Today was a sad day for us. We lost one of our clinic pets over the weekend due to complications of heartworm disease.
His name was Earl. He was a middle aged dog of hound descent that came to us about 2 months ago. He was a stray that had been hanging around one of our neighborhoods. A kind family began to feed and take care of him. Earl quickly won them over with his sweet gentle nature so they decided to adopt him and brought him in for a physical exam and to get him vaccinated.
Our newest doctor, Dr. Church, examined him and quickly found out that Earl was very sick and had heartworm disease. She also found signs of a very hard life. He had numerous scars around his face and muzzle and he cowered when anyone, men especially, approached him. We know that the family that brought him in had showed him nothing but kindness so these were physical and mental scars from a life of abuse.
After Dr. Church explained treatment options and the associated costs the clients very reluctantly decided they couldn’t afford to meet his considerable needs. While Earl was very sick we all wanted to try and give him a chance at a decent protected life, however much time that may be, so the client signed him over to The Imperial Animal Hospital.
After spending several days with us getting him fed and adjusted to his new home, we initiated his heartworm treatment. Because he was so sick and fragile we took our time and instituted the most conservative treatment regime possible.
He gained strength quickly with the help of the whole staff and soon found a home in my office during office hours. He became more trusting and soon won all of us over with his sweet gentle demeanor. Earl was also reluctant to go through door ways. The technicians used treats to encourage him to go outside. It soon became a competition amongst the staff to see who would take him out to go to the bathroom. He quickly learned that if he went to the bathroom he would receive a treat when he came back inside. So much so that he wouldn’t go back in my office and ran to the treatment table where we keep the treats and wouldn’t budge unless he got several treats. Eventually the staff taught him how to shake hands before he got his treat, it wasn’t long before we didn’t have asked for his paw, he offered it willingly, and often!
After several weeks of pampering it was time to initiate his heartworm treatment as he began to get worse again. He did well for the first 2 weeks of treatment but as the heartworms died and began to fill his lungs his breathing became labored and his cheerful personality was gone, replaced with just lying on his bed in my office and struggling to breathe. This is a very common problem with heartworm disease. We anticipated it and instituted appropriate treatment. He initially rallied and fought the good fight but he grew tired of his ordeal and gradually faded away from us this weekend.
We were all sad to have lost Earl, but as a team we were grateful for the time we got to spoil him. I would also like to think that in his last days he found the peace and love that such a gentle soul deserved.
In our time of grief I wanted to try to add some meaning to Earl’s life by getting the word out to people out there about the dangers of heartworm disease. It is such an easy disease to prevent and so very difficult to treat. If you don’t routinely use heartworm preventative or if you do but know somebody that doesn’t please mention Earl to them. I think he would be happy knowing that maybe he helped save another dog from this terrible disease, I know we would too.