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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,

I am sharing my story so that other people who find themselves with a dog with heartworm can benefit from what I've learned.

I have a 4-year-old Jack Russel named Spot that we rescued from a shelter after fostering him for 8 months. After adopting Spot we took him into the vet for a check up and discovered he has heartworm. He is completely asymptomatic, we would never have known he was sick if the blood work didn't say so. We did a ton of research on the internet and saw several forum posts where people said that they just gave their dog the preventative medicine instead of doing the full treatment. The treatment for heartworm is very dangerous (it can be as bad as the actual disease if not worse) not to mention costly.

We told our vet what we read online about giving dogs the preventative medicine only and we were told that although that will keep him from developing more worms and spreading it to other dogs (via mosquitoes), the existing worms will continue to do damage. The doctor recommended we do a chest x-ray that would cost $130, the heartworm treatment that would cost $580, and put him on antibiotics that cost $70.

Wanting a second opinion, we contacted the shelter we got Spot from and they set up an appointment for us with their regular vet. What I learned is that MANY VETS WORK ON COMMISSION! Much like when you take your car to the mechanic and feel like they are pumping up your repair bill, some vets try to get you to do extra tests or give your pet extra medication to increase their pay check.

Our new vet (who does not work on commission) told us that there is no need to give an otherwise healthy dog such risky treatment. She told us that if we give our dog a medication to clear out the microfilaria and then give him heartguard he would be fine.

Of course every case is different and our dog has a very minor case, but before to dive into costly and dangerous treatments make sure that it is necessary. Do your research, know what to ask, and don't be afraid to ask your vet if he or she works on commission.

Sincerely,
Spot's Mom
 

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Hi, this is really very interesting, I have a website about heartworm and heartworm preventative treatments - I am only just starting to build it but I wonder if you would be willing for me to reproduce your story there? Perhaps with a picture of your dog (I was especially interested as we have two JRTs!)
I look forward to hearing from you. I can't post a link to the address of my site here as I think it might be against the terms of the forum (I have only just joined to) but the address is heartwormtreatment-fordogs and it is a .com site
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi there,
Yes you may certainly use what I wrote on your site. I want people to know their options because when it comes to your pets its easy to get carried away and spend anything to make them better.

Also, as an update, Spot's microfilaria test came back negative meaning he has no larva in his blood so the vet thinks he only has female worms, the least severe form of heartworm because it is impossible for the worms to reproduce. I am going to be starting him on heartguard this week. The vet told me that in cases where there is no microfilaria, if you just put the dog on heartguard most of the time they test negative for heartworm in only a year.

I am so happy that I got the second opinion because the first vet never even tested for microfilaria, just the heartworm antigen..
 

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Hi there,
Yes you may certainly use what I wrote on your site. I want people to know their options because when it comes to your pets its easy to get carried away and spend anything to make them better.

Also, as an update, Spot's microfilaria test came back negative meaning he has no larva in his blood so the vet thinks he only has female worms, the least severe form of heartworm because it is impossible for the worms to reproduce. I am going to be starting him on heartguard this week. The vet told me that in cases where there is no microfilaria, if you just put the dog on heartguard most of the time they test negative for heartworm in only a year.

I am so happy that I got the second opinion because the first vet never even tested for microfilaria, just the heartworm antigen..
Thank you so much for your permission to use your post here on my site, I will add the update too - it may take me a few days to get that up on www.heartwormtreatment-fordogs.com but I think this is very important information to share.
 

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The adult heartworms can live for years, doing damage to the heart and lungs. The heartgard does not kill the adult heartworms. There is a treatment that is cheaper and easier on the dog, using doxycycline and advantage multi. It is fairly new, and we have used it on one of our dogs so far. Hope we will get a negative test result, but it is not looking good. The heartgard, to my best understanding-- only kills the microfilara once a month. Meaning, the dog can still infect mosquitos who can then infect other dogs. Not a problem if they are on the prevention, usually. Three of my dogs tested positive after using heartgard, which I have learned is becoming a growing problem in the Mississippi valley area!
 

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The heartgard does not kill the adult heartworms.

Exactly and this is why I suspect the first vet in the OP's statement recommended the chest x-ray (commission or no commission) to see how bad of an adult worm load was present. Luckily Spot was asymptomatic so the load could not have been great (still, adult worms could be present post treatment and still there since, as juliemule stated, the Heartgard only kills the microfilaria.)
 

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The vet has to offer all those services. Because if they don't, it's a lawsuit against them. You always have the right to refuse treatment, but if the vet doesn't offer you every possible diagnostic tool and surefire treatment, you can turn that around on them if your chosen course of treatment goes sour. Plus you're always welcome to get second opinions.

It's good to know the testing that your vet is doing and asking questions. By understanding what a test uses and what they are actually looking for can help you understand the level of infection your pet may have.

The most common and easiest HW test is called a IDEXX 4DX SNAP test. It's fast and extremely foolproof to run. 3 drops of blood is mixed with 4 drops of a reagent and it's put in a little mechanism that is snapped down and then other chemicals are released that interact with the blood sample. If a sample is postive, a blue dot appears. The 4DX test also checks for Lyme, Anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis...which are tickbourne diseases.

The heartworm antigen test checks for antigens in the blood serum or plasma. An antigen are a molecule in the body that works with the immune system to trigger an antibody defense against a threat. HW antigen test is an ELISA test that puts a serum/plasma sample and a reagent in a small well and checks for a color change, which IDs a positive antigen. Dozens of patients can be tested all at once with this test type. Essentially, the 4DX SNAP test mentioned above is a mini-ELISA test. The antigen test I just mentioned is commonly done at a veterinary diagnostics lab.

A microfilaria (MF) test looks at whole blood. The blood is put in a tube with an anti-clotting additive, usually EDTA, but heparin can also be used. Citrate sodium is another additive used to prevent blood from clotting. The MF test is done with something called a Difil test. It basically pushes the blood through a little filter and the MF get caught on the filter. Then it's looked at under a microscope. Hopefully if the pet is positive, a MF will get caught on the filter.

Another way to look for MF is by a blood differential. This test is usually accompanied with a complete blood cell count (CBC). A single drop of blood is smeared on a microscope slide and if there are MF in that drop of blood, they can be viewed and confirmed.

I hope that info helps when discussing HW tests with your vet. The 4DX SNAPP test is the most popular because it's the easiest. The 4DX is fast and can be done right in the clinic. The HW antigen-well test is usually performed at a laboratory. The Difil test and blood diff are more one-on-one testing that are more time consuming and need trained personal to perform and identify.
 
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