Good News: We’re Positive He’s Negative!

Adopter Update on Chas, my TDL dog by Amy Benz

Monday, June 20, 2011: Today was annual check-up day for my dogs, Chas and Shelby. As you may remember, Chas (formerly Billy Joel) is the border collie mix I adopted from TDL last summer. He’s the one that got me started working in rescue. When I adopted Chas he was heartworm positive; in fact, I related my experience and choice of treatment in an article Gisele wrote several months ago. I’ve republished an excerpt from that article at the bottom of this page.

Chas loves to go on road trips in the Jeep!

Anyway, back to annual check-up day, which included the usual litany of vaccinations as well as the dreaded fecal and heartworms tests. Cue the scary music. I knew my choice  to use the slow-kill method (an initial cycle of doxycycline/prednisone followed by monthly Heartgard heartworm preventative) could take 1-2 years to produce a negative test result. Therefore I fully expected to hear that Chas’s heartworm test was positive. After all, he’d only been on the slow-kill treatment since last summer, less than one full year.

I didn’t really think much about it during the examination and hadn’t mentioned it to the Dr. Bailey, but was certainly glad to hear her pronouncement that Chas’s heart and lungs sounded great as she performed her initial exam. We chatted about this and that while she finished up, then Dr. Bailey and her vet tech left the exam room to retrieve the results of the fecal and heartworm tests for both dogs.

A few minutes later Dr. Bailey returned.

“Good news,” she said. “Both tests came back negative. You’re all set to go.”

Both tests for both dogs came back negative?” I clarified. “Both fecal and heartworm tests for both? You’re certain?”

“Yep, see for yourself,” she answered.

I looked at the snap tests, one with Shelby’s name and the other with Chas’s name. Sure enough, they both showed negative! Unbelieveable! I was grinning from ear to ear as I reminded Dr. Bailey that Chas had been heartworm positive this time last year.

“Let’s do the test one more time, just to be sure,” she said. “I’m pretty skeptical about a negative result in such a short period of time.” However, 10 minutes later we got the same result — negative! — from a second test, leaving little room for doubt.

Now I’m not saying the slow-kill method is the right course of action for every dog in every situation, but I do think it’s a valid option, worthy of consideration. I chose the slow-kill method for Chas because: 1. He was asymptomatic (no coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, lethargy, etc.). 2. He was a young, otherwise healthy, and active dog that I knew would be difficult to keep contained and quiet for the amount of time required by the fast-kill or Immiticide treatment. I believe you should be able to discuss all the options with your veterinarian and agree upon a reasonable treatment plan that everyone — most especially your dog! — can live with.

~ Amy

In case you’re interested, here’s my original post about Chas and my experience as the owner of a heartworm positive dog:

“Before I adopted border-collie mix Chas (formerly Billy Joel), my only experience with heartworm positive dogs was secondhand. My brother and his wife had rescued an American Bulldog that was heartworm positive; their vet recommended the fast-kill treatment via Immiticide. My aunt rescued a heartworm-positive American Eskimo Dog; her vet also recommended the fast-kill method. Following treatment with Immiticide, both dogs nearly died and had to be rushed to the emergency veterinary clinics in their respective areas. Despite following all the necessary precautions/instructions, my brother and my aunt nearly lost their dogs because they had a difficult time keeping them completely and totally quiet 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Both dogs were young and very active at the time of their Immiticide treatment.

This was my mindset going into adopting Chas, who at two years of age had been diagnosed as “light heartworm positive.” I had never heard of the slow-kill method, which employs a combination of treatment with doxycycline/prednisone and monthly dosages of Heartgard heartworm preventative over a long period of time. Gisele and Holly explained my options and recommended several sources of credible information so that I could educate myself. Because Chas was young, fit, active, and – most importantly – asymptomatic (no coughing, shortness of breath, or lethargy), I decided the slow-kill method would be the way to go. I simply couldn’t fathom keeping him confined and quiet for such a long period of time if another option was available.

Feeling I’d made an informed decision with Chas’s best interest in mind, I took him to my regular vet for a check-up as soon as I got him home. Imagine my surprise when my vet berated me for my thinking, implying that I was not only ignorant but irresponsible for even considering the slow-kill method. She went as far as telling me that I was putting my entire neighborhood’s dog population at risk by maintaining a heartworm positive dog. “What if your neighbor’s dog isn’t on preventative?” she asked. “You could be responsible for infecting that dog!” I left the office in tears and immediately called Holly, who informed me that unfortunately many vets feel this way about the slow-kill method. Her advice was to research as much as possible, read testimonials about dogs successfully treated with the method, and ultimately make my own decision. I chose to stick with the slow-kill method. So far, so good – my Chas is a healthy, happy, active dog and continues to remain asymptomatic. I’m hoping for good news this spring at his annual check-up.”

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6 Comments

  1. Gisele

    06.20.2011

    This is awesome! Chaz, the dog that always wears a smile! I just love him!

  2. Holly

    06.21.2011

    I am not at all surprised by this. Gus, my basset/bulldog, was heartworm positive when I adopted him three years ago. An extremely active dog who had already been abused, I knew I could not do the fast kill method on him ~ being confined to a crate for three months would kill him, if not physically, then psychologically. I decided I’d rather live with the risks (?) of slow kill than subject him to that. Back then, all I did was continue to give him his monthly Heartgard, nothing fancier then that. And guess what. A year later, he was heartworm negative!

  3. I never heard of this method, but it would be my method of choice if I ever have a heart worm positive dog…again…one of my rescues I kept, tested positve…he had the fast kill, luckily he was not an active aussie, bad hips from the beginning I would imagine..but it was critical to not let him play…or he could throw a blood clot to the heart….this is great…thanks for the information…I pill five dogs ever month…to be safe…

  4. Tina Wood

    09.19.2011

    I adopted a heartworm positive dog and I chose the slow kill method too due to our lifestyle and research. Our dog became heartworm negative in 16 months. When I first found out about her positive status when adopting her, I thought we were doomed. Now I wouldn’t second guess adopting a heartworm positive dog and put them on the slow kill method.

  5. Reegan

    12.01.2011

    Thank you for posting this. My 8 year old Golden Retriever was just diagnosed with heartworms. We’re starting him on the slow-kill method tomorrow. He had a chest x-ray and everything looked good, no damage yet. So, we’re hoping for the best, I’m nervous because my vet informed me that a patient came in DOA after being on the slow-kill method for two months. However, I feel that this is the safest option.

    I was told to start low dose aspirin, doxycycline twice a day, and his Heartgard given once a month. From your blog, it sounds like Chas took doxy for a bit, before he started the Heartgard. Does this matter, or is it okay that we were advised to start all three meds on the same day? I’m so happy to hear that your dogs are heartworm negative and doing well. They’re beautiful dogs. Also, did you restrict Chas from any activities? I was told an embolism could still happen on slow-kill 🙁

  6. Carrie Ann

    03.07.2012

    I have a dog took in and he is heartworm positive. I was going to go fast kill because I dont know how long he has had it…think he was on the streets abit with the owner who was a alchoholic. However, I havce my own dog and they are very active together. I work 2 jobs and cant contain or want to crate him. I was going to look for a foster for few months undergoing fastkill, but cant find anyone. My only option is Slow Kill and hope for the best. I am taking him to the vet this week to begin…I wish sooo badly he would have tested negative:( I am SO glad I found this site. My dog and the new one LOVE eachother! He is a great addition….I hate to see anything happen.

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