aka Chicken Nugget
On December 31, 2018, before getting ready for a night out on the town partying and ringing in the New Year, "D-Bo" was dropped off at the Garland Animal Shelter by the person(s) who were supposed to love him and care for him forever. Just passed off his leash and continued about their day.
The shelter vet guessed him to be about 10 years old.
He was clearly not well cared for. He was emaciated, you could see his ribs and spine, his nails long, teeth black and he was still intact. I just knew when I saw this sweet boy's intake photo, it was only a matter of time before the shelter ran his blood work and announced that he was also heartworm positive. In my mind, there was no way that a person(s) that let him get this bad of shape had him on preventatives.
For 6 days, we begged and pleaded for a foster so that we could save this boy. He had too many "strikes" against him for us to assume he was safe from being euthanized in the crowed shelter that kills for space.
Finally, one of our volunteers said she would make room for him. We just had to do whatever we could to get him out and safe. We made arrangements to pick him up that Sunday, January 6, 2019, we feared if we did not get him that day, there would be no tomorrow for him.
He was SO HAPPY to get in the car and out of the shelter. Not affectionate, but thankful. I examined what I could of his condition in the parking lot at the shelter before leaving. He was very skinny and dehydrated. His teeth were stained, his nose extremely dry, cracked and scabbed, and his nails were so long that his toes could not rest flat on the ground. His eyes though. You could see his sweet soul! Even in his shape, you could see all the love he wanted to give the right person. We decided to name him Maverick.
We had an event that day and went straight there after leaving the shelter. He was so calm and well mannered. He sat in his crate and just watched everyone. He was excited to be out.
The very next morning, we got him in to our vet for xrays and blood work. We were told he had a heart murmur and xrays showed an extremely large heart. His blood work came back with levels all over the charts, but his kidney and liver values were both exceptionally high. He was dehydrated so he stayed the rest of the day receiving IV fluids, then went back the entire next day for more.
We started Maverick on 30 days of doxycycline to kill the microfilaria, (baby heartworms), in his blood stream so that once completed, we could start him on heartworm treatment.
Once his 30 days of medication was complete, we went for a check up with full confidence that we were going to start treatment and kick heartworm butt. Our hearts shattered when the vet told us that his condition had gotten worse. He was in early stages of congestive heart failure and there were faint spots on his lungs now, also caused by the worms. The options the vet discussed with us that day were; A. Let him live his life out (the vet guessed 2 months with no treatment), or B. Treat the worms by removing them surgically.
Scared that he would not be strong enough to be sedated and determined to give him every chance possible, we spoke to other vets for a second and third opinion(s).
Maverick does not know that he is sick. In fact, he thinks of himself a young, healthy puppy. A stranger would never know that he is sick by his actions. If it were up to him, he'd be running and playing with everyone who would give him attention. He WANTS to live. He had come so far with himself and others in a matter of weeks. He learned trust and confidence. He even started to accept love and returns affection.
Finally, we decided on the three injection protocol recommended by the American Heartworm Society. This includes three, deep intramuscular injections of melarsomine spread out over 31 days. Following the 30 days of doxycycline, the first injection is given following 30 days of strict crate rest. On day 31, the dog goes in for shot #2 and 24 hours later, #3, followed by another 30 days of restrictions. This protocol kills more than 98 percent of worms in a known and controlled period of times. The worms are eliminated quickly and the progression of the disease stops. Of course with this there can be risks and complications, but the risks of this route weighed out to be not AS high as the surgery.
We made the appointment. February 21st was the day. We were excited and nervous as the day grew closer. The night before he went in, we made the decision that no matter how long Maverick had left, he was going to spend it with the family he grew to know and love as his own. We decided his forever home was with us. Marleigh officially had a brother.
That morning was exciting for Maverick. He loves car rides! We got to the vet, and his good friend, and first foster was there to see him!! It was awesome! We had a room at the vet's office and everyone was camped out with blankets, lovin on him and giving him SO MUCH ATTENTION! We tried to hide our worry from him. It was very hard. Maverick is super smart and he really had a hold of our hearts, as well as so many that had never even met him. So many doubts ran through my head that I almost changed my mind, but we knew that he was a fighter with a reason to fight, and this was his only chance of living a long(er) life, filled with all the love he deserves.
It was time. We were called out of our private room, just myself and Maverick. They were wonderful and allowed me in there to help keep him calm. We muzzled him as a precaution because the injection is a painful one and dogs must stay completely still while the medication is being administered so that it is done so correctly. Maverick took it like a champ. I was so proud of him, but that turned back to worry almost instantly as I knew that there was no turning back at this point. All we could do is wait, hope and believe in him.
The next few hours we did not really know what to expect. We all sat in the room with Maverick, but he could not get comfortable. He panted and continuously re-positioned himself. No matter what we did, we could not get him comfortable.
Finally after about 3 hours he seemed more relaxed. He was no longer panting and he was lying down falling asleep. It was time to load him up and go home and hope we could get him comfortable again there pretty quickly.
Thankfully he settled well once at home. He hated being crated, but he accepted it.
At 4 am, Maverick's nose started bleeding. It stopped before even getting him to the car but we took him to the emergency vet to have him checked. His exam was normal so we went home. That morning we contacted the vet who did his treatment and he said to continue to monitor and added more prednisone to his list of medication.
All went well after. Here and there just a few more minor nose bleeds, but they were easily controlled and stopped within 3 to 5 minutes.
Exactly 2 weeks to the day of his treatment, we woke up to him in his crate with an AWFUL nosebleed. This time nothing like the others. Every time he
exhaled his spat blood all over and it was coming out in sheets. He also passed what appeared to be 2 worms through his nose. He was taken to his regular vet where he was again examined and had blood work done. I was afraid that he had lost alot of blood, but thankfully his red count was normal, and his white was a bit high, which was ok because that is what was needed to fight and break up they dying worms. He stayed for a few hours for observation. He again had a nose bleed when taken out for a break, but it was like the times before, minimal and controlled quickly.
It has now been more than a month since his first injection and we are doing more tests and trying to get him in the best shape we can before deciding to do the final 2 shots. At this point, we are just not sure with the nose bleeds, if we should continue. His nose bleeds have been occurring still, here and there, but light and controlled. Most times it is when he is asleep that it starts.
Although the melarsomine is now out of his system and the worms that it reached are dead, his treatment is not complete and we are still limiting Maverick's activity. He truly believes he is a puppy. I wish that he could run and play like he wants to at times, but with the condition of his heart it is still too risky. In the mean time, he is enjoying all the snuggles and love we can give him!