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Today’s session is about Heart worms. How to prevent it, how to treat it, why it is important to give your dog the monthly preventative.
Meet Archie, he is a very sweet boy. Archie has a stage 3 heart worm infestation. Therefore, Archie is very sick despite his healthy look. Archie becomes short of breath when he plays with toys. See, Archie has worms in his heart. Well, in the artery that is between his heart and his lungs. Archie is going to have to endure very painful and poisonous treatment to kill the heart worms. If Archie survives the medication, he will have to endure the worms dying inside his body and then his body will have to absorb the dead decaying worms. Sadly, all this could have been prevented with monthly heart worm preventative medication.
This article is going to be in every day language and not in medical terminology, this is so everyone can understand how serious this condition is. I will have links to medical web sites that can explain the heart worm infection in medical detail.
Heart worms are just that, small thin long worms that live inside the arteries and heart of a dog. The worms produce more worms until the worms totally clog the arteries and damage the heart beyond repair. The whole sad cycle starts like this. A mosquito bites and infected dog and ingests worm larva with the blood. When the mosquito bites another dog, the worm larva is deposited into the dog. Over a period of a few months, the larva slowly make their way through the dog and ends up in the dogs pulmonary artery (the artery that comes from the right side of the heart and goes to the lungs). The worms mostly live in the pulmonary artery. When the infestation is really bad, the worms can back up into the heart. There are both male and female worms. The male worms are smaller and easier to kill, the females are larger. The worms can live up to 7 years.
Now, we need to get rid of these worms. The only approved method that exists is an arsenic type of drug (immiticide), that is injected into the dog. Since arsenic is poisonous to both the dog and the worms, it is not going to be an easy road. The arsenic slowly kills the worms by starving them. It takes the worms about 10 days to die and not all the worms will die. Usually the smaller male worms die first. The usual treatment for killing heart worms is two injections of immiticide one day apart. The immiticide is the arsenic based medication. Since the body does not like it, the muscle where the injection is, becomes very sore and may swell. As with any meds, the dog may have a reaction to the medication itself. The medication attacks the worms and they start to die. When the worms start to die, the body can have a reaction to the dead worms. It has been found that the heart worms have a bacteria inside them, when the worms die, the bacteria will leak out of the worm and cause a severe reaction in the dog. So to minimize this reaction, an antibiotic is given to the dog a few weeks before the heart worm treatment begins. The antibiotic doxycycline, kills the bacteria in the worm, which also seems to weaken the worm and makes it more susceptible to the arsenic. With the bacteria gone, when the worms die they don’t leak the bacteria and the dog has less of a reaction to the dying worms. Even if the dog does not have a reaction to the meds, and the dead worms, there still is a huge risk! The worms that are dead and dying are still inside the dog and they have nowhere to go. The worms rot inside the dog. The dog’s body absorbs the dead worms. It is very important to keep the dog calm and as confined as possible. If the worms break apart they will float into the lungs and block blood vessels. These are called pulmonary embolisms. The vessels that are clogged prevent blood from going into the lungs and exchange oxygen. This is why the dog may become short of breath. The bigger the clot the greater the danger and the worse the breathing will be. This can also cause chest pain. This is why you need to really watch your dog. If he becomes short of breath, you need to check his gums to see if they are pink. If they are pale, or blue, the dog needs to get to the vets immediately.
For small infestations, the preferred treatment is two shots 24 hours a part. The two shots will cause about 60 to 80% KILL. For bad infestations, one injection with crate rest for one month, then two shots 24 hours apart will cause up to a 98% kill rate. Oddly enough, a 100% kill rate is not the goal. The goal is to remove enough worms quickly to reduce the chance of damage to the heart and arteries. With regular monthly heart worm preventatives (to prevent new worms), the remaining adult heart worms will die eventually and then the dog will be worm free.
Crate rest is a must because any movement of the dog could cause the worms to break off and float into the lungs. The dog is to be carried outside, put down to do business and then picked up and carried back to the crate. So for bad infestations like Archie’s, crate rest is required for at least 2 months. Some people do not like to crate rest their dogs. They feel it is cruel or that they are neglecting or withholding love from the dog. The reality is, it is with great love that we crate rest these dogs, so they can have every change to survive and have a great life after the heart worm. We can’t wait to see Archie running and chasing squirrels in the back yard!
Sadly, all of this can be 100% PREVENTABLE! Just one little pill a month is all that is required to prevent all this pain and suffering.
This is the Heart Gard Plus heart worm preventative. It is meat flavored to taste like a treat. Most dogs readily take the Heart Gard Plus. The preventative is weight based and every veterinary hospital and office sells heart worm preventative. There is no excuse for any dog to become heart worm positive. There are other heart worm preventatives as well, Trifexis, Sentinel, Interceptor, Iverhart, Revolution. All are easily obtained. If you feel that your veterinarian’s price is too high, you can go online with a prescription and you may be able to buy them cheaper. There is no excuse!
Archie is resting in his crate.
Archie was found as a stray on the side of a country road in South Carolina. He was taken in by a good samaritan, Archie was very thin and it was apparent that Archie was out on his own for quite some time. The Dog Rescue, New Life Animal Rescue, stepped up to save him. Archie was transported up to New Jersey, where he is receiving his treatment. Archie was taken to the University of Pennsylvania Small Animal Hospital, where he was seen by veterinarian cardiologists. Archie had a ultrasound of his heart and found to have a large infestation of worms in the pulmonary artery and luckily the worms were not in his heart yet. He was put on the doxycycline for a few weeks and has just started his Immiticide shots (11-12-2013). We now have to wait one month, then he will get his two shot 24 hours apart. So far Archie is doing well. He is 4 days (11-16-2013), after his shot. He was sore the next day and he was acting like he was not feeling well, quiet and sleeping a lot. We pick him up and take him outside to go potty. He is allowed to walk on a leash in a very small area, then he is picked up again and taken back inside and he goes into his crate. Archie has two crates. We keep him in the living room with us in a bigger crate, then he goes into the bedroom with us and he has a smaller crate. We cover him up and he goes to sleep. Archie gets fed in his crate and he has his water in the crate. We do allow him to come out of the crate and allow him to sit in our laps or next to us on the couch. If he gets too excited, he goes back into the crate.
Archie being examined at the U of Penn.
We will up date this article regularly. So come back often to see him get well. Archie’s medical bills are very expensive. If you would like to help with Archie’s medical bills, you can donate money through New Life Animal Rescue donation link. All donations will go !00% to the New Life Animal Rescue.
Links to learn more about Heart Worm prevention and treatment. www.2ndchance.inf and www.heartwormsociety.org.
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2013-11-23, Archie is 11 days after his injection. This is an important time for him. This is the period where the largest amount of worms will be dying off. The medicine starves the worms and they start to die after 10 days. So, we are keeping a close eye on Archie. He has had a few episodes of breathing hard and some pain. We are assuming that the pain is the worms dying off and moving into his lungs causing small clots called embolisms. While the small clots are bad and cause mild shortness of breath, they are survivable. We are watching Archie for signs of large clots which can cause death. This is why we are so careful not to let Archie move around too much. If a group of dead worms move into the lungs and cause a major obstruction, not only will it cause severe pain, but a large amount of blood will be blocked from entering the lungs and exchanging oxygen. This effect the entire body and is not good. So far Archie is doing great. We will keep you up dated every couple of days.
2013-12-11 Archie Update.
Archie was feeling much better on the December 9, he was feeling the best since he has been with us. It was hard to keep him in the crate. He has a lot of energy. Even with some extended couch time and extra bones, he is full of energy. He seemed to enjoy the snow. He is still on limited exercise.
December 10, Archie was taken back to the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, for his second and third shot of immiticide.
Archie waiting in the waiting room for Dr. Dennis, his cardiologist.
Since Archie did so great, he did not have to stay over an extra night. He had a painful ride home, it was very evident he felt the road bumps. Once home he was allowed to rest and get comfortable on the big bed with his foster Dad. Archie took a few hours to relax and then finally settle down for a nice nap.
Archie ended up relaxed enough, that he rolled over and laid on his back. Archie is now resting comfortably in his night time sleeping crate. Thanks to everyone wishing him well.
2013-12-14, Archie is doing great. He seems to have done better with the two shots this time than the one shot last time. He has been quiet the last few days. His pain level seems to be minimal. We are keeping him on pain meds, just to make sure. Archie seems to be a lot more active and sadly, it looks like it will be harder for him to stay in the crate. We give him bones and we do allow some couch time with him being very quiet and not allowed to move. I can’t wait for January, so Archie will be done crate rest. I can tell already, he is going to be a terror, I can’t wait!.
2014-01-22, Archie is now off crate rest and has been to the vet’s and is heart worm free!!!!!!!!! He has also been fixed. He is doing well, enjoying his freedom. He has boundless energy and is very happy to run around the house. Thank you to everyone who prayed and sent good thoughts to him.
February 7, 2014,
Archie is doing very well. He is now totally off crate rest (he has for a few weeks now). He likes the other dogs in the house, although he gets into their personal space too often. Archie has one speed… Mach 8! He runs through the house and has the amazing ability to be able to lower his head and grab toys on the fly without slowing down or missing a step. We affectionately call him the “Red Terror”, he has to remove every toy from the toy bin and leave them all over the house. If we do not watch Archie like a hawk, we find bits of white fluffy stuffing on the floor from another toy that Archie has killed. The pile of toys needing repair is growing. Archie is non stop, he runs around the house and jumps up onto the couch, then down, runs around the couch to the hall and back again. Archie is a puppy at heart. We love him to death!
Here Archie is taking a rare break to enjoy the warmth of the fire before taking off through the house again. As you can see, Archie has to remove all the toys from the bin.
Archie is living life! And he should! He is a sweet dog that certainly deserves the perfect home. Luckily for Archie we have a few homes lined up. Archie certainly has a Doxie personality. His big nose, floppy ears and huge front paws are shadowed by his tremendous personality. He certainly is a sweet, sweet boy!
In the world of dog rescue, Archie is the kind of story we all like; he came to us very sick, he was treated by some great Doctor’s, he was nursed back to health and made a great recovery and is now ready for his very own forever home. Archie is now living life to it’s fullest! We will continue to post his progress here. I just want to thank everyone again; from New Life Rescue (who made the commitment to help him), to the Doctor’s and staff at University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, for his great care, to the Doctor’s and staff at Voorhees Veterinarian Hospital (for his post Heart Worm follow up care), and to everyone who has kept Archie in your thoughts and prayers, we could not have been able to help this precious guy. Some times it takes a village to save a life. Of course to those special people who have opened there hearts and homes, by offering a forever home to Archie. We are very honored to have been able to help Archie, he is very special. Thank you all.
February 23, 2014,
Archie had his new buddy Blue over today for a play date. Blue’s Mom is going to be adopting Archie and they are getting along great! We could not have hoped for a better match. With all the dogs here, Archie naturally migrates over to Blue when they all are outside in the yard. Blue seems to like the companionship of Archie next to him. When Blue is in his Mom’s lap, he doesn’t seem to mind Archie climbing up and sitting next him in Mom’s lap either. This looks like it is going to be a great and lasting relationship.
March 4, 2014, Archie went to his new forever home today! Archie has an awesome new Mom and an awesome new brother Blue! Lets wish Archie a great new life! He is a very deserving dog. Best wishes to Archie and his new family!
Thank you everyone for your kind thoughts and prayers! This could not have happened with each and everyone of you!