Thursday, June 25, 2009

Heartworms at Home

My latest foster, Rusty, an oversize miniature pinscher boy, is heartworm positive. Today, after being in my house for a month (Rusty is my 8th foster dog for 2009), Rusty started treatment. The treatment used by the veterinarian hired as our Shelter’s new director (Dr. Ryan has been with us less than three weeks) is a two-injection, back-to-back approach. Rusty got his first injection this morning, and will get the second tomorrow morning. He’ll have a week of steroid tablets and a month of limited mobility—crate confinement.

Right now he’s sacked out in the big dog bed at my feet in my office. Since I have French doors that close, my cramped office can double as his confinement area. He’s had the run of my house with my dogs and has been sleeping in my son’s room. I hope he’ll get to sleep with my son after a week—but first I have to make sure that everyone in the house follows the recovery plan. My husband doesn’t think anything is really wrong—after all, Rusty looks fine, especially now that he’s over his Upper Respiratory Infection and has gained a little weight. My son needs to remember to shut his door so Rusty won’t be tempted to bound down the stairs. And Rusty needs to be leash-walked outside rather than let out in our large backyard to run around. So he’ll be crated until I am confident I have full family buy-in.

I hate heartworms. I hate mosquitoes (I’m highly allergic to all bug bites). I hate it that people don’t give the preventive meds. I hate it that there’s so much misinformation on the Interwebs. I hate it when people say, “It’s just a Big Pharm scam.” When our clients hear that, they think they don't need to do prevention. I hate it when people claim you can use a calendar system to chart when the nights go below 40 degrees and just give Heartguard “some of the time.” Yeah, and you can use the rhythm method and just get pregnant some of the time, too.

I hate it that Heartgaurd and Interceptor are so expensive. I hate it that Ivermectin requires such precision to administer. I hate that you have to remember to give a monthly tablet. I hate it that the 6-month heartworm injection has been removed from the market. I hate the fact you have to poison the dog to kill the heartworms that are clogging up his heart. I hate that the Shelter can’t do a chest Xray to determine if Rusty has heart or lung damage. I hate that the treatment is so expensive and dangerous. And I hate the fact heartworm infections are invisible unless you test—because when you have visible symptoms, then you’ve got an even bigger problem. What I hate the most is that so many of the dogs that enter our Shelter are heartworm positive.

There. I feel better getting all that out of me.

As for Rusty, he’s a super sweet guy. He weighs 13.6 pounds and is about 2 or 3 years old. He’s neutered, UTD on his shots and microchipped. He’s spunky and happy and has really blossomed since he’s been at my house. He’s not as clingy or snappy as some min pins, and he doesn’t have to be glued to you on the couch. What he likes best is to lie at your feet in a dog bed or on a rug. He also likes to stretch out with his hind legs behind him, cooling his lean belly on the tile or carpet. Rusty loves walks, and has learned how to sit and how to take food gently (but still very eagerly) from your fingers. He’d make a great single or second dog and would probably do okay around older kids. He crates and travels well and is 98% housebroken, which is pretty darn good for a min pin. If you’re in the Houston area and are interested in a good dog like Rusty, leave me a comment. His adoption fee is $100.

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