Every time I type the word heartworm, autocorrect splits it in two. Then underlines it with an offensive red squiggle that shouts “You’re a dumbass!” (which may or may not be one word, but it certainly doesn’t “correct” to ‘dumbs’. Who’s the dumbass here, Autocorrect?)
Anyhoo. When our little Evelyn was first taken to the shelter, she tested positive for heartworms. This is bad news to any dog lover. Heartworms are dangerous and deadly, and so can be the treatment for them.
Heartworms, as the name suggests, are blood-born and will fill the heart chambers like spaghetti, eventually choking the heart and killing the dog.
Whenever I speak of Evie and mention that she is heartworm positive, everyone (EVERYONE) asks if she poses a risk to my own heartworm-negative pups. Because she had begun treatment before I brought her home, I was certain that she did not. But the constant query was starting to get to me.
So I did some research, and have brought you a host of links to helpful articles. You’re welcome.
The short answer is that she poses no risk.
There are several treatment approaches. One known as “fast kill” involves simply injecting the infected dog with Immiticide (melarsomine), (arsenic), (you heard me), that effectively eliminates heartworms in dogs. However, that approach is not without significant risk to the dog. The injection itself is painful, and as the worms die, their decomposing pieces shed into the dog’s bloodstream and filter out through the lungs. This can cause a fatal pulmonary embolism. The dog must be kept strictly confined during treatment to keep a rapid heart rate from forcing worm fragments into the lungs and overwhelming the organs. You can read more about it here.
The “slow kill” method involves a combination of Ivermectin (Heartguard) and Doxycycline (antibiotic) at specified doses prior to use of Immiticide. Back in 2006, researchers discovered that a parasite called Wolbachia lives symbiotically inside heartworms, and contributes to the damaging effects of the worms, including inflammation, embolism, and allergic reactions. Doxycycline is effective in killing the Wolbachia. Using the two drugs together reduce inflammation, sterilize heartworms, prevent the dog from being infectious to other dogs (Bingo!), and reduce the risks associated with Immiticide once it is administered.
You can read more about all of that here. Imbedded in that article is a link to the Heartworm Association’s protocol, which is what we’re following over the course of the next 5 months.
Dr. Karen Becker suggests avoiding the Immiticide step, as the combination of doxycycline and ivermectin are proven effective. Read what she has to say here. And if Evelyn were mine, I might be willing to go that route. BUT, at present, she isn’t, and we will follow the guidance that has worked for many a rescued Pug in Alabama.
So, everybody just calm your sh*t. We’ve got this.
pugs & kisses,