My 7 year old lab Tenchu is the love of my life and he is heartworm positive…His first injection is scheduled for Friday March 15th and I am scared to death!!!
This week I’m starting a multi-part post that will follow a new patient who’s been diagnosed with heartworm. Tenchu is a shiny, vital Labrador Retriever in the prime of life, though he’s got some hitchhikers in his heart. I saw him instead on March 15th, and will bring you along for the ride as I work to cure him of these worms, using only homeopathy and some nutritional support.
Heartworm dogs don’t scare me. I’ve cured probably a dozen over the years, never needing the toxic drugs so commonly used by conventional vets.
Tenchu wasn’t always such a shiny guy. He’d spent his first few years with Scherry’s son before coming to live with Scherry. Like so many dogs, he lived on grocery store kibble and, um, occasional bacon grease and fast food.
Three years ago, he ran into hard times.
Scherry’s own words:
I rarely use allopathic medicine myself, why would I think it appropriate for animals? So I started taking matters into my own hands three years ago when he started losing weight and vomiting for no apparent reason. Thousands of dollars and many funky meds later my dear friend was not much better. Some symptoms were gone, but then there were suddenly new symptoms to deal with. Hair loss, diarrhea, yeasty ears, itchy skin, a small tumor on his side, and gingivitis. Oh boy.
After some research, Tenchu was helped by a healthy diet change and a cessation of vaccinations. Since reading this blog over the past few months, Scherry made the switch to Wysong’s Epigen and shakes on AddLife for its enzymes and probiotics, and he gets raw food added to that, and raw meaty bones and purified water. Nice, right? Her goal is to eventually feed him 100% raw, balanced food, recognizing his ancestral digestive system’s needs.
Fear Rears its Ugly Head
Like many, Scherry got scared after the diagnosis. Worms? In his heart??!
They tell me that heartworm will kill dogs if left untreated. His bloodwork came back good, and x rays showed a little congestion in the heart/lung and his heart was very slightly enlarged. I feel like fear of the unknown and fear of heartworm being a fatal disease has kept me on this narrow and harrowing path with allopathy and I just wish that I knew for sure what is best for him right now.
He’d nearly finished a 30 day course of doxycycline and was facing his first injection with arsenic to kill the adult worms.
Who had him on this course? Another “holistic vet” in town, the second of two who used that term, and who Scherry had consulted with before me. Holistic. Hmmm. I’d love to hear the definition they use. Some far fetched ones I’ve heard in the past defined holistic as, “Anything that works!”
As you know if you’ve explored my take on being a holistic veterinarian, it takes more than using drugs sometimes and natural products or acupuncture sometimes. It takes looking at and treating the Whole Dog, and that’s what set me to asking lots of questions of Scherry, so I could treat Tenchu constitutionally with homeopathic medicine appropriate to him.
Here’s what I learned, from digging in his original vet records.
When he was 6 months old Tenchu had the usual “wham bam thank you ma’am,” steer-in-a-chute processing. He was brought in to be neutered, and that happened, but at the same time, likely while under anesthesia, he was vaccinated for the following:
- Kennel cough (aka Bordetella)
On top of it all, he was sent home on ivermectin, to prevent heartworm.
That’s a load of vaccines, general anesthesia, and surgery, and he went home with a pesticide and a pain killer.
As you know, having read about the safety issues of being vaccinated, we’d expect the next shoe to drop in about a month, right? His doctor’s notes, on the same day he had all this done, said, “no reactions to vaccines or medications.” Yeah. Not yet.
Wait for it.
It took him a bit longer, perhaps, at least until he saw the vet again, with… (are you guessing with what complaint? hint: commonest of all)
“Skin problems, losing hair.” Vet records 09-11-07. “Skin on rump area is very dry and flaky. Moderate (itchiness).”
He was suppressed with a sulphur/salicyclic acid shampoo (boo), but also received EFA’s (yay!).
A month later, “infected ears.” “Shaking head for 3 weeks. Right ear swollen.”
The blame was put on the organism they found in the ear: yeast.
[I see another blog post coming… The yeast was there secondary to the inflammation of the ears, brought on by allergies, brought on by the greatest detriment to a healthy immune system we know of: vaccinations. For another day. Sigh.]
Kill it! Suppress that Inflammation!!
Tenchu, like so many who end up in a conventional vet’s clinic, came out with suppressant drugs: a powerful steroid (betamethasone), a powerful antibiotic (gentamicin) and an anti-fungal (clotrimazole), all in combination in an ear ointment. And Revolution (groan: a kill-everything-on-or-inside-your-dog topical tube: kills fleas! heartworm! hookworms! roundworms! ticks! ear mites! You name it, we aim to kill it!).
I’ll put a bookmark in his history here. You can see the roots of his illness now. We’ll come back to his “holistic vet” treatment later.
Meeting My Patient
From spending about 90’ with him and his owner, I could see I had a vital animal to work with. Scherry, taking things in her own hands by feeding him a better diet and stopping the vaccines, had transformed him. He had heartworms, yes, but he was not sick, that was apparent.
Here’s what I gleaned for symptoms that he’d made so far. His symptom list tells me what he was capable of, and starts me on the path to finding remedies to cure him.
- Vomiting intermittently in past, long after eating; once vomited blood clots; now none.
- Ears waxy, yeasty odor, fine now.
- Skin itchy, 6-7 level (if 10 is non-stop), with feet licking now 9/10.
- Bare spot on his lower chest, long standing; thin hair in his arm pits.
- Bumps and lumps now, and one cancerous, removed from his left hip (oh oh, this may be more serious than his heartworm…).
- Stools good, but frequent: 3-4 daily.
- Sweet, excitable, friendly to me, but he’d attacked a couple of dogs, with no provocation, rushing them from a distance.
- Lots of noisy “dreams,” twitching, growling, moaning, more in the past 6 months.
- He did okay in heat, but really came alive in cold weather.
So, I had several things to work with. His skin bugged him, he was having wild dreams (Nightmares? Perhaps.), frequent BM’s, parasites in his heart, and, most importantly, he’d had a malignancy removed (gulp, the disease is still there, though the “fruit” of it was tossed in the trash).
But, to Scherry’s credit, here was a shiny, ebullient dog, who had a sweet smelling, shiny coat and hadn’t been bathed for 6 months! She’d turned around his vomiting and yeasty ears through a lot of careful dietary work (hint: yeast loves carbs, and they were taken out of his diet).
I felt he had a good vital force and a fighting chance to get back on his mid-life game.
He got a single dose of a vaccinosis remedy known for starting chronic disease treatment, itchy skin, suppressed disease, and loving coolness: Sulphur 10M, given by mouth, and Tenchu was released under Scherry’s close scrutiny to see what changes he’d show. We’ll check his response together next week, after 3 weeks of watching and keeping a diary.
I’ll let you know how he did after I learn of his progress. I have every confidence he will leave the class of “heartworm dogs” far behind, and without resorting to arsenic.