Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tootsie has Heartworms

We took Tootsie for her yearly vet visit a couple of weeks ago.

Despite being 10 years old, she got a clean bill of health. The vet said she would have never guessed her as being as old as she was if she didn't have the vet record to prove it.

Except for one thing: Tootsie's eyes. She has a cataract in her left eye, and "significant signs of aging" in her right eye.

Her appointment was on a Saturday, and we left feeling pretty good. Until 8:15am Monday morning, when my cell phone rang. Her bloodwork came back positive for heartworms.

See, we've never had any of the dogs on heartworm preventative.

I knew it was fatal, but we also knew it was treatable.

So, when Jason told me that he never put them on preventatives (remember, they were all his dogs to begin with), but just planned to treat them if they ever tested as positive, it seemed logical.

And... now I feel like an idiot.

Neither of us realized how extensive the traditional treatment is. It's extremely hard on the animal, the treatment itself can actually kill the dog, and it's very expensive. Tootsie's cost is a bit higher than most because of her size (95 lbs), so rang in at right about $1,000.

We discussed it. At length. I had the doctor explain the treatment, and its effects on Tootsie, in detail. Then I got on the internet & looked up what I could find for myself. Then I called back and had them go over it again. All the while discussing it with Jason.

In the end, we decided to forego the traditional treatment.

Considering how invasive it is, how extreme, and how hard it is on the dog herself, we can't imagine putting her thru that for maybe two more years of life, probably three tops.

I liken it to the 85-year-old in otherwise good health who was just diagnosed with mid-stage cancer, who's deciding whether or not to go thru chemo. Sure, you get more life, but what is your quality of life? It's a tough decision, and a personal one.

Instead of the traditional treatment, we are opting for an aggressive drug therapy that can be done at home. It won't cure her like the traditional treatment, but it should greatly limit the damage the worms can do to her heart & lungs, and give her a longer lifespan than  no treatment at all, with little to no risk or side effects to her.

The vet explained that she was likely infected within the past six months, as she is not currently showing any outward symptoms. So we've studied up on the typical symptoms, what they look like at onset, how they progress, etc. Still need to learn more, but we're in the process of educating ourselves. In the event that her outward symptoms appear, and develop to where she is suffering, we will have her euthanized.

Buddy and Fopsy have since tested negative.


Since finding out her diagnosis, I have talked to just about every dog owner I know of in real life, asking them to please make sure their dogs are on heartworm preventative.

Initially, I was prepared to be flamed for not putting our dogs on it, and in some cases got the side eye.

But, in talking with other dog owners, I've found the story to be the same.

They begin by saying something like "Of course I have my dog on (insert brand name of preventative here)! I have since we got him/her!"

But the more you talk to them, almost every one ends up saying at some point, something like "but I'm not that good at remembering to give it to him/her. Geez, I don't remember the last time they got their pill"
Really? Well, not to be calloused, but that's just throwing money down the drain at that point. I'd rather do what we did and save money, than pay for the pills then not give them to the dog.
Anyway, my main point in posting all of this, and risking being flamed for our previous choice (a mistake we won't make again, by the way), is to hopefully be a lesson to my readers.

If your dog is not currently on a heartworm preventative, please get them on one NOW.  And give it to them regularly, as prescribed.

As for us? Once Tootsie finishes her drug therapy, she will be on heartworm preventative from here on out.

If me posting this saves just one pet & owner from going thru this heartwrenching decision, then it was well worth it.

Thanks for checking in.

1 comment:

BlazinMama said...

Hope things can go as well as they can!

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