Friday, May 29, 2015

Dude's Heartworm Triumph: Ever heard of "Slow Kill" treatment?

Some of you may remember Trey and I adopting a dog named Dude from Sedona’s Humane Society a couple of years ago. I want to give you a little history on him and also share with you his health struggles and triumph. He was picked up in Rimrock Arizona and taken to a high-kill shelter in Verde Valley. Although, he was fortunate in that the Sedona Humane Society was willing to take him in. There were a lot of dogs habiting there that had been calling that place home, for quite a long time, some up to 6 months. Dude had already been there two months when our lives came together. Trey and I first saw him on-line. Out of all the dogs we visited, he was the one dog that we wanted to meet the most. We met a lot of dogs that day who would have made great companions. But when we told the handlers at the Humane Society that we lived in truck camper full-time, they said “Dude, is the largest dog we will allow you to adopt.” Lucky for him, he was our first choice. The only dogs smaller than him were three crazy little Chihuahuas. Dude is actually quite big (45lbs) but has stubby legs, so he comes across as a smaller dog. (We think he is a Blue Heeler and Bull Terrier mix-ish)

 Here is a little history and catch-up on him. He is, to our surprise, still coming out of his shell. He has gone from being a dog that could not even look me in the eyes, to not being able to leave my side, to approaching everyone to say hello. He was around 5 years old when we adopted him and he knew nothing! He was a total train and he was a tough train. But I can tell you that old dogs can learn new tricks. He gets along with most dogs. Every once and a while, he will have issues with other dogs, but that has become less and less with continued proper socialization. We had to stop taking him to dog parks because he just couldn’t handle it and would become overwhelmed and start taking things way too seriously. We started calling him Officer Dude.

Unfortunately, after having him for about 6 months he had a horrible allergic reaction to soap, from getting bathed, at a pet care center. We took him to the vet and decided to run a gamut of tests on him, just to make sure that he had a clean bill of health. But what we learned was that he had heartworms! At the time Trey and I were traveling full time for work, so Dude got to visit many different vets and we got a ton of different opinions. We had decided to walk down the road of killing the heartworms with a two-month arsenic treatment. Starting that day with a month of antibiotics. The heartworm treatment would start a month later. I read a million different articles and felt horrible about the whole situation. Mainly, how do you explain to your dog, which you just adopted, that they wouldn’t be allowed to do anything for about three months! And still potentially die.
The 30 days of antibiotics were up. We took him in to see yet another vet, this time in Saint George Utah. The vet asked if we had done an ultrasound to see what sort of damage was in the heart or to see how many worms were in there. We had not done the ultrasound because the cost was around $600. The vet explained that in Saint George they never had the opportunity to see heartworms because of the low incidence of them in the region. He was willing to forego the cost just for the experience for his staff and himself. How could we say no to that! Dude had an ultra-sound! Absolutely no heartworms could be seen. Although, we did see a small heart anomaly present, not a single worm showed up for the viewing. The vet explained that, it didn’t mean there were no heartworms, it just meant that they were not in that part of the heart, that was best viewed. So, Trey and I made the decision not to treat the heartworms. Dude had started a monthly chewable, that monthly chewable would kill any baby worms from forming and Dude would just live with the pesky thing(s) until they died on their own. Heartworms have a 7-year life span and there is no way to know how long he had been living with them.

About 6 months later, Dude got into something and wasn’t feeling well. We took him in to see, yet another, different vet. We explained his heartworm situation and this vet kept using the term “slow kill”. After she said it, for the third time, I stopped her and asked what she meant by “slow kill”. Because none of the other vets Dude had seen had ever used that term. She explained, that she was once a vet in Missouri, where the prevalence of heartworm is extremely high. She said that “never had [she] ever seen a dog, who after a year of taking the monthly chewable, still have heartworms.” Well, this was news to us! He was 6 months in to this “slow kill” and we had no idea that there was still a possibility of a cure for him!

About three months later we were at a friends house when Dude stood up and started walking like he was drunk. Trey and I shot up and got him outside. He basically passed out in the back yard for a brief couple of seconds and also began pooping. We thought he was dying from the heartworms! But then he got up and was still very unstable. So back to yet another vet we went!  We found out that he had pneumonia. I asked the vet “what are the chances that Dude had passed the worms into his lungs?” The vet wasn’t sure. He explained that he had only ever treated three dogs with heartworms in his past and had never heard about the “slow kill” treatment.
Trey and I had our fingers crossed that Dude’s worms were dying off. We waited another 6 months and continued to give him the monthly chewable. Last fall we took him in to see the same vet who he had the pneumonia with to be tested for heartworms again. It took about 24-48hr but the vet called us and said, “I can’t believe this, but your dog is heartworm free!” So, he asked us all kinds of questions. He couldn’t believe that he had never heard of “slow kill” treatment before.

We are incredibly delighted that Dude now has a clean bill of health. He is a very lucky dog. 
Dude's mini me.

Dude learning to share.

Another stubby buddy

Just a fun little game of keep-away