Beaumont's Journey with heartworm

  A sweet boy with a big heart

A sweet boy with a big heart

This is the first entry in what will be an on-going story following a sweet dog named Beaumont and his treatment for heartworm disease. Heartworm is easy to prevent. But, as you'll see below and over the coming months, it is hard to get rid of once infected.

Heartworm disease is typically spread when a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito. We may think our dry climate makes mosquitos less prevalent, but it’s a real risk in Colorado and the incidence of reported cases has been increasing.

Beaumont is a big, lovable puppy who was adopted from a Colorado dog rescue in January of this year by Kristin, one of our Customer Care specialists. He came from out of state and initially tested negative for heartworm in the test done by the rescue organization. The week after his adoption, Kristin brought Beaumont in for a wellness checkup and blood work at our hospital. Unfortunately, this time his heartworm test was positive. Though uncommon to test positive so quickly after testing negative, the rescue offered to pay for the cost of the heartworm treatment drug to ensure a successful adoption.

This meant an end to long walks and his goofy rambunctiousness for a while because restricting exercise is important for heartworm-positive dogs.

This also meant a beginning to heartworm treatment.

  With his forever family

With his forever family

  Goof-ball

Goof-ball

We begin the Nine (9) month treatment regime

Our initial goals of treatment were to make sure Beaumont was stable, and then to kill all immature and adult worms in his body.

Days 1-3, Diagnosis confirmation

First, we confirmed Beaumont's diagnosis with a more specific and specialized test that can detect even small pieces of heartworm skin floating in his blood. Heartworms must be at least seven months old before they can be diagnosed; likely explaining why he first tested negative after his rescue in December. 

Radiographs were then taken of his heart and lungs to look for damage to his vascular system (blood vessels). Thankfully, and because of early detection, Beaumont showed no signs of damage.

We started his 30-day antibiotic regime with Doxycycline to kill bacteria which live in the heartworms because these bacteria help the heartworms survive and reproduce, and cause increased inflammation. This drug helps him with any complications.

On day one Beaumont also started his monthly heartworm preventative.

Now, we have to slow him down! Beaumont is a high energy puppy but now must be kept confined and on strictly limited movement and activity for 6-to-8 weeks because exertion increases the rate at which the heartworms can damage the heart and lungs. When he's outside, it's only for short 5-10 minute bathroom breaks on leash, and then back inside for rest. 

Click on the pictures and place your cursor over an image below to see what specifically happened during this step of treatment.

 
 

Day 60, drug Treatment begins

Two months after starting the preventive, Beaumont received a full physical and started treatment with Immiticide (also known as Melarsomine), the drug that will kill the adult heartworms. Because complications can occur, he stayed with us under the strict observation of a Veterinarian. After this he started Prednisone, a strong anti-inflammatory, when he went home. The Prednisone also helps decrease inflammation caused by the heartworms and their die-off because when adult worms die, they collapse and are pushed deeper into the smaller branches of the vessels that supply blood to the lungs. Continued rest is essential as exercise increases blood flow and further increases this risk. 

Tramadol and Gabapentin were prescribed to help manage Beaumont's pain as heartworm treatment is serious business.

Click on the pictures and place your cursor over an image below to see what specifically happened during this step of treatment.

 
 

Days 90 & 91

30-days after the first injection of Immiticide (see Day 60 above), two injections of the drug are given 24 hours apart. As with his first Immiticide injection, Beaumont was kept in the hospital for observation.

In the days following this treatment, Beaumont was sore and rigid. Knowing him, Kristin believed his body felt weak, achy, and sore (similar to humans during the flu). He wasn't interested in being pet and could not get comfortable for several days, often moving from dog bed to dog bed every few minutes and letting out a small whimper every so often. After about three days, he slowly started to feel better.

With strict exercise restrictions still in place, Kristin resumed some mental stimulation games (he loves to "show me your belly" and is currently working on "bring me your Kong!"). He spent lots of time sitting outside on the back porch, watching squirrels pass along the top of the fence, watching the wind blow, and soaking up a little sunshine. Because Beaumont is a high energy young dog, he needed to be on Trazadone, an anti-anxiety medication, for several weeks following this injection series due to his anxiety over not being able to play with his family.

This is a hard stage in a long process for Beaumont and his family. Kristin is doing a great job keeping him calm and he's doing well with his treatment regimen.

Click on the pictures and place your cursor over an image below to see what specifically happened during this step of treatment.

 
 

Day 120

This stage of the process consists of an important blood test to look for microfilaria, signs of larvae or juvenile heartworms in the bloodstream. The GREAT news is that Beaumont's test was clear! Dedication to the treatment regimen and Kristin's disciplined work at home keeping Beaumont quiet has really paid off.

At this stage, Beaumont can now begin a slow transition back to activity. The transition has to be slow to help prevent injury and get Beaumont back into shape after many months of quiet, sedentary behavior. Beaumont will start going on easy 10 minute walks which gradually, over a couple weeks, will increase to 30 minute walks. Kristin can now have friends over to interact with Beaumont, something she was not able to do since his treatment began.

 
 

The last stage is just ahead: 12 weeks after the last Immiticide injections (days 90 & 91 above), Beaumont will be cleared to return to normal activity; running, playing with other dogs, swimming, etc. That will be a happy day for the whole family.


Day 270, nine months after the beginning of Beaumont's journey
Treatment hopefully will be complete. We will perform a final heartworm test to confirm that all heartworms have been eliminated. We will also continue Beaumont on his monthly preventative at this time but if all goes well, he goes back to life as usual!