Trust Me, Don't Get Caught...

When you go to the Vet, they always tell you same thing and if you read the box the same thing is said, but many people make the same mistake and go against their better judgment and think that they are smarter than the scientist that poured countless of hours and millions of dollars into developing a product that will keep death away from your dog.
I am talking about something that hit very close to home with one of our dogs.  Doc was found to have heartworms on a routine test that was performed on our dogs this spring.  When the news came back, I was devastated, to say the least.  When I worked for a Vet, the chances were a lot slimmer that a dog would make it if heartworms were discovered.  I remember once asking the Vet I worked for why is it so bad and he said, “You poison the blood to kill the heartworms” and nearly the same thing is true today.  It has been refined some, but you have to kill the worms.  Dog get heartworms from mosquitos and I take every precaution because I don’t ever want to go through this again.  For nearly 3 months, Doc had to be kept quite and is not only is the treatment very dangerous it is also very expensive.  When we were just starting to go through it the treatment, as usual, I researched it and made many calls to the manufacture of the preventive medicine and to the maker of the treatment medication too.   

Purchase from a Vet or a reputable online pharmacy, not a discount supply house and you Must have a prescription.
Give the medication ALL year long.  Just because mosquitoes are not present, doesn’t mean they aren’t around.
If you are a standing customer and the dog had the yearly test, chances are the manufacturer will cover the cost of the treatment.
Give the medication ALL year long.  Just because mosquitos are not present, doesn’t mean they aren’t around.
 And the most important statement is if you don’t treat in the winter months you WILL NOT kill the microfilaria (newborn children of the adult heartworm) if they are infected and when you start back up in the spring, they have grown and will not be killed by monthly prevention.
My protocol has changed on treatment because of this,

Give EVERY month
Watch the dog when you give it.  Don’t let them go back to playing where they can throw up and lose the dose.  I put mine in the kennel for one hour so I can make sure it stays down.
Purchase from your Vet.  If you use a bargain treatment and it fails, the money you spent on treatment could supply all the dogs in the neighborhood. 

Heartworm Removal Video 

Below is some scientific info on the subject put together by Karen Newhall.  Please read it and trust me, it can happen and did here on the farm.

Heartworm Disease – what is it?
Heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) are found in more than 30 species of animals as well as humans.  They have been identified in species such as coyotes, foxes, wolves, other wild canids, domestic cats, wild felids, ferrets and even sea lions, however, the dog is considered the primary host for heartworm, meaning that it is in the dog where the heartworm reaches maturity and is able to sexually reproduce.  Heartworm larvae (immature stage) are transmitted between hosts by mosquitos.  When a mosquito infected with heartworm larvae bites a dog, the larvae are transmitted into the dog’s blood stream and begin to migrate throughout the body while maturing.  They end up as sexually mature heartworms in the heart and lungs.  Here, they begin to reproduce and the females release offspring called microfilariae into the circulating blood supply of the host (your dog).  Heartworm cannot be spread between mammals without first going through the mosquito.
The initial population of adult heartworms living in a dog resides in the arteries of the lower lobes of the lungs.  As the population continues to grow and mature, adult heartworms can be found in the right chamber of the heart.  In cases with extremely high numbers of adult heartworms present, worms can be found in the caudal vena cava, which is the primary vein of the lower body.  When worms are present here, they must be removed surgically due to the likelihood of sudden death caused by an embolism which can occur within a few days.  The presence of worms in these major organs will cause inflammation in the heart, lungs and arteries around these organs.  The heart will begin to enlarge and congested heart failure will likely develop over time.  Dogs that lead a very active lifestyle such as working/herding breeds that are infected with heartworms will likely develop a more severe disease state with fewer heartworms present than a less active dog. This is due to the need for greater heart and lung capacity needed for an active lifestyle.
Heartworm Prevention – why and how
The best methods to ensure you and your dog never have to go through the devastating results of being heartworm positive; PREVENTION is truly the best medicine.  Dogs have been tested positive for heartworm infections in all 50 states.  There are many products on the market that are highly effective for the prevention of heartworm disease.  There are both oral and injectable products that have to be dosed daily, monthly or even every six months.  You should consult with your veterinarian on which product is best for your dog, ideally, your dog should be tested for heartworm disease prior to starting a preventative program.  Most prevention products currently on the market will effectively kill the heartworm larvae that are transmitted by mosquitos, therefore preventing mature heartworms to develop in the dog.
The most important part of administering heartworm prevention products is complying with the label directions given by the manufacturer of the product.  You should not only talk to your veterinarian but also carefully read the product insert so that you understand how the medicine should be given and potential adverse effects associated with the product.  Heartworm prevention is recommended to be done year round by most practitioners and the American Heartworm Society.  In most climates there can be mosquito hatches every month of the year and therefore your dog is at risk of being infected.  Additionally, some products will actually continue to prevent disease if you are late or even miss a dose provided you have reliably dosed your dogs on a monthly basis for at least three consecutive months, consider year round dosing an insurance policy in disease prevention for the life of your pet.
Heartworm testing – why, when and how
There are many thoughts and opinions on the frequency of heartworm testing dogs.  You should always follow the advice of your veterinarian; they are the trained professional and have an established relationship with your dog.  Generally, it is a good idea to have your veterinarian test your dog during your annual wellness visit to the clinic, but minimally, you should test your dog prior to initiating or changing preventatives.  If you missed one or more doses of heartworm preventatives during the year, it is imperative that you have your dog tested for heartworm the following year.
There are two types of heartworm tests available, one detects antigens and the second detects antibodies, both are simple blood tests.  The antibody test has been used for decades and detects antibodies that the dog’s body is producing in response to the presence of adult heartworms.  The antigen test is most commonly used now and detects a protein in the heartworm that causes an immune response in the body.  The antigen test can detect an infection of one or more mature female heartworms that are at least seven to eight months old.  They cannot detect infections of less than five months in duration.  A veterinarian can also test for the presence of microfilariae in the bloodstream of a dog, these will only be present if adult heartworms are also present and can be detected six to seven months after a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito.  This is due to the life cycle of the heartworm; a mosquito will pass the larvae into the bloodstream of the dog which then takes many months to develop into a sexually mature worm that is able to produce microfilariae.  This is why it is important to test your dog for heartworm annually, especially if you are not 100% certain that all doses of prevention were given at the same time of every month, year round.
There are four main phases in the lifecycle of a heartworm: microfilaria, larva, juvenile worm and adult worm.

Heartworm Positive – what and how
A positive heartworm test will determine that your dog was not only been bitten by an infected mosquito, but that sufficient time has passed and the heartworm larvae was able to develop into sexually mature worms over a period of 6-7 months.  It is possible for a dog to test positive to heartworm while on prevention products, this is because the preventative will only control larvae and not microfilariae or adults.  If you routinely stop preventative administration during the winter, larvae transferred from infected mosquitoes to your dog late in the season will have ample time to develop into mature and reproducing adult heartworms before you re-initiate your prevention program in the spring. 
Treatment for heartworm – what, how, why and risks
Your veterinarian will discuss treatment options with you along with associated costs and risks.  There is only one product available commercially for the treatment of adult heartworm infestations, Immiticide®, this compound is a form of arsenic and can have severe adverse side effects, it is not always readily available and it is expensive, however, it is the only treatment option available.  It is injected deep into the muscles of the lower back twice, 24 hours apart and typically repeated four months later. 
A secondary part of treatment that your veterinarian may consider is treating for Wolbachia infection.  Wolbachia is a genus of richettsial organism and is similar to a bacteria; they live inside of adult heartworms.  Wolbachia organisms are not fully understood, but they seem to provide a protective and beneficial effect for the adult heartworms.  Treating the dog with the antibiotic doxycycline will kill Wolbachia and seem to also sterilize the female heartworms, preventing them from reproducing.  Wolbachia is also thought to be involved in the embolism and shock that result when heartworms die.  Doxycycline treatment is typically prescribed for four weeks prior to Immiticide® treatment and is relatively inexpensive and considered safe.   Be sure to discuss this treatment addition with your veterinarian!

There are severe complications that can occur following Immiticide® treatment that need to be monitored for.  Typically the attending veterinarian will keep the dog they are treating for several days during and after treatment to ensure the best outcomes are possible.  The most serious complication is the development of severe pulmonary thromboembolism.  This is caused by presence of dead heartworm fragments and lesions caused by the living heartworms and inflammation in the arteries and capillaries of the lungs.  Some degree of pulmonary thromboembolism will occur following the treatment process, it is important to keep the dog very quiet to minimize these embolisms and the effects of them.  Clinical signs associated with treatment include fever, cough, and sudden death.

Home is where your Dog is…

On September 7, 2009 a little red/white puppy was born in Kentucky and on October 24th of that same year, his “official” name-tag was ordered before he came home but his name was changed from “Ringo” to “Shepherd James” and it's after me, just like “Clancy James.”  
Shepherd James at his breeder
On November 6, 2009 “Sheppie” came home forever, I thought…
In June of 2011 on the 6th day of the month, as a car pulled down our lane, I sat on the steps of our back porch and held Shepp and cried like a child.  
When the man, who was a retired military officer got out of the car, he stopped and waited for me to compose myself which took longer than I thought, but he understood and waited.  My life had been devastated.  Here is an email I sent out just a few days earlier to my dog people…

It is with great sadness that I write this email..... Beyond our control, we need to find "Shepard James" or "Shepp" (to most of you), a forever home. After much thought and trying every way to make this work, it just won't. Let me explain. Several years ago, we wanted to expand into Red dogs. After we picked up Meg, we needed a suitable mate for her. After much Internet searching and phone calls we found our perfect dog, which was Shepp. Since that time, we have been trying to have Red pups with no success. He would do the deed, but it never took. Last week he went to a fertility specialist in Kentucky and the results were heartbreaking, he was sterile. This is not the problem, we would gladly keep him if that was the only issue. Because he has no testosterone, he is at the bottom of the pack and is getting picked on. It has started a little and it will get worse as time goes on. Even the girls will dominate him. The only solution is to find him a home where there are not so many hormones running around all the time. He can be with other dogs just not so many, and my wish would be that he would be with another one of our dogs, so that is why I am only letting all my dog owners know.

I am not looking for just a home to take him, I am looking for a forever home to love him. If you know me, you also know I am passionate about my dogs.
There has been a lot of thought and discussion at home about this and it is not an easy decision. The hard decisions never are...I love him too much not to let him live his life in peace.
This photo was taken 10 minutes before he went to his new home
Shepp went to his new home and I was left to think and I did.  In my heart I knew I was wrong.  I received a lot of support but several people weren’t so kind and nothing could be said that I didn’t know.  It was the worst decision I have ever made and I beat myself up relentlessly and still do at times.  On November 20, 2011, Elaine and I went to see Shepp at his new home and here is the last paragraph of that blog…

After some good conversation, it was time to go, I just felt it. We all walked toward our car except Shepp. Oh how I wanted him to jump in the car, but he didn't  He stopped with his owner and sat down next to him, just inside the garage and I swear I saw Shepp lean into “him” as if saying to us, “I’m OK, Thank You Dad”.
At his new home during our visit
As hard as it was to leave, I’m happy because Shepp is happy. Goodbye old Friend, I’ll never, never, forget you……I will tell you, it was a long trip back home. Give your dog a hug, we hugged ours, that night……every single one of them, except Shepp...

I never did forget him and even said goodbye to him in my Christmas blogs every year and I knew I would never see him again.  I pestered his owner with emails, some never returned, but I selfishly wanted to know more which was unfair.  I found an old email that had a cell number and I called, and his owner answer.  My heart raced but I need to know he was OK.  They were great and he was moving the family to a southern state to take care of family.  Shepp was going even further, my little Sheppie would be gone forever and I knew it…

An email, July 13, 2014…
I know it's been a long time since we've been in touch.  Shepp is doing well; however, we are not.  Last November we had to move due to family’s health.  We find ourselves in the position to find another home for him.  The weather down here has been an issue for him (he hates the heat!) and the daily thunderstorms are wreaking havoc with his nervous system.  We loathe having to give him the tablets the vet said to use.
We have come to this decision with VERY heavy hearts and of course you all were are first thought.  Please let me know as soon as possible if you would be able to take Shepp back into the fold.

As fast as I could, I hit reply, “Yes” I said and three days later, I was meeting a man that I was three years earlier.  A person who couldn’t speak without a whimper, but I understood so well and waited.  His life had been devastated.  As I looked inside his vehicle, my little Sheppie wagged his tail, picked up his squeaker ball and walked to me putting his head on my chest.  I said “I’m so sorry” Very few words were said because they didn’t need to be said.  His basket full of toys were with him and we went “home” but a retired detective and career military man were in tears.
One day later, his new name tag was ordered and when I pulled his records up on the computer, his old one were still there and I just re-ordered it and a new kennel plaque is in the works.  It’s funny how life works out at times.
Clancy and Shepp
Things are good now because Clancy and the girls have been neutered and spayed and the young ones pay no mind to him except to play…

Thanks to the owners that took such great care of “both of our dog,” Shepp ,and I will forever be indebted to you and your family for loving him and sending me the email.  Sometimes things happen for a reason and people come into our life and help each other with something we don't understand.

Many years from now...

“Hey…who is that?” someone said at Rainbow Bridge “Shepp, I thought your earthly owner was here with you!”  Shepp spoke up, “I’m one of the lucky ones, you see, I had two families that loved me with all their heart”…as he pranced to greet them with his squeaker ball…

Notes and comments from friends…
Good things always come to those who wait and I know there are more good times to come and when things come full circle it was meant to be.
…Shepp left yesterday and I am just beside myself.  I think what bothers me the most is that Shepp has never done anything wrong.  This was my only choice.  We tried so hard to make it work, but it wouldn't. 
…He must have been a great friend. Always ready to do what YOU wanted. Always trying to make YOU happy.  Well, you have done something to make HIM happy. He may even develop some protective instincts for his new family left alone to his own devices.
…Time is a mysterious cure for these situations. Just when you think you can never recover, something happens with a loved one that brings you out of your introspection and sense of loss. I have made my peace that I’ll never get over losing my border collie. My memories of her are like a collection of rare art. At any time, no matter where I am, these memories can be summoned and I’ll go on a little tour of part of our life together. Shepp will be in this place for you. Plus you can still see him if that is what you want.
Something tells me he would meet you at the end of the driveway.
… Before Shepp left, we spend time together and just did guy things.  I would look into his face and it killed me a thousand times.  When the family came to get him, as always, Shepp ran to them, just like he knew them.  I broke down and cried like a child, but I didn't care.  It was truly the hardest thing I ever did.  Last night when I was putting all the dogs up, I called the dogs and most went in as they always do and I couldn't find Shepp, and then I remembered.....At times I feel like my heart will explode, 
I do know it was the right decision, but it sucks.....

An post I never thoght I'd write,
Welcome home Sheppie…  Dad
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So Near...

So Near…
Does it ever stop?…This past Monday, I was getting ready to take Annie to meet Elaine for Annie’s training, and as I was putting Annie in the back seat, Clancy and Doc were also wanting to get in the car and take a ride.  Because it would be a distraction for Annie, they had to stay home and watch the girls at home.  After telling and watching them to get back on the porch, I got in the car and slowly backed up.  After moving about three feet, I heard an awful yelp and felt a bump and KNEW what had happened, I just didn’t know who it was… As fast as I could jumped out of the car, I did.
After Doc’s Heartworm scare, he and I became buddies.  I guess I felt a little sorry for him because his life had been uprooted and has lived in three different states, but he was finally home.  He had fit in nicely and was part of our pack.  Just last week, “just the two of us” were playing on the driveway and I was also talking baby “dog” talk and he was jumping and prancing and giving me kisses.  I do this with all the dogs but this was the first time Elaine had watched me, and from the porch she said “You really love him, don’t you”, “Of course I do” I said, “he’s special, but I also do this with all the dogs” and that very night, Doc got to come inside and watch TV with us and lay on my lap and every night thus far, he expects to come in and he has.  He learned the routine and would jump on the couch and flop over, putting his palls up in the air with half of his 45 pound body on the couch and the other half on me.  I at least got the “head” end where he would drift off to sleep with his mouth open just a little, showing his white teeth and dreaming of great times.  I would rub his lips and brush over his face and he would be oblivious to my touch, but I was not, and it was very comforting to me.  Last week, and in just a few days, we bonded even more.  I don’t know why, except that in my heart, I feel sorry for him going through the pain and medication and not being able to run with the pack but watching from the porch and he was a prince about it while he healed from the Heartworm treatment.  It has happened thousands of times and many times it occurs when you least expect it, and the worst tragedy is when it could be a family member and he was…
As I first jumped out of the car my heart was in my throat and knew what to expect, I saw one of the dogs on the porch and as I looked back at the rear wheel, I saw blond hair on the driveway and knew…Doc had been run over.
As I looked around and even under the car, he had moved and when I looked toward the porch, he was quickly headed that same way.  “DOC” I screamed and ran toward him, “What were you doing?” as I touched and rubbing his chest and legs. His eyes looked normal and were reactive and no blood was visible, anywhere.  I extended his legs and checked for movement and breaks and saw nothing but several skinned spots, all in all, he was fine except a little scared.  I immediately gave him a Rimadyl and he took it for any swelling that may occur but he seemed fine.
Right after putting them on the porch before the accident, Doc decided to lay on the driveway and in just a few seconds, he was on a road to destruction for both of us.   At least 7 of our pups that have left and grown up have been hit by a car and killed, one even in the driveway by a UPS truck.  Dogs don’t experience fear like we do and we need to be aware of it and watch for them.  Was there something I could have done?  I don’t know, but I will tell you, I will give this much thought and plan a course of action.  Last year, My Vet was talking to me and he stated that he once ran over his dog.   Lord knows we’ve been lucky, Dutchess will run toward the cars that come in, once jumping on the car but usually looking for food inside and they all will swarm the cars that visit because they know they will get to play.

Later that evening, after everyone was put up, Doc was waiting on the porch because he loves to stay out, but this night, as I opened the back door, he pranced in and jumped on his end of the couch.  As I sat down on the other end, he walked to my lap and flop over, putting his palls up in the air with half of his 45 pound body on the couch and the other half on me with his mouth open just a little, showing his white teeth and dreaming of great times… and it was…

How lucky we are, I love you Doc…Dad…
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They Played Hard...

We've been around dogs for a long time and at times it seems just like yesterday and sometime a lifetime.  A lot of people enjoy the dogs and being around them but they never know the behind the scenes activity we can have.   This year has been especially busy with dogs that needed to be kept quiet and with BC's it's hard.  In the past, we have had our share of injuries and the one that really got to me, was when Meggie ran into several 6" 3/8 inch steel prongs on a fence right in front of me and collapsed, impaling herself on them.

As I sit here writing, I think of all the things they have gotten into.  Pulling a toenail out and that's pretty gross, lots of bleeding and nothing you can do, breaking a toe is a lot cleaner but requires a cast.  Surgeries are never easy, especially if they are not planned as most are not and it seems like I have been at the Vet’s office more after hours than when they were open, but at least, there is no waiting.  
It always seems like when an emergency comes up and I look at the clock, the Vet has been closed for at least 15 minutes.  Twice, I did get hold of someone in the office and said “I’m on the way” and they waited and I think they understand because that too is a Border Collie thing too.
As I said, this year has been especially busy with odd things that happened.  First, there was Clancy running and brushing his side on a stick, which required two surgeries.
Doc who had Heartworms and was treated, and just this very day, we are nursing Dutchess who has a large cut on her leg along with Meggie who is recovering from a hurt front paw from extensive running and playing.  

All in all, we have excellent Vet care and would trust our Vets impeccable but the problem lies in the recovery with all the dogs.  Clancy was restricted for three weeks, Doc for 10 weeks and Dutchess for who knows long because she was not stitched up and her wound will heal on its own which could be as long as 6 weeks or better.  This would not be as bad if we only had one dog but when we exercise the pack or play ball, the restricted dog can hear us and wants to join in.  It’s very hard to restrict them, especially when they don't understand what you're doing is for their own good.  They do get more attention by being in the house and sleeping on the bed nearly every night. 

If you have been through this, you know precisely what I mean but a lot has to do with the activity level they have.  If you have ever seen this herd of horses run over the dam or through the woods you would wonder why they aren't hurt even more because they are driven.  I once had a person watching our dogs play because he was interested in getting a border collie and after about twenty minutes, he thanked me for my time but decided not to get a BC, he didn't think her could put up with the activity.  They are non stopping, no slowing and preventing them to do the things they are bred and want to is very hard.  If you knows BC’s, you know they are driven in many areas, but when the mean old man puts the cone of shame on, the bandage on your leg, the fun stops…Sorry Dutchess… At the end of any day, they can say “We played Hard” and it shows...
Footnote:  I could be a millionaire if only I could invent something that they can’t get off their body and lick the wound…Ken

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