Any Vets in the house? Thinking of adopting a dog that's Heartworm+
September 25, 2013 6:59 PM   Subscribe

I've been looking for a dog that matches me for about 2 years. Today I found a dog at the local pound but the dog is heartworm positive and undergoing treatment. Medical records and info/questions inside...

The shelter told me to call my Vet and get the lowdown. My vet, having not seen the dog, thought that a little weird but her recommendation seemed to be "I wouldn't adopt a dog with heartworm when there are so many healthy dogs available."

I do trust my vet... but I also felt a connection with the dog.

Not being a vet I really didn't know what questions to ask and going back and forth between the two vets was frustrating as neither had time to talk directly to the other.

Here's what I know:

- Female dog about 45 pounds. Approx 2 and a half years old.
- Had puppies in the past few months.
- Was a stray from an indian reserve in Quebec (First Nations)

Here's medical records:

July 9 -
Heartworm AG positive
filter +ve 47280 microfilaria / ml

Treatment HWT +VE

PE - think, mammary glands M1 enlarged, has had puppies, vaccinate Rabies RH SQ EA

Rabvac1, Serial3 1213211A

begin tx for HW - Doxycycline 10mg /kg SID x 30d, Revolution once monthly, no clinical signs of illness at this time EA

Aug 6

Gained 4kg, routine OVH, subcuticular closure; chronic inflammatory changes ventral abdumen; vemdvm

Spay recovery

aug 13
Vaccinate Merial-DA2PPV
Treatment Revolution
same weight

sep 4
2ml immiticide given IM L side as per label instructions (under sedation) SCS
start metacam dose PO SIDx5d, repeat immiticide on R side tomorrow (they say they did this), strict confinement for 1 month then gradually back to reg exercise. Heartworm test 4 months after treatment, heartguard once monthly.


I obviously don't know what most of this stuff means.

Any vets or dog experts able to advise on the situation -- what to expect, worst/best case scenario, costs, etc? Anything that would help me decide by 8am tomorrow? There is someone behind me who wants the dog if I pass so I can't simply wait for the tests that are due in 10 days.
posted by dobbs to Pets & Animals (35 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I have read all the other Asks and Wikipedia and other sites about heartworm. thx!
posted by dobbs at 7:00 PM on September 25, 2013

Response by poster: Oh, and one other thing: how would the meds that the dog is currently on affect her personality? I obviously was taken with the dog but it occurred to me that if it's in pain (it's back had been shaved for the, apparently painful, needles), I might not be seeing the real dog.
posted by dobbs at 7:02 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can't really tell you what to do, but I'd go with the dog. Heartworm is curable, though treatment can be tough on the doggie. Either way, why not follow your instinct?
I see the pic you posted. I would.
posted by LonnieK at 7:12 PM on September 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Anecdata: we adopted a heartworm-positive dog. She underwent the treatment (that's the immiticide). We did put her on no-exercise (vets recommended crating, but that super stressed her out, so we let her go free-range, but stopped her from vigorous running/playing). Walks were for pees/poops only, and limited to front yard. She turned out 100% healthy.

Her personality was completely different. Before we knew about the heartworm, we thought we had found a real laid-back terrier. Nope! She was just sick. Her rambunctiousness started coming out as she felt better, and now she's a normal terrier. We are fine with it though, she's a lot of fun. As far as being in pain, she was very sore-to-the-touch and aloof for a day or two after the shots, but that was it.

I say go for it. The heartworm positive dogs are often put down, and I think they deserve a chance, since heartworm is treatable (just expensive). Just because there are healthy dogs available doesn't mean she won't be a great companion for you.
posted by Fig at 7:20 PM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

My dog who is right here beside me was heartworm positive when I adopted her, and my family has adopted several dogs who required treatment. I would do it again in a heartbeat, because, like you mentioned with this dog, I just knew we were meant together.

It was, however, a stressful and expensive process. She had a particularly nasty case, and was severely malnourished when before she was adopted. She had to be rushed to the emergency vet not once but twice because she threw a clot. I believe the total cost of the entire treatment (including those ER visits), was about a thousand bucks. My mom has had dogs who didn't have any issues who were treated for a couple of hundred bucks. Talk to your vet before you start treatment and see if they can give you a flat fee for the visits, injections, and follow up. That way you'll at least know a best case scenario.

Like Fig said, her personality definitely changed once she was healthy. She's still a pretty calm dog, but she's a thousand times more energetic than when she was sick sick sick.

She's healthy today, and happy. Heartworm treatment is dangerous, and some dogs die from it. But heartworms themselves are way more dangerous. If you have the money and time to take one a dog who is HW+, please do it! Sick dogs need homes, too!
posted by itsamermaid at 7:27 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've treated two ex-strays, one of whom was a super-chill mellow fellow who was easy to keep quiet during treatment, and one who is a crazed hellbeast. We crated neither, though we confined them to one room. And the hellbeast, we let her have strolls around the yard and made her come in when she got rowdy, having eventually decided that if she was going to die from what for her was baseline activity, so be it.

They did keep her two nights both treatments, though did not give her any pain meds to bring home. She was quieter for a couple of days each time, slept more. I wouldn't say either one's personality changed all that much, though the hellbeast was able to be spayed three months later and THAT, thank goodness, dialed her down to more of a heckbeast.

Both treatments (probably 10 years apart, and the older treatment was a lot more primitive) were very expensive ($800ish each time, I believe), but if the shelter's already started treatment you may be getting a discount.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:31 PM on September 25, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers thus far. Fig, and any future answerers, could you define "expensive" or your costs? Thanks.
posted by dobbs at 7:31 PM on September 25, 2013

Not a vet but our rescue lived to (estimated, no sure birthdate) 13 years. She had had heartworm @ 4 years old before we got her. She developed a cough in her later years but otherwise was a great gal. Also a larger dog, so good run overall, death was not heartworm related.
posted by Max Power at 7:32 PM on September 25, 2013

Correction: my husband says it was closer to $1200 for the HW treatment, but I think they were charging us $50/night for the overnights.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:39 PM on September 25, 2013

Check if your vet takes CareCredit if the expense is a concern. I've been paying off my dog's knee surgery using it.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:44 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lindy had her first round of treatment paid for by the shelter, so we only paid for the second round, and I think it was $300-400ish. If this dog has had the whole thing, you might be off the hook (other than the tests, which are like $25). I think the way they dole out the meds differs on the size of dogs, so yours might be done. Mine got 1, then a second a month later, but she's only 10 lb.
posted by Fig at 7:48 PM on September 25, 2013

Best answer: I am not a vet or a "dog expert," but I can tell you what some of this means.

July 9 -
Heartworm AG positive
[Means heartworm-antigen positive. The heartworm antigen test is usually the first test done for heartworms, and it tests for antigens produced by adult worms.]

filter +ve 47280 microfilaria / ml ["Filter" refers to the second heartworm test, the filter test/aka Difil test. Microfilariae are the baby worms in the bloodstream. In the filter test the animal's blood is passed through a filter to catch any microfilarae, and then the filter is inspected by microcsope. I do not know what the number means - if it's the number of microfilariae detected in the dog's blood, it might be useful to know that the number of microfilariae detected by this test isn't considered to correlate with the number of adult worms present or the severity of the disease. I also don't know what "ve" means].

Treatment HWT +VE [Assuming HWT is heartworm treatment; don't know what "VE" means.]

PE - think, mammary glands M1 enlarged, has had puppies, vaccinate Rabies RH SQ EA

Rabvac1, Serial3 1213211A
[Physical exam notes and rabies vaccination info - not about the heartworm issue]

begin tx for HW - Doxycycline 10mg /kg SID x 30d, Revolution once monthly, no clinical signs of illness at this time EA [Begin treatment for Heartworm: Doxycycline 10mg/kg once a day (semel in die) for 30 days. It also says she shows no clinical signs of illness - that's good when it comes to heartworm, she's more likely to have a positive outcome.]

Aug 6

Gained 4kg, routine OVH, subcuticular closure; chronic inflammatory changes ventral abdumen; vemdvm
[Routine ovariohysterectomy - she got spayed. Subcuticular closure is they way they closed her up. Her belly is inflamed.]

Spay recovery [Yep]

aug 13
Vaccinate Merial-DA2PPV
[This is a vaccine for distemper, parvo, etc.]
Treatment Revolution [Getting her once-monthly revolution treatment.]
same weight

sep 4
2ml immiticide given IM L side as per label instructions (under sedation) SCS
[Immiticide is a heartworm treatment. They did this about two months after deciding to treat her with doxycycline for 30 days. It looks like it's common to use both, doxycyline then immiticide.]

start metacam dose PO SIDx5d, repeat immiticide on R side tomorrow[Metacam is for inflammation]

strict confinement for 1 month then gradually back to reg exercise. Heartworm test 4 months after treatment, heartguard once monthly.

Strict confinement for one month is not that bad. I wouldn't be scared off by this at all.

About the cost of treatment, it sounds like her treatment is mostly already over.
posted by cairdeas at 7:50 PM on September 25, 2013 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: The answers you guys are giving are pretty much what I thought was the situation with Heartworm and part of my confusion because, though I won't say the shelter discouraged me from adopting, they gave me the impression that I should be EXTREMELY WARY. That, combined with what my own vet said just made me think I was wrong and that it's living hell (though of course neither said that).

I don't mind a cost of a grand or so, but I do mind if it's significantly more or if the dog's activity level is curbed forever (not looking for a lap dog) rather than just a few months.
posted by dobbs at 7:50 PM on September 25, 2013

Response by poster: About the cost of treatment, it sounds like her treatment is mostly already over.

Yeah, that was the baffling thing to me and why I hoped a vet might be around to interpret the report. The records read to me like the dog will have a "final" test in about 10 days (a month after last treatment) and if it's gone, that's the end of the ordeal. Why the shelter didn't wait 10 more days to post the dog as available is baffling to me as well as it wasn't a space issue (place was mostly empty).

Now that the dog has been posted there is significant interest (7 people called while I was there).

Of course I could have asked these questions at the time but I was overwhelmed with going back and forth between them.

Also, the shelter seemed hesitant about giving advice -- at one point saying they couldn't advise me on what to do if I adopted the dog that that was up to my own vet -- and my own vet was hesitant without being able to examine the dog.
posted by dobbs at 7:53 PM on September 25, 2013

I don't have anything to add (other than I've known people who had dogs with heartworm and it all turned out fine), I just wanted to jump in to say that your dog looks so awesome and I'm so glad you're thinking of adopting her!
posted by triggerfinger at 8:00 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, I don't know whether or not the treatment affects the dog's personality, but I do know that the strict confinement is enforced on the dog because they don't want the dog to have a heart attack from the dead heartworms clogging up their heart, until the body can clear them out. (Sorry to be graphic). But it's not done because the dog necessarily doesn't want to be active.
posted by cairdeas at 8:01 PM on September 25, 2013

As a follow up to your follow up (I don't know if this is SOP or my vet is crazy): my dog had two treatments (again, bad case), then they waited a while and tested for heartworms, and then decided to give her one more treatment. So I think it's possible she could need one more treatment, but that she might not. I am so very clearly not a vet.

I worked at an animal shelter for a while as an adoptions counselor, and it was drilled in to our heads to Never Ever Ever give vet advice, or anything that sounded or looked like vet advice, because that would expose the shelter (and the shelter's vet team) to so much liability. That may be why they wouldn't give you any suggestions of what to do.
posted by itsamermaid at 8:02 PM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

For reading the chart: +ve usually means positive and -ve means negative. I'm not a vet but that makes sense in the context.
posted by barnone at 8:33 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are several protocols for heartworm treatment. It looks as if the one the shelter chose was a 2-injection protocol. Which protocol is selected depends upon the staging of the disease, finances, the clinician's preferences, etc.

The treatment began when the dog was started on doxycycline and Revolution. The dog must be tested again for heartworms 6 months after treatment began. They began treating her in July, so she must be tested for heartworms again in January, while being on monthly treatment (ie. Heartgard) in the meantime.

There is always the possibility of treatment failure. You are adopting an animal with a pre-existing condition and I think the veterinarian and the shelter are trying to make you aware of that. You should be prepared, emotionally and financially, should the dog need further treatment.
posted by Seppaku at 10:02 PM on September 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

More anecdata: we adopted a boy who was heartworm positive and who ended up requiring an additional treatment post-adoption. The agency offered us a discounted rate at a vet they had a relationship with, but that would have required a drive of an hour each way and was otherwise hugely inconvenient so we went to our local vet. My memory is it was about $1500 all in, but you might check with the shelter to see if they have similar relationships with vets who may give them discounts. Our dog has been totally fine for the past five years and the adoption was absolutely the right choice. (Your girl has such wise and sweet eyes, by the way.)
posted by Cocodrillo at 12:38 AM on September 26, 2013

Another piece of anecdata. My sister adopted Mischa who was heartworm+ and undergoing treatment.

The hardest thing for her was keeping her crated during the stage where the dog wasn't supposed to be too active. Mischa is a VERY. BOUNCY. DOGGIE!

Finally Sissy just let Mischa out of the crate and everyone lives happily ever after. Mischa is now 6 years older and shows no signs that anything was ever wrong with her.

She didn't require any extra money and the dog is super healthy now.

The bonus? Mischa turned out to be a purebred Portuguese Water Dog. For halloween, she dresses up as Bo Obama.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:18 AM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Kinda sucks they tried the dioxy/revolution after the diagnosis but before the imiticide... usually the imiticide goes in first due to resistance issues.

Sounds like all of you are getting horribly ripped off, I just treated my dog in Austin, TX using the older recommended dosages of imiticide and it cost about $550. Your vets are ripping you off, literally.

To the OP: Heartworms are not a dealbreaker... 99.99% of dogs survive the treatment just fine and if the imiticide went in on the 9th, the dog is probably past most of the danger zone at this point. Just keep it on regular monthly preventatives for the rest of the animals life. Heartworm come from mosquitoes and can grow for 8 months before being detected, so taking time off in the winter isnt good.

I'm not a vet, just recently did alot of research due to treating one of my animals.
posted by anthroprose at 7:48 AM on September 26, 2013

This sounds like almost exactly the scenario when I adopted my dog last year. She was heartworm positive but had undergone treatment (with immiticide) a month before we got her, so she was past the confinement stage. We did need to get her tested for heartworm a few months post-treatment just to confirm she had been cured; she was fine and we haven't really borne any of the costs associated with the treatment, other than keeping her on prophylactic heartworm meds year-round. Which we might have done anyway, as they also contain anti-parasitic medications and she tends to drink out of every muddy puddle, stream, and river when we go hiking or trail running.

Her personality changed a little bit, I suppose, but the rescue we worked with advised that nearly ALL dogs will have personality changes a few months out from being adopted, because the shelter or foster environment is stressful. She's become less stand-offish and more playful, but is still pretty chill for 90% of the day (she's a 60-pound hound mix).

One thing my vet did recommend, and which we did, was to have a chest x-ray when she got tested for heartworm about 4 months after we adopted her to confirm the treatment had worked. She had no visible enlargement or damage to her heart, which our vet told us meant she had been diagnosed and cured before the heartworm did any (or very much of any) permanent damage. Maybe you could ask the shelter vet if there are any indications of whether the heartworm has affected this doggie's heart?

But all in all, I'm thrilled we adopted our pup, the heartworm treatment before we got her was a total non-issue. It's possible the treatment could have failed and we'd have had to deal with the cost and stress of re-treating her, but I figure that's true of nearly any dog; you could adopt a dog that looked perfectly healthy and find some expensive infection 6 months down the road. However I am guessing this is why the shelter vet isn't encouraging you to take the dog--if they know he/she is a great candidate for adoption and there will be a lot of interest, then they can afford to discourage people who seem to be looking for some sort of guarantee that the treatment worked--or who seem at all likely to re-surrender the dog should health problems pop up down the road. That's my read on it, anyway.
posted by iminurmefi at 8:06 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've never worked at a shelter, but I've volunteered and otherwise been around them enough to see people get quite abusive of them. In ridiculously unjustifiable ways. Because of course it's the SHELTER's fault when they lack the resources to take in yet another irresponsibly-created litter, or when they won't adopt out a child-shy dog to a family with a 6-year old, or when they insist that yes, people actually DO have to adhere to their no-declawing policies to adopt from them. Or when a sick animal, you know, continues to be sick.

My point being that I wouldn't read too much into your shelter being cautious about what they say to you, when realistically, a HW+ dog will entail at least SOME additional expense, work, and/or risk. They don't know if you're coming into this from a place of ignorance and will blame them if the dog DOES take a turn for the worse, so of course they're measured in what they're saying. Moreover, I wouldn't feel very comfortable with a vet who gave me a prognosis without seeing an animal directly, so I think your vet is being reasonable here, too. I wouldn't let either the shelter or your vet's actions so far scare you off.

Would this shelter let you bring the pup to your own vet so you can discuss the matter in person, after she has had a chance to check her out?
posted by DingoMutt at 10:07 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have nothing to add, except Oh My God! I can see why you want to adopt that dog!!!
posted by vitabellosi at 10:52 AM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I adopted her and she's awesome. Incredibly calm. She's chewing on a frozen bison leg at the moment and has no problem with me taking it away from her.

Thanks for all the help, folks!
posted by dobbs at 1:51 PM on September 26, 2013 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: Also, taking name suggestions!
posted by dobbs at 1:52 PM on September 26, 2013

Yay! She looks like a Sadie to me.
posted by triggerfinger at 1:56 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

It took me ten seconds to fall in love with that dog! Rags - I'd call her Rags.

She's wonderful!
posted by aryma at 8:54 PM on September 26, 2013

That dog is definitely in Eliza Doolittle, from My Fair Lady. She's a diamond-in-the-rough who's been rescued by someone who saw the promise in her.
posted by dinger at 4:14 AM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

What language(s) do the First Nations people on the reserve that she came from speak? It'd be cool to name her something from a relevant language--for example, "Adia" is "dog" in Abenaki-Penobscot (per a brief websearch), and that would be pretty as a name.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:23 AM on September 27, 2013

So glad you went through with it! I foster dogs with a rescue group and one thing I wanted to mention, not regarding heartworm, is the mammary enlargement -- once everything is over make sure to get that looked at. A lot of females who've had pups get mammary tumors; my foster right now had a couple and my previous foster had two removed when I first got her.

She is lovely!
posted by emcat8 at 11:51 PM on September 27, 2013

Response by poster: Just wanted to pop back in and thank everyone for encouraging me to adopt this dog. I did, and she's fantastic. Today we got the final bloodwork back and she is heartworm negative. Yay!

Though she had a short period being called Mojo and an even shorter one as Alice, I settled on the name Shakedown more than a month ago and it has stuck.

She's awesome and I couldn't have found a better dog. Thanks, all!
posted by dobbs at 9:26 AM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]

Yay, Shakedown! Thanks for the update!!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:09 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

!!! Yay! So happy for you both. :D
posted by cairdeas at 5:10 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older Or we can just mass-order Crayola   |   Fashion innovation - is it IP? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.