breaking even! Bear is this bad off and he's only estimated to be three years old. He couldn't run without getting winded, and couldn't walk half a mile around my neighborhood without sprawling out and panting for half an hour afterwards. I can't even imagine a dog that's been positive for eight years.

Give your dogs heartworm pills at the recommended interval (usually each month for most brands) and make sure they're from a reliable source/brand! Avoid all of this mess if you can!

Food, water, shelter, core vaccines, heartworm medication, preventing fleas/ticks (if applicable to your area), enough money to euthanize a pet if needed, and love are some of the basic needs for responsible dog ownership. Even a healthy Bear (my dog) will cost $850+ a year just for upkeep. His food (nothing super fancy, just Purina One) is around $425 per year. I budget $50 a year for toys, treats, towels/blankets, etc. Heartworm meds once he is better will be $120 a year. His flea meds will be around $150 per year. We're already at $745, and we're not even talking basic core vaccines, exams, and any 'splurging' for him. Even if he was eating something cheaper, like Dog Chow, and I never bought him toys/treats/blankets, we're still talking around $600 a year at least. Dogs aren't cheap. Are they worth it? I would say yes(!), but I am biased, because my dog is clearly the best. 馃槆

TL;DR:
Give your dogs heartworm pills(!).


Okay, I will get off my soapbox. But don't forget those heartworm pills! ;)
 

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Sounds like Bear is in great hands.

Thanks for the reminder, Molly gets hers on the 22nd every month and i get an email from AKC reminder. I got that today too!
 

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Wishing Bear a complete recovery and many years of happy, healthy life with you.
 
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Wishing the bests for you Bear. Back in 2002 we adopted a heart worm positive golden retriever and named her Honey They shaved two spots on her hips and gavee her injction in one and kept her over night and gave her the other the next morning and I picked her up about 6:00 that night. I had borrow a large wire crate and set it up in the livignroom and she had to stay in it exceot being out to eat and go to the bathroom---on leash. At the time we had 2 1/2 year old golden litter mates , Hunter & KayCeeand 7 year old godlen, Buck. It was hard on Honey watching Hunter and KayCee play, but after 6 weeks, she tested negative and was set free. We had her 12 years and she had no ill effects from the worms or the treatment. When her chest was 4-rayed when she was about 4, my vet said her heart and lungs x-ray could be used to show what the perfect chest should look like. Lymphoma got her in 2014. The first picture is of Honey and KayCee. Honey is the light blond, and got her name bcaue myu hsuband said looked like she was made of spun honey.
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Discussion Starter #6
Wishing the bests for you Bear. Back in 2002 we adopted a heart worm positive golden retriever and named her Honey They shaved two spots on her hips and gavee her injction in one and kept her over night and gave her the other the next morning and I picked her up about 6:00 that night. I had borrow a large wire crate and set it up in the livignroom and she had to stay in it exceot being out to eat and go to the bathroom---on leash. At the time we had 2 1/2 year old golden litter mates , Hunter & KayCeeand 7 year old godlen, Buck. It was hard on Honey watching Hunter and KayCee play, but after 6 weeks, she tested negative and was set free. We had her 12 years and she had no ill effects from the worms or the treatment. When her chest was 4-rayed when she was about 4, my vet said her heart and lungs x-ray could be used to show what the perfect chest should look like. Lymphoma got her in 2014. The first picture is of Honey and KayCee. Honey is the light blond, and got her name bcaue myu hsuband said looked like she was made of spun honey. View attachment 877518 View attachment 877519 View attachment 877520
Aw, how beautiful! And what a perfect name!

I just saw this thread. Thank goodness Bear found you. Honey gets her pill every month on the 15th.
I'm glad he found me! He's such a good boy.

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Bear goes back for his second heartworm treatment shot tomorrow. The following day he goes for his third shot. Hopefully that'll be enough to kill them all. I look forward to when he can go on walks!


A few days ago he saw a cicada fly past him. He followed it and leaped on it like a fox hunting a vole. Then there was a moment of crunching and the cicada was gone. o_O 馃槀
 
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Discussion Starter #7
Bear got his second shot today! He did well for it and didn't seem as painful as last time (though this time he got his pain meds BEFORE the shot). Tomorrow he goes for the third (and hopefully final!) round.

I also discovered a lump in his paw. They took X rays and it turns out that he was shot with a bb gun at some point. There's a bb pellet in his paw. :( Poor guy had a rough life. He's happy now though (aside from the baths, lol).
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Sad day. Our almost 16 year old foster dachshund had to be put down. Fluid buildup around his heart. :( Rest in peace to the spunkiest old blind dog I've ever met.
 

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I'm so sorry for the loss of your spunky boy. Maybe cuddly time with Bear will help ease your sorrow.
 
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Discussion Starter #13
Bear is doing well. Only two and a half more weeks of bed rest! He got a jacket.
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