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I have five dogs all strays or shelter dogs. I live in Tennessee so I am very conscious to regularly give them Heartgard plus every month purchased solely from the vet I use. In the middle of January, 2011, one of my dogs was at the vet for his annuals. He is 7 and weighs 45lbs. At that time, he tested negative for heartworm and he has continuously been on Heartgard plus.
On Friday, November 18, 2011, he vomited and then didn't seem to want to eat the rest of the day. Saturday and Sunday he seemed to only eat about 1/4 of his normal food but was still active. Today, Monday, November 21, 2011, I woke up and he was coughing blood. We went to the vet and I am told his body is overwhelmed with heartworm. As a result, he also had pneumonia which the vet wanted to treat prior to heartworm treatment. He was given shots of baytril and penicillin and I was sent home with enalapril, baytril and lasik to give twice a day. Within a few hours, he was almost non-stop coughing blood. His heart was racing...and by 5pm he was dead.
How could this happen? Vet says maybe he vomited his Heartgard plus once or twice or that it passed through his body without absorbing. Was his heartworm test in January wrong? Since he is at the top of the body weight for 26-50lbs, should he have been on the higher dose, 51-100lbs? I am super paranoid now about my other dogs and should I be testing all my dogs for heartworm every 6 months even though all are on heartworm prevention?

Please advise. Do I need a new vet? (All of my dogs are vaccinated yearly and at the end of October 2011, I took one in for her shots. A week later she was sniffling and sneezing and then a week later all of my dogs were. They are only with themselves and not at any dog parks or in contact with any other dogs. Vet claimed it was allergies but put them all on ampicillin and atarax which cost me $300 to treat all of them. I figure she must have been exposed to some upper respiratory infection at the vet which she brought home to everyone else. I guess this happens (like if you go to the doctor and then end up with the flu but sheesh).
 

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False negatives do happen. Most tests test for microfilaria and adult heartworm doesn't always produce microfilaria, so a test can turn up negative. I have heard if it isn't chewed up then it can pass through the body without absorbing, but I'm still researching and now sure how true that is. I have a foster who is heartworm positive so I'm learning more as I go.

I'm sorry for your loss. :(
 

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ultrarunner ,
Sorry for your loss. I am not sure that I would buy that allergies would affect all five at the same time. It is very possible that all five could have picked something up at your Vet or outside yard area perhaps. As for the Vet change , I think that most folks will know in there gut when it is time for a change.................

As for the HeartGuard , my Vet told me years ago the same thing posted by ThoseWordsAtBest : "I have heard if it isn't chewed up then it can pass through the body without absorbing"

I have had two rescue dogs treated for heartworms over the past couple of years. I use liquid HW prevention that I mix myself for our 10 hounds and do not take a chance on the dog not chewing up the HeartGuard med. There are many other good HW prevention meds that do not require chewing.

I have been told if a dog has Heartworms and most or all are male that the test that is sensitive to female Heartworm harmones will show NEG. So it may be due to the type of HW test given. One of my rescue Redbone Hounds had a HW test that was inconclusive , and , upon re-test it was POS.................

Best , oldhound
 

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There is a lengthy article in the July 2011 issue of the Whole Dog Journal, about preventives may have lost their effectiveness. You may want to look at Advantage Multi, it was 100% effective in a study they did. They recommend giving heartworm preventives year round, if you live in the Mississippi River Valley, maybe switching to the Advantage Multi. If you have dogs at risk, possibly give a higer dose or or using preventives twice a month. I'm sorry you're dealing with this. Also, dogs don't need to be vaccinated yearly. Every three months is recommended (I dont' vaccinate, I titer) except for rabies. That you have to do according to laws where you live
 

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Also, dogs don't need to be vaccinated yearly. Every three months is recommended (I dont' vaccinate, I titer) except for rabies. That you have to do according to laws where you live
LOL, I know it's just a typo, but for anyone reading this. . .she means once every 3 YEARS ;).

It would take years for a dog's body to become "overwhelmed with heartworms". I can't imagine that the worms could mature and breed so effectively with the dog on monthly preventive meds, even if a few doses didn't take. I would think you would have seen symptoms before now, such as low-grade coughing, exercise intolerance, and general lethargy. And with multiple negative tests? It just seems like a wild guess. Did they do another heartworm test to come to that conclusion?

I wonder if he had pneumonia and heart failure, and they just decided it must be due to heartworm, since that's how it usually manifests. But without a necropsy, I guess you can never know for sure, unfortunately.

There are a lot of different kinds of heartworm preventive (including plain liquid ivermectin). If you think that Heartgard isn't working for your dogs, there are other options. I would probably have the other dogs tested, and then go from there. Plus, Merial will pay for treatment if you can prove your dog was on Heartgard continuously.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Thanks for the responses.
He has always had a snap test 4dx. My paperwork indicates they did do another test when I took him in addition to the x-ray to verify the heartworm. Enlarged heart, enlarged spleen, bronchial problem.
I am around the dogs most of the time and he didn't exhibit anything unusual. I have video of him running around with all of my other dogs taken less than 2 weeks ago.
I have to say I am less than happy with my current vet and will find another one.

Also, in my research, I came across an article from earlier this year in which a former Merial employee has a lawsuit pending vs Merial for research she conducted over 4 years that showed Heartgard had a 20% failure rate. She claims she was terminated because she would not destroy this information. While I know this does not conclude anything definitively, I feel like I should have been informed by my vet or whomever this was a possibility. Heartgard still claims 100%
effectiveness.
I have documented back to 2008 when he first came into my possession that he had not missed a dosage of Heartgard. I feel like pet owners should be aware that there is a significant potential for Heartgard failure. With my 5 dogs, this is the statistic. It is sad because as even Heartgard says, heartworm is 100% preventable. It definitely makes me feel partially responsible.
 

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I'd go with one of the topicals. I use Revolution on one of my dogs and it works very well.

Here in Asia or Australia/NZ you can get ProHeart 6 or 12. My other dog is on ProHeart 12 (once yearly heartworm injection) and so far no problems. Some dogs do show adverse reactions to Proheart though, so you have to do your own research on it.

Neither of my dogs have ever been on chewables. I just find it a hassle to have to give so many things every month (fleas, heartworm, etc.) so I would be inclined to go with Revolution or as previously mentioned, Advantage Multi.

ETA: Advantage multi does not cover ticks though, which is why I went with Revolution instead.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I just got back from the new vet, someone I hope I'll like and be able to stay with. I went to her when she first moved to town and had a slightly disheartening experience with her, but she was a young vet and we talked about this past history (which was in 2003). I told her I really just needed to find a vet I absolutely loved.

They send out blood samples for an official heartworm test but they did look at the blood under the microscope. Two of my dogs had no microfilariae in their blood but one of them did. Tomorrow I will get the official result. She is one who shares the same lots of Heartgard plus with my dog who died of heartworm last week!!

I have ordered Sentinel for all of my dogs.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Update: Two of my dogs came back for positive for Heartworm on the antigen test. So 3 out of my 5 dogs on Heartgard plus are Heartworm positive without ever having missed a dosage all with Heartworm negative tests within the last 10 months with one of my dogs deceased already last week which started my transfer of vets and all new tests.

This would mean that all of these three dogs would have not chewed and repeatedly passed the Heartgard plus or repeatedly vomited the Heartgard plus or maybe there's a problem with Heartgard effficacy!!!
 

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I believe I posted that the Whole Dog Journal had an article on heartworm preventives losing their effectiveness. Maybe you should change to a different preventive. I use Interceptor.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I have ordered Sentinel for all of my dogs and regardless will resort to Heartworm testing every 6 months hereafter.
 

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ultrarunner ,

Before you make the change from HeartGard Plus, consider that if your dogs contract heartworms while continuously on HeartGard that the mfg. Merial will pay for the treatment your dogs will need. Your Vet can provide proof your dogs have been on the Heartgard continuously.............


Best , oldhounddog
 

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ultrarunner ,

Before you make the change from HeartGard Plus, consider that if your dogs contract heartworms while continuously on HeartGard that the mfg. Merial will pay for the treatment your dogs will need. Your Vet can provide proof your dogs have been on the Heartgard continuously.............


Best , oldhounddog
this is true, as long as it was purchased at the vets.
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
ultrarunner ,

Before you make the change from HeartGard Plus, consider that if your dogs contract heartworms while continuously on HeartGard that the mfg. Merial will pay for the treatment your dogs will need. Your Vet can provide proof your dogs have been on the Heartgard continuously.............


Best , oldhounddog
Thanks. I have switched vets this week as well and at the old vet one of the technicians has been helpful but the vet himself has not.
I've been slightly emotional about the whole situation but I've requested copies of all of my vet records and also a transfer of records to the new vet.
I have always purchased Heartgard Plus from the vet as well and I have all the records which show a very consistent purchase history.
At first, one of the vet techs was really rude to me about my dog which deceased and explained to me how he could see on my records I hadn't been keeping up with his Heartgard plus purchases. However, I had 4 dogs at the vet and 3 the same weight class so it wasn't always filed to him. Also, even one of the 26-50lb doses was listed under my one dog who is 90lbs. Not good recordkeeping on their behalf.
I have contacted Merial as well and they will not talk with me at all. They say everything has to go through the vet and he has not been in a hurry to help. He also told me that my new vet is bogus and lies to people about heartworm positive tests so they can get the money from treatment.

All of my dogs were treated with Heartgard plus on Friday, Nov 25th but one of them still showed microfilariae in her blood on Monday, Nov 28th. That is scary because that would mean it didn't take at all with her (swallow possibility or vomit) or that the heartworm was surviving the Heartgard plus as well (i.e., resistance).

Thanks to everyone for kind words and helpful advice.
 

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ultrarunner ,

Try not to let everything build up on you as it will not help. I know your feeling about the HW problems well as I had similar problems with Vets being a little independent/distant. I had two dogs last year very close together with serious cases of HW , both dogs with heavy loads of adult HW. The Vet is the one that told me that the HeartGard if not chewed would not deliver the full dose of HW prevention meds.

I always say that you will know in your gut when you have a good Vet............

I located a Vet about 60 miles from me that used the new progressive slow kill protocol as I was really worried about treatment options with a heavy load of HW.

Both dogs have been treated and all is good at this point..

Good Luck with whatever you do.



Best , oldhounddog
 
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