Friday, June 8, 2012

A Cautionary Tale

Ida was next to death from
Heartworm disease
Your best friend could be the victim of an insidious silent stalker and you might not even know it. I had been vaguely aware that I administered a pill each month to address potential heartworm in my dogs. Then the reality of it slapped me in the face when my Planned Pethood ( foster dog, Ida, was diagnosed heartworm positive.

My education of the horrors of heartworms was about to begin. Ida is a stunningly beautiful 6 year old, 70 lb. black lab who was nabbed from death row at the pound. She is named after Ida Tarbell, a turn of the last century African American journalist who wrote about conditions for blacks and women. She was experiencing a dry cough which sounded like she had been a smoker her whole life. I found out later that symptom does not develop until the disease is quite advanced. Ida was about to undergo treatment to rid her heart of the parasites that had been transmitted to her from an infected mosquito.

Ida was given a chest x-ray and prescribed antibiotics. The next step was deep, painful injections with a drug (which actually contains arsenic) to kill the heartworms. That drug, by the way, has been taken off the market in the U.S., creating shortages similar to the problems with some cancer drugs. The aftercare was the worst part for my big girl. She had to be completely restricted for the next 4 weeks. She happens to be an athletic “fetch-aholic”. No balls for Ida for months. It was out to take care of business, then right back in. Dogs rarely die from the treatment but can lose their lives from the side effects. Too much activity can lead to a stroke or a heart attack because the parasites are dying right in the heart. After 4 weeks, she was administered an oral treatment and got permission to leash walk only. Then we waited.

Ida could be retested after 4 months. We anxiously awaited that date. But it was bad news, she was STILL HW+. The poor girl had to undergo the whole process once again.

There was a lesson to be learned for me through Ida’s ordeal. That pill once a month is critical. It seems like there is an epidemic of heartworm positive dogs out there. Planned Pethood’s ( rescues last year included 14 dogs with the condition, including Stanley, my own foster dog. We must end this cautionary tail (yes, pun intended) with a happy ending Ida is now a permanent member of my pack after nine long months of anxiety and restrictions. She is happy, healthy, and can be seen 24/7 with a ball in her mouth.

All of Planned Pethood's pets are up to date on age-appropriate shots and flea and heartworm prevention before being offered for adoption. In addition, Planned Pethood's policy is to treat all medical ailments, regardless of cost, unless the treating vet feels there is nothing more that can be done. We do not refuse treatment to our animals based on cost of treatment or on the age of the animal. When we take in a dog or cat, we take that commitment seriously.

(submitted by Judy S)