Did you have a dog or know a dog that went through heartworm treatment? What was it like?
March 1, 2012 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Did you have a dog or know a dog that went through heartworm treatment? What was it like?

In December, my newly adopted dog (obligatory picture in my profile) was diagnosed with heartworm. She had microfilariae (baby heartworms) in her blood and xrays revealed new blood vessel growth and a slightly enlarged heart, indicating adult heart worms. Subsequently, she has been treated with antibiotics and three months of Heart Guard to kill the microfilariae.

She is scheduled to get blood tests on Monday to make sure the microfilariae are gone. Then, she will undergo the standard treatment of Immiticide (one dose, followed a month later by two more doses).

I'm looking for tips and tricks from people whose dogs have undergone the treatment.

The treatment requires the dog to have very little activity for two months. How do I go about keeping my dog quiet and how much activity is too much? My parents just adopted a puppy and I have been socializing my dog with their puppy in the hopes the two dogs become good friends. Can I allow my dog around the puppy as long as they don't play? The dogs love playing and seem to love each other, will keeping them from playing damage their relationship?

What sort of treats did you give your dog during this time? I'm looking for rawhide alternatives that can keep my dog quiet and happy. She enjoys Booda Bones, but I'm looking for more treats that take a long time to chew. (Note: She isn't interested in non-flavored chews.)

Overall, what was it like during treatment? How did your dog react to being kept quiet? Did it end up changing how you and your dog related even after treatment?
posted by parakeetdog to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We had a german shepherd undergo the treatment, and to limit activity, built a pen in the backyard. The main awkwardnesses were the dog's eagerness to run and run and run--which he couldn't really do, except in little circles--and the cleanup, which was several times a day, including hosing down the area. It didn't change how we related at all--once the pen was gone, he was extraordinarily happy, and didn't seem to have any lasting dog-psyche effects from it.

If your dogs are indoors, and you've got that puppy, I'd really ask the vet about options, because certainly the puppy will want to play an awful lot. Maybe a significant amount of crate time with breaks for gentle activity?
posted by mittens at 11:10 AM on March 1, 2012

One of my dogs tested positive for heartworm after adoption. He has fear/anxiety issues, so the worst for me was that they made him stay at the vet overnight (or a couple-three nights I think) for the first round of treatment. He's a relatively low energy guy anyway, so the keeping him quiet part once he came home wasn't that hard. We kept him crated mostly during the day, gave very short and gentle walks, and he had stuffed toys with squeakers which he loves as well as chews. (Also, um, we kind of cheated and relaxed it some towards the end of the time, and he was totally fine. I'm not recommending this.)

Most important to your final question -- I was worried that the treatment would change our relationship and cause trust issues, particularly the vet stay so soon after we adopted him. It did not do that at all. He got over it quickly and continued building trust and affection.
posted by Cocodrillo at 11:11 AM on March 1, 2012

I can't find my own old comment about it, but my feelings about the "keep quiet" stage came down to "I'm not going to make/let her run laps around the yard, but the mailman is going to come every day, and squirrels are going to exist, and if the existence of those things are going to kill her she was too fragile anyway."

I've put two rescues through treatment. The first one was a super chill dog to start with, so all I did was not walk him and not let him romp in the yard with my other dog.

The second one is my hellbeagle. There is no "keep quiet" for Sophie unless you want to use duct tape. For a couple of days after the first treatment (for which she was kept overnight at the vet anyway - which is not what a different vet did for the first dog, so YMMV) we took her into the front yard on a leash to potty rather than let her out in the back with the other dogs, but after that we just called her in if she was getting rowdy out back.

I don't think either of them was actually aware that anything was different. It didn't change anything between the dogs or between the humans and dogs. I had actually hoped Sophie would be less nuts afterwards, or at least after the spay we had to put off until after treatment and recovery, but no, she's still nuts.

Your dog and your parents' dog will not know the difference. It's probably better if they don't have contact until treatment is over, though.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:13 AM on March 1, 2012

My experience was some 25 years ago, so protocols have likely changed. But at the time, we adopted a 10-week old puppy who tested positive at his first vet exam; DDS said the massive infestation of adult worms in his heart evidenced the first proven case (to his knowledge) of in-vitro infection.

Because he was so young, we were given very strict instructions not to let him be active AT ALL. The rationale was that, as the treatment killed the worms in his heart, they would "sluff" out into his circulatory system and eventually be absorbed and eliminated -- IF they didn't cause a clot or embolism along the way. He was to be crated 24x7 for three months, removed from the crate only to be carried outside to eliminate. No jumping, no stair climbing, no running, only minimal walking on leash.

It seemed impossibly cruel and the months impossibly long, but we complied to the letter (though we did take him out of the crate for daily laptime and cuddle sessions). He recovered fully and lived to be 15 years old. And he was a sweetheart -- he left his crate fully housebroken and completely bonded with us. We got rid of the crate the day he got his "all clear" exam and he quickly learned to play energetically with his feline housemates. Smart as a whip, that little guy. Still miss him.
posted by peakcomm at 11:30 AM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

DDS, indeed. Of course, I meant DVM.
posted by peakcomm at 11:33 AM on March 1, 2012

For entertainment I suggest a Kong (you can freeze it with peanut butter or cheese or whatever, you do not need those spendy little biscuits), and ice cubes if your dog likes them.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:12 PM on March 1, 2012

Yeah our experience has been a while too. Our pup was 5 or 6 (my memory is being burpy today) when we moved to Richmond, VA. In the chaos she missed two doses. That is all it took for her to pick up heartworms and the infection to take root :( We felt horrendously guilty. We are *extremely* lucky that she was not left with any heart damage. The vet kept over night for each of her treatments. My memory maybe tricking me, but I really thought it was more than 2 times. She was had matured beyond her puppy insanity. We mainly did not leave her in the yard (walked her out for potty several times a day). No walks, which did not make her happy. She seemed slowed down and sick acting which is why we went to the vet in the first place.

She is now almost 16 years old and other than old age joints, vision and hearing she is healthy!
posted by Librarygeek at 12:16 PM on March 1, 2012

I live with two dogs (they're my housemates'), one of which underwent heartworm treatment about six months ago. She's a pit, about 45 pounds, and I'd say pretty sedentary, but she does get all worked up about the mailman and squirrels. As Lyn Never said:

I can't find my own old comment about it, but my feelings about the "keep quiet" stage came down to "I'm not going to make/let her run laps around the yard, but the mailman is going to come every day, and squirrels are going to exist, and if the existence of those things are going to kill her she was too fragile anyway."

Olive was crated most of the time, taken out on leash for bathroom business, and slept on the bed at night. No walks. She learned pretty quickly that she wasn't supposed to run in the house from us freaking out at her, but she seemed to take it in stride ("oh, those silly humans want me to do something else inscrutable? Whatever"). And when she did get antsy or worked up: Benadryl, the wonder drug. Seriously. I have no qualms about sedating a dog with something as trivial as Benadryl for their own safety.

Good luck! It is super scary, but the majority of dogs are just fine afterward, and the three months really does go by pretty fast. Olive's main problem was that she got a little chubbier. More to love!
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:24 PM on March 1, 2012

I don't have personal experience but the author of the dog blogs I follow is currently treating her new little dog for heartworm. Love and a Six Foot Leash - it has attractive photos and dogs, and she's been covering the heartworm treatment in detail.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:17 PM on March 1, 2012

I just had my boy Watson go through heart worm treatment last summer. He was particularly rowdy at that time (he's calmed down significantly since we got our other dog), and would spend time running in circles chasing his tail, and running up and down our hallway for fun in the evenings. The toughest part was trying to keep him calm during those times when it was craziest, even then we would just try to hold him to calm him down, or give him a treat to keep him occupied. Otherwise everything was relatively normal, we didn't crate him during the day or anything, just didn't take him to the park, or on walks, and we took him outside on leash (he has a habit of chasing birds/squirrels etc)

As far as treats we did a couple of things, he had rawhide pieces that he would get a couple times a day (be prepared to put them on a diet after this treatment btw!) I would usually put some peanut butter in a kong and freeze it during the day and give it to him that night. I also got this big blue rubber circle thing that you put a HUGE treat in the top of and they have to gnaw on it to get to it (sorry I have NO idea what it is called and I can't find it on the interwebs, but I got it at PetSmart) All of those generally kept him occupied during his wild times.

As far as with the new puppy friend, I wouldn't think it would be a problem at all as long as she doesn't get too worked up or try to play too much. I wouldn't worry about it damaging the puppy friendship, they'll be back to playing it up as soon as they can, I'm sure!

Watson actually didn't seem to resentful about being kept calm, more confused than anything else, and really during that time in his eyes he's probably thinking that we are paying more attention to him anyway (since if he got riled up we'd hold him, or give him a treat, and we went outside with him), he was probably just like "HELL YEAH!! I'M GETTING TONS OF TREATS, THIS IS AWESOME!!!"

I was really worried about everything as well. And I actually asked a question on MeFi about it here But after all the nerves everything ended up being just fine, you'll just spend a lot more time paying attention to what she's doing, and spending more money on treats, haha.

One other thing that I wanted to forewarn you about just in case your vet doesn't tell you anything like mine did (this was something that I ended up having to call my vet tech friend about because I was freaked), when you pick them up from getting the injection they are going to be straight up out of it. I'd never seen Watson like that and it freaked me out (couldn't hold his eyes open etc) The vet failed to tell me that he was sedated still, and I was being paranoid on top of everything.

Good luck to you and your hound!! Hope I was a little helpful and not too long winded!
posted by Quincy at 4:23 PM on March 1, 2012

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