The call came over the intercom as I was preparing for surgery.
“STAT in the Lobby!”
I rushed out the door as my technician handed me a stethoscope.
In the lobby stood an elderly man, a rancher. He wore a new plaid shirt and old blue jeans. In his arms was a beautiful dog, a mix between an Australian Shepherd and a Retriever. She was limp.
As we rushed her in to treatment, we asked all the important questions.
“When did this start?”
“Was she hit by a car?”
“Could she have eaten something poisonous?”
Her gums were pale. She appeared shocky and her breathing was labored, but she lifted her head and looked right in my eyes. She was scared.
We needed answers fast!
I placed the oxygen mask by her nose, drew a syringe of blood from the vein in her front leg and handed it to my technician to begin testing. Immediately I sent another assistant to prepare for x-rays.
My remaining assistant was petting her behind the ears. “It’s OK girl,” she whispers.
Change of status – she stopped breathing.
I put my stethoscope on the side of her chest and listened carefully.
With in seconds a tube was placed in her airway. “Begin ventilating” I said and the assistant pressed a breath of oxygen into her lungs.
“Begin compressions,” I ordered and the technician began chest compressions to move the blood flow.
I could see the rancher; his big calloused hands had gone to his face where tears were streaming down. He left the room.
I checked for a heartbeat.
“6 ml’s epinephrine STAT” I ordered.
I inject 3 ml’s into her vein.
Still no heart beat.
I inject the remaining 3 ml’s of epinephrine directly into her heart.
My staff works on.
“OK, Stop” I say.
My assistant slowly pulled the blanket over her head.
She has died.
10 minutes had passed.
The rancher had returned to the room.
I put my arm around him and said, “I’m sorry.”
“I’m fine” he said. He had completely regained his composure.
This is a true story.
Later, the blood test results came in. I was livid. Lacey had died needlessly.
Simply because the veterinary office where the rancher normally took his pets never told him about heartworm prevention.
A simple treat given once a month would have prevented this entire scenario.
The adult heartworm lives in the right chamber of the heart and pulmonary arteries which route blood through the lungs where carbon dioxide is removed and oxygen is added to the red blood cells. I have actually seen hearts so chucked full of worms that only a trickle of blood can get through. This all begins with a single mosquito bite! The mosquito bites an infected dog and picks up some microfilaria from the blood meal. Then the mosquito carries this microfilaria to the next dog she bites, and this microfilaria migrates through the tissue following veins to the heart.
A heartworm test is necessary to be sure your pet has not been previously infected. The treatment for heartworm is not the same as the prevention.
Side effects to heartworm prevention are very rare.
Heartworm is endemic in the Rogue Valley. A prescription is easily obtained from your veterinarian.
Anette Heaslet practices holistic and conventional medicine at Lithia Springs Veterinary Care in Ashland Oregon. More information is on their website at CheerfulVet.com.