Heartworm Treatment in Dogs
Complicated by Tick Borne Illness Co Infections

This page is dedicated to rescue Pointer, Loren and rescue Setter, Wally-- may you both be resting in peace.


With the high incidence of tick borne disease in our heartworm positive rescue birddog population- Illinois Birddog Rescue had to come up with a better, safer treatment option that didnít include cyanide poison being injected into these animals already suffering from liver and kidney trauma. The Heartworm SLOW KILL Method was the answer- used by many vets across the country and many of our attending vets have been pleasantly surprised at the results!

STEP ONE: BLOODWORK; Complete Blood Count & Chemistry, IDEXX 371 IFA Serology to look for Ehrlichia, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Heartworm Antigen to confirm Heartworm antibodies. Fecal and deworm. Start weight appropriate Heartguard or Iverheart to start killing microfilaria (repeat every 2 weeks) and treat with weight appropriate doxycycline for suspected tick borne disease and to weaken the adult worms. No exercise restriction. No long term cage confinement. NO STEROIDS!!!!

STEP TWO: Depending on what antibodies for tick borne disease show up, consider adding additional antibiotics- amoxicillin for Lyme disease, baytril or cipro for Ehrlichia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever infections along with the doxycycline. If first 371 tick panel is negative continue with twice a month heartguard and doxy and REPEAT the 371 at the 2 month mark. Usually 2 months of antibiotics is enough to boost the dogís immune system and follow up 371 may reveal low troubling titers for co infections but may not reveal all. Best to wait until the dog is on antibiotics for at least 2 months before considering spay or neuter. A follow up CBC/Chem would be recommended before any surgery and compared with the first set of blood work.

STEP THREE: Continue with the twice a month Heartguard/Iverheart and antibiotics for the next 8-16 months or however long it takes to get a negative heartworm result. We like to repeat the Heartworm antigen every 6 months and many dogs are negative under a year most under 18 months. However- the tick borne diseases may not be curable so follow up 371 screening along with annual CBC/Chems are highly recommended for the long term health of the pet. Some follow up 371ís may also reveal hiding diseases so best to swtich up antibiotics to be more affective. We have placed many dogs into foster to adopt with this method.

Lisa's Disclaimer- I am not a DVM, but in 15 years of dog rescue, I have seen the best the veterinary community has to offer and the worst. The last 15 years in pet rescue has been quite the education and I publish pages like this one to offer a better alternative to the horrible Immiticide/cyanide based treatment protocol many vets promote. Most vets are not aware that the IDEXX 4DX or Antech Accuplex snap test misses most tick borne infections. The thoughtful care in treating these dogs with hearts full of worms besides several tick borne diseases that are attacking their internal organs besides- has to be taken into consideration. Once the adult worms are dead and gone-- the tick borne disease issue persists. Since we started slow kill-- we don't have to rush dogs to the ER post injections and we are not dealing with some of the psychotic behavior episodes many of these dogs go through post Immitide treatment. The steroid injection used in combination with the Immiticide treatment lowers the dog's immune system and that is part of the problem. The best thing about slow kill is we can move these dogs into foster to adopt where we can monitor their care while they are in the loving arms of their new families.

We are very grateful for the support of our attending vets to help us get the good lab work and antibiotics to help these dogs in our program. We are also grateful to our foster homes and foster to adopt homes that help these dogs recover.

IBR's Slow Kill Method Flyer

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Four New Heartworm Disease Dogs Need Your Help!!

All 4 of these sweet girls were going to be killed in over crowed shelters in Illinois and Southern Indiana. All are just so sweet but their health has been neglected and to help them get better will take hundreds of dollars. Depending how long Daisy has being 13 years old, she will be in the slow kill program the rest of her life. Our new little beagle Charlotte also has mammary cancer we are fundraising for. We know when we take these dogs into our program that we will have to fund raise our butts off and we are asking you once again for your support. Any donation no matter how big or small would be appreciated.


SLOW KILL TREATMENT IN PROGRESS


Wilbur is a Treeing Walker Coonhound and he came into the IBR program in early July 2016 after being saved the same day he was going to be killed in an over crowded shelter in Arkansas. Upon arrival to foster care, Wilbur still had engorged ticks on him. He was started on antibiotics right away and a 4DX snap test came across negative for heartworm, anaplasma, ehrlichia and Lyme disease. As we know the 4DX is not reliable for the proper diagnosis of tick borne disease, after a few weeks on antibiotics and at the time of his neuter after he gained a few pounds, the IDEXX 371 revealed Ehrlichia @1:100, Lyme @1:100 and RMSF @1:800. We also did a CBC/Chem that revealed a few red flags in his blood work-- but under the circumstances, not surprising. Wilbur was doing well in foster care although still a bit frightened of the men in the home-- but he learned to socialize and found a good playmate in another adopted Beagle in the home.

In 8 weeks of foster care, he gained weight and also got some confidence. A couple put a deposit on him about 2 weeks after I posted his new photos on the adoption pages. They were moving from TN to IL and asked his foster mom to hold onto him for them- which she did, but the longer she held onto him the more she got attached. She cried for days and days after she finalized his adoption and a little over a week after they took him, she got a text from the adopter stating Wilbur was tested for heartworm via the same 4DX and was positive for that and Ehrlichia. Now in pre-adoption phone calls I always talk about tick borne disease and we went over the labs with the wife and explained the 3 diseases that we were treating for. I know that the 4DX has issues being accurate with tick borne disease-- and I have heard from other folks in 15 years of dog rescue that the heartworm portion is not always accurate either.

When the foster mom got the text-- She immediately contacted me and called them back. Sadly, they didn't return her call-- just a text that followed that he was having x-rays the next day. Of course we were very concerned and my greatest fear was that the vet was going to start him on prednisone/steriods and when we got Wilbur back a few days later-- there was the bottle of pred. In the 3 days Wilbur was on the pred, the new owner complained that Wilbur didn't sleep and he was peeing all over. It says clearly on the bottle that pred will cause increased thirst and urination. Wilbur was not the same dog we handed over and it took him several days for him to come out of his steroid haze. We were lucky to get him back and as we are going to repeat the heartworm antigen test again, he's technically been on slow kill the last 2 months anyways although the steroids have set him back.

I am ANGRY that the foster mom who has decided to adopt Wilbur had to go through this and also incredibly ANGRY that Wilbur suffered from veterinary ignorance. I called the attending vet after Wilbur's return and it was just a shocking, disappointing chat and his complete ignorance about tick borne disease makes me so sad for all the infected dogs he is not going to treat properly. I have the estimates of the Fast Kill treatment plan from Banfield where the attending vet works and I will post that soon. Wilbur's recovery will be a great story to share. I was told by the vet that Wilbur needed to be kept on leash because of his health- seriously...


Star Lord came into our program mid summer of 2015. We were lucky to find a foster to adopt home with the Stockman's a few weeks after he was listed for help. They have been doing the slow kill treatment-- twice a month heartguard/doxy/amoxi up until his second set of lab work where Dr. John switched him to doxy/cipro. While Rocky had some rage aggression in the first few weeks during treatment, his family hung in there and his behavior got better. He has since graduated his first obedience class and scent pointed birds beautiful last November. We will continue to monitor is progress.

Star Lord/ Rocky's Lab Work


Addie came to us in December of 2015. She was in a high kill shelter in Southern Illinois. Upon arrival to foster care-- she was a very frightened sickly dog. The longer and more aggressive we treated for her Lyme disease. the more confident she got and she is BRILLIANT at the dog park. She comes when called and is smart in her hunting abilities.


We heard about Colter needing a rescue in the Spring of 2016. This handsome boy's life was in danger in an over crowded shelter in Southern, Illinois. Colter's first tick panel via Texas A & M was negative but 6 months later and after months of proactive antibiotics shows via the IDEXX 371 showed Ehrlichia and Lyme disease. This is why we test, treat and retest all through Slow Kill.
"From Jill Hack Brodkey- Colter's adoptive momma: Our experience with slow kill was that it was so easy. Knox was negative in 11 months, maybe sooner if I had him tested earlier. The best part was that he could just be a dog & didn't have to be restricted in any way. We're having the same experience with our new pup Colter. If we didn't tell anyone that he was hw+, no one would suspect it! Our vet was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was on our first hw+ dog. Luckily she is very open to new ideas in treatment especially considering the Lyme disease and coinfections."


Maggie is a very cute German Shorthair Pointer that was found abandoned in a hotel room in a Chicago suburb with 3 other dogs in July 2016. She is very new to our program and we will update her progress as data becomes available.


Lady Monica is a very cute Field bred English Pointer that was found abandoned in a hotel room in a Chicago suburb with 3 other dogs in July 2016. She is just such a nice dog and doing well with the slow kill program.

UPDATE 4-2017, after we got a false negative antigen test, we continued treatment and she is still Lyme and heartworm positive. We'll retest at the 18 month mark.


SLOW KILL SUCCESS STORIES!!


Clancy- My Red Warrior -- How I Miss You.



We heard about a starving Pointer in Southern Illinois in August of 2014. Clancy was found as a stray and her incoming photos were heart breaking. A snap test revealed she was also heartworm positive and I imagine she had quite a load. I was also sure she was also fighting several tick borne disease as is the case with all our heartworm positive dogs. Sadly a short stint at the local shelter that contacted me and poor immuno compromised Clancy caught Kennel Cough. That developed into full blown pneumonia and nearly killed her. The virus she contracted at the shelter also spread through the foster's home causing many dogs to also become very ill. The following weeks-- Clancy struggled and then started to have nasal discharge that included blood. In December of 2014, Clancy spent 3 weeks at my local vet where they tried to diagnose the cause of the sinus infection-- but after chatting with an infection disease specialist-- it was determined that due to Clancy being so immuno compromised from her heartworm infestation and tick borne diseases-- there wasn't much they could do. So after spending nearly $1800 there-- I had the decision to euthanize or bring her home in hopes of giving her some quality of life. It hasn't been an easy job-- for months Clancy didn't eat well and the sinus issue persisted accompanied by daily chest congestion that still plagues her today. She seems happy otherwise and will gallop in my yard and thankfully is eating better again. At 17 months she is still heartworm positive and her latest tick panel shows at least Ehrlichia, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. My vets agree that the immiticide would have killed her early on in her treatment and she is still not well enough for her spay. Clancy rests under my computer everyday and I can only hope when the last worm dies, that her body can still fight the tick borne diseases and we can make some progress with her sinus and chest issues.

To date her medical bills are at $3200. Her food and antibiotics, twice a month heartworm meds, saline sinus wash, kleenex, expectorant cough syrup, anti yeast and immune system boosters is nearly $2000 more. Should I have let her go over a year ago as one vet suggested when they gave up-- I don't think I could have lived with myself if I did. She has lived longer than some of the boys that had the immiticide treatment-- Wally (6 months), Lauren (8 months) Ollie (13 months) and Maks (8 months) so I know the slow kill was the only option for her. Her rage aggression she had when she first came in is gone and I do find her snuggling with some of my other dogs on the dog bed under my computer. She loves my home made pumpkin pie and she loves a McDonald's burger on occasion too. We could sure use some donations for her monthly expenses. I have created a $25 PayPal link dedicated to Clancy below. Please say a prayer for her and me. Lisa

UPDATE 8/2016: Clancy's oral surgery went as well as could be expected. Two very infected teeth were pulled and the drainage from the right sinus from the hole left behind went on for days and days. There still seems to be some major inflammation in that sinus, but the right sinus is much improved. Also some very good news, Clancy's latest heartworm test shows she is negative! YAY!

Clancy had to be let go due to her sinus cancer in February of 2017. I gave her the best 2 years I could and she was so strong until the end. I LOVE YOU CLANCY!!

Clancy's Lab Work

Clancy's Medical Bills


Harrison is a perfect example of why the Heartworm Slow kill treatment program is the way to go. He came to us from a high kill shelter in southern Illinois in late summer 2015. From his first foster momma Kathy: Harrison was skin and bones, couldn't even climb the 2 steps to get up my porch, and was having seizures. We would never subject a dog like this to cyanide poison. As we knew he was at risk for tick borne disease-- we treated him with antibiotics as well as the twice a month heartguard. Slowly he got stronger and stronger and started to gain weight. A 371 tick panel did confirm that he has at least Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever and while he still has seizures occasionally, his new adoptive family is continuing with the slow kill program and Harrison is doing well almost a year later.

UPDATE 8/2016: Harrison still shows heartworm positive. Slow kill continues.

UPDATE 11/26: Harrison's health declined due to an enlarged heart and had to be let go. He had a good year plus of unconditional love.


Monica is a very cute Field bred English Pointer that was found abandoned in a hotel room in a Chicago suburb with 3 other dogs in July 2016. She is very new to our program and we will update her progress as data becomes available.


Matilda and her 7 puppies were rescued from a high kill shelter in southern Alabama in August of 2015. She is one of the mommas for the 11 Boys and 2 Girls of Summer Litters. She is the momma of Tommy who died on December 31st, 2015 and she is also the momma of Harley, Mikey and Puppy Kris who all needed FHO hip surgery. It's a miracle we didn't lose her and the puppies as sickly as she was and she had a major set back and needed to be hospitalized in February due to some pneumonia issues. Since then she is doing amazingly well and we are hopeful for a negative heartworm test in the fall.

UPDATE 9/2016: While we got the bad news that Matilda is going to need the same hip surgery as her 3 puppies, she is now heartworm negative!


Adele is our world record holder for the Slow Kill treatment program. She was saved from a high kill shelter in Southen Illinois and was quickly moved to foster to adopt, where her new family continued the IBR protocols. Her first 371 tick panel revealed Lyme disease and RMSF and the follow up showed Ehrlichia, Lyme and RMSF. At about the 6 month mark Adele was heartworm negative but her new family and vet will have to follow her health closely with the tick borne disease complications.


Lilac was heartworm negative at about the year mark with slow kill.


Nellie came into IBR's program from an over- crowded shelter in Shelbyville, IL in the Spring of 2015. We started her in our slow kill program in 2 foster homes and then she moved to Foster to Adopt in the Summer. We are happy to report she was heartworm negative when tested at the year mark. YAY!!


Peyton is one of our very special Slow Kill Heartworm treatment success stories. Peyton was pulled from an over crowded shelter in Kentucky and during his neuter it was discovered he was heartworm postiive. Subsequent testing showed he was also infected with at least 3 tick borne diseases-- Ehrlichia, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. As we started the heartguard and his antibiotics, he moved to foster to adopt with a wonderful family in Indianapolis and in just under a year his heartworm antigen test showed he was negative. He still shows antibodies for the 3 tick borne diseases-- but his adopter and their vet can follow him closely for the rest of his life and medicate if he has a relapse. PLEASE NOTE-- Peyton's IDEXX 4DX Snap test was negative. We find this test consistently unreliable in the tick borne screening of our dogs, especially since it does not test for the serious co infection Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Peyton's Lab Work


Ursi came in from a high kill over crowded shelter in Centralia, Illinois. Her first 371 tick panel was negative and a follow up 2 months later revealed antibodies for Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. It took about 16 month for her to have a negative heartworm antigen test. She was adopted by her foster mommy who also adopted Dashy in the other section below.

Ursula's Lab Work

Ursula's IDEXX 371 tick panel results from 8-4-2014 through 5-6-2015 are very interesting. We are sure none of the diseases would have shown up on a 4DX snap test-- and I know enough about Lyme disease that an older dog suffering from a heart full of worms is already immuno compromised that until we started her on antibiotics-- she would not show antibodies for disease. A rise in titer is also considered evidence of an active infection and in my experience the lower the titer-- the more compromised the immune system. There is no such thing as "exposure titer" any titer is active infection. Here's the evidence.

8-4-2011
Heartworm Antigen- Positive and duplicated.
IDEXX 371- Ehrlichia NEG, Lyme disease NEG, Rocky Mountain spotted fever NEG. Started doxycycline.
9-13-2011
IDEXX 371- Ehrlichia NEG, Lyme disease POS @1:100, RMSF POS @1:400.
2-25-2012
IDEXX 371- Ehrlichia NEG, Lyme disease NEG, RMSF @1:50.
5-2-2015
IDEXX 4DX Snap Test NEG.
IDEXX 371- Ehrlcihia NEG, Lyme disease POS @1:100, RMSF POS @1:400.


Sheldon came in from a a high kill over crowded shelter in Southern Illinois and his first 371 tick panel revealed a low titer for Lyme disease. During the slow kill treatment, Shellie's natural hunting instincts started to return. He was adopted by a wonderful man that continued the slow kill treatment with the support of his vet. Shellie was Heartworm negative at about the 16 month mark but a follow up 371 revealed Ehrlichia- which he was more than likely infected with the whole time. Sheldon hunted 9 months into the slow kill treatment to the delight of his new daddy.


You can read more about Snow White and her Tragic Puppy rescue HERE. We didn't get any support from the southern vets to get Snow White and all her puppies on preventative tick borne disease treatment and she only started to thrive once she got to an Illinois foster home. We were shocked that we found 4 tick borne diseases in her and saddened when one by one her puppies started to die- and no wonder- they were all infected from their infected mother and the vets refused to treat in time. I can only hope that the 3 surviving puppies are still OK as both adopters have refused to do any follow up testing. Slow kill was the only option for Snow White due to all her tick borne disease complications.


Regal is one of my most favorite rescue stories. He was in danger of being put to sleep in an over crowded shelter in Northern, Indiana. No one wanted to help him due to his heartworm status and we had him in boarding for over 3 weeks until a friend in St. Louis took him in. Regal was over weight, had a thyroid condition and a low titer for Lyme disease revealed with the 371. After a year of slow kill in foster care, we found a new foster to adopt mommy who continued his treatment. A follow up 371 showed Regal had Ehrlichia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever infecions, but his thyroid was now in the normal range and he was thin and gorgeous. At about the 16 month mark Regal's adopter reported he was heartworm negative.

From Monica Regal's mommy: "Slow kill is awesome! I knew nothing about HW before I adopted my guy Regal but once I saw him I fell in love and knew I needed to know more. My experience is a little different as Regal had been in foster for 12 months before I got him and had been on the slow kill treatment during that time. For me, the key is Regal was able to act like a normal dog. Run, jump, play, whatever he felt like. There are no restrictions. IBR does their slow kill method of HW meds at regular does twice a month WITH doxycycline antibiotic treatment at the same time. There are proven studies that show how doxycycline will kill a symbiotic 'bacteria' on the heartworms which both weakens then as well as sterilizes the females. In the end this equates to the existing heartworms slowly dying and no new heartworms being formed. So, at 18 months after testing positive, my Regal tested negative for heartworm. It was an exciting day. I would do this again if needed for a dog. Everyone is much happier all around."


Clyde can into the program from a high kill shelter near Hazard, Kentucky. He was in terrible shape, his coat was thin and he had eye and ear infections. His first tick panel revealed Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Several weeks in boarding doing the slow kill treatment, we found a wonderful foster to adopt family in Indiana. Follow up 371 showed Lyme disease besides the RMSF, but Clyde did very well with slow kill, and like Sheldon, started pointing a few weeks into treatment. His adoptive mommy reported he was heartworm negative at about the 14 month mark.


Peaches is a very special Pointer rescue that was saved from the worst neglect at a plantation in Georgia. I have included her success story with before and after photos. Her foster to adopt dad did a great job with the slow kill treatment and she was heartworm negative at about the 15 month mark.



Dozer came into the IBR program in July 2013 from an over crowded shelter in Lawrenceville, IL. We were lucky to find a wonderful foster home for him that is going to adopt! His first 371 tick panel revealed Rocky Mountain spotted fever and a follow up at the 6 month mark also revealed Ehrlichia. Dozer needed Baytril support with his doxycycline due to some health set backs but he is doing better and better everyday. We are certain he had a massive case of worms but at his last vetting appointment, our vet stated his heart was strong and perhaps there were only a few more left. He will have a follow up heartworm antigen test this coming July.

Old Heartworm Stories

Most of these dogs had tick borne disease complications and many actually struggled with the Immiticide Injection treatment. Many have passed -- some under a year after they came into the program. Some were seniors and I wish our attending vets had suggested slow kill.


Meringue- Lyme Disease & RMSF


Treated on 1-22-11/had some terrible psychotic behavior post Immiticide treatment. After doing well in her foster to adopt home prior to her Immiticide injections, she started to show aggression towards the man in the home and wound up in foster care with me to help her recover. NOT GOOD!!

Maks-A-Moose- RMSF


Poor Maks had a hiding Spleen Hematoma that ruptured about 7 months into foster care and post Immiticide treatment. We should have done an abdominal X-ray upon arrival but back then we hadn't linked these types of hematomas with Lyme and RMSF as we do now. Mak's didn't make it. ADOPTED posthumously.


Rosalie- RMSF



Rosie was a snarky little Pointer. Heartworm Immiticide treatment made her snarkier and she wound up in foster care with me. She did get better over time but until we put her on Rifampin-- she didn't have any birding instincts.


Ollie- Lyme disease & RMSF


Ollie is one of the reasons I will never do Immiticide treatment ever again. It was too hard on him and he nearly died TWICE. Slow kill would have been so much easier on him. Ollie died about a year after he was treated from complications of his tick borne disease.


Duckie- Ehrlichia, Lyme Disease & RMSF



Duckie helped us learn about spleen hematomas and also how continued treatment for tick borne disease even after a dog is heartworm negative, helps prolong their lives. Duckie outlived the vet's 8 month death prognosis by 5 years.


Myrna- Lyme Disease


Slow kill treatment in foster care and Heartworm negative at the 9 month mark. LIGHTBULB!!!! ADOPTED!


Ladybird- Ehrlichia, Lyme Disease & RMSF


Lady also suffered some aggression issues post Immiticide treatment. She did go on to be wonderful in the field.


Sassy- Lyme Disease & RMSF


One of the hardest longest heartworm complicated by tick borne disease fosters I have ever had.


Kenny- RMSF


Kenny had a lot of aggression with other dogs during his immiticide treatments. I had to deal with some very scary rage behavior.


Mandilyn- Lyme Disease & RMSF


Poor Mandy-- we got some terrible terrible advise about her care and that affected her puppies. If she had started slow kill upon arrival and while she was nursing, she and her puppies would have done so much better. ADOPTED posthumously.

Brandon/Freckles- Lyme Disease & RMSF


Brandon's family could not handle him post Immiticide treatment and he had some aggression issues. Thankfully we kept up with his tick borne disease treatments and that helped overall.

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