Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Treatment #3 for Kirby, Baxter Tests Negative!

Treatment #3 was about the same as #2 yesterday. Sore bottom on the little guy and he's lethargic, but OK. He seems to find more comfort retreating to his crate instead of sleeping under the desk or out in the open in my office. Going to his crate during the day is a pretty good sign he's not feeling well... But his eyes are bright and he gets up and comes out whenever he hears a stir. I just wish I could make him feel better right now. But if it's like the previous treatments, he should be up and at 'em more by tomorrow.

I'm also very happy (and relieved) to report that Baxter's follow-up heartworm test was NEGATIVE. This is further indication that Kirby most likely came to us from the shelter hosting the heartworms in his system. Not that that's a good's horrible. And it's not surprising, given that a) Kirby and his siblings ran loose on a farm with no preventative and no vaccines until they were several months old, and b) he came from Northern California, where heartworm is more common than in Oregon. But I've been carrying around more than a little guilt over the fact that I was an imperfect administrator of preventative...missing a month or being late here or there. The vet says it's unusual for one dog to get heartworm and the other not to, particularly given that Baxter is a much older dog, and that's why the vet wanted to retest. Fortunately, the preventative we gave Kirby early on probably killed the larvae and made the adult worms sterile, so he didn't infect too many other mosquitoes.

Anyway, lesson learned. And I still feel bad about missing preventative doses. Honestly, having been a Portland-ite for so long (where there is almost no incidence of heartworm), I didn't realize to what extent that Southern Oregon is in a higher risk category. I didn't develop as rigorous a habit of giving preventative as I should have. And my husband wasn't tracking on it at all, since it was a job I took on. Now both of us are tracking on it, noting the day each month when our guys get preventative and reminding each other -- even though we're now back in the Portland area and it's probably not as critical. I just know I wouldn't want either of our dogs to have to go through this process in the future.

I've also commented previously here that good-natured people who adopted Katrina rescue dogs (50% or more were estimated to be heartworm-positive) sometimes unwittingly spread heartworm to relatively free areas... all it takes is one of the small number of local mosquitoes sucking the blood of a positive dog, then spreading it to countless other dogs. And Portland is full of good-natured dog lovers, so it wouldn't surprise me if that, plus global warming, plus the way these things travel wouldn't result in rising infection rates here. Well, at least our veterinarian has practice.

That said, I'm so glad there is a treatment for heartworm. I grew up in Iowa hearing, at the time, that heartworm was basically a death sentence for the dog -- a slow and painful death sentence. Early treatments were very hard on the dogs and many didn't make it. The new treatment is still risky, but with a 98% success rate, I feel much better about Kirby's odds of getting through this and going on to be a healthy, bouncy, happy little dog.

Now if we can just keep him from bouncing and racing around the house for the next six months, until he gets his follow-up heartworm test, we should be in the clear.

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