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Mar 08 2016

Heartworm disease is PREVENTABLE

They say that dogs come into our lives to teach us something. The end of May 2015 Lacy came into my life. She was rescued by a “non-kill” shelter from a “kill shelter” in February and then adopted by me & my family the end of May. Lacy needed us to help her and in turn she has taught us much. Lacy came with many insecurities and health issues. We have come a very long way down a road paved with patience & love. One of the biggest challenges we have taken on together is her heartworm disease infection. Heartworm disease is spread through mosquitos and is PREVENTABLE. Lacy is only 2 years old, but the heartworms have already taken a toll on her young body. She had significant changes to her lungs & was very underweight. After a long process of earning her trust, we first confirmed the heartworm disease diagnosis with a second heartworm test. After confirming her infection with the terrible disease we started Miss Lacy on a 4 week course of Doxycycline. Doxycycline is an antibiotic that causes the heartworms to become weak and unable to reproduce. Then we took a month off (following the American Heartworm Association treatment recommendations) before she received her first Immiticide injection. Immiticide is THE ONLY APPROVED medication to treat heartworm disease. It is administered as a series of 3 deep intermuscular injections. The blood work prior to her first injection revealed that the heartworm disease had also caused her to develop a decrease in her red blood cell count (anemia). Even though I knew the treatment was going to be a long painful process I knew that we had to start her treatment before the Heartworms caused even more damage to my dear Lacy. Lacy received her first Immiticide injection about 3 weeks ago. She was very brave and handled the deep intramuscular injection well.
In addition to the Immiticide injections we started her on oral steroids to help decrease the damage being caused by the heartworms. This has caused her to need to drink more, urinate more and get a urinary tract infection!
On top of the oral steroids and the Immiticide injections Lacy needs to stay on strict bed rest during the entire duration of her treatment process (THREE MONTHS)! If her blood pressure rises (due to excitement, stress, fear, heat exposure) she could have a potentially fatal complication caused by a dying heartworm that can cause an embolism in her lungs! This means no daily dog walks, & no rough housing with her fellow 2 canine house mates for a few months. Lacy has been coming to work with me to help keep her from getting cabin fever and to allow her to have bathroom access on a frequent regular basis.
As a veterinarian I have diagnosed and treated many dogs for heartworm disease. I have given the care instructions to my clients. Now, I am having to endure the treatment process myself with MY Lacy & I am even more passionate about educating my clients to help ensure no other dog needs to undergo this long & painful treatment process. Heartworm disease is a PREVENTABLE disease. If we take on the responsibility and the privilege to be the human advocate for a beautiful canine (or feline) soul, we OWE it to those creatures to be the best care giver that we can be for them.
Please feel free to call us at Baywood Veterinary Hospital (239-549-2949) or go to heartwormsociety.org for more information on heartworm disease.
Take care of each other,
Dr. Sue Peters

jadam | Dogs

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