SEPTEMBER, 2002 - Otto was found as a stray and was rescued from a shelter. He was updated on his shots, and heartworm tested as we normally do. Otto's heartworm test came back positive for heartworms, though. His blood was tested along with his urine and it was discovered that he also had several infections that needed to be cleared up before anything was done to treat his heartworms. He was placed in a foster home but he had to be kept quiet during this time so most of the time he was in a crate.
DECEMBER, 2002 When his infections were finally cleared up, it was time to begin his treatment for heartworms. His blood was tested again, along with urine tests and x-rays to determine if the heartworms had done any damage to his heart. He also needed to be neutered. It was determined the risks were equal to having him neutered first as opposed to treating the heartworms first, so he was neutered before his heartworm treatment. Otto began his heartworm treatment. He stayed at the hospital for three days while he was given injections to kill the heartworms. This was a critical time for Otto since he could die at any time. Once he was released from the hospital, he had to be confined to a crate for the next 6 weeks while Otto's body eliminated the heartworms. He had to be kept very quiet. His only activity was to be taken out for very brief periods to go potty. He was not allowed to climb steps, to run, jump or do anything physical, including excessive barking. Try to keep a Schnauzer quiet! Even though the backyard was fenced in, his foster mom had to take him outside each time on a short leash to prevent him from being too active. He was carried up and down any steps and he had very little activity for the next 6 weeks. All he had to look forward to was his brief time outside, his food, treats and the love his foster mom gave him each day. It was very lonely for Otto but he had to be kept quiet or he might die. The heartworms could cause a clot that would kill him. Each day while he was outside, he would put his nose through the small opening at the gate and look to the outside world. His foster mom said she knew he was thinking that some day he would be able to get out again!
JANUARY, 2003 Schnauzer Rescue of the Mid-Atlantic held an event at a Petco in Pennsylvania in mid-January. It was at the end of his 6-week confinement so we took Otto along for his big debut. He barked at everyone and every dog that he saw. With some work, he became a little less vocal. He got to meet lots of people and dogs. On the way home, he laid on his foster mom’s lap in the car and slept. He was so exhausted! His first re-acquaintance with the world was successful. Once his six weeks were up, he went back to the vet for another treatment to kill any larvae left in his system from the heartworms. He had to stay quiet a few more days in his crate. Then he was allowed a little more activity. He was then kept on a retractable leash when he went outside, which gave him a little more freedom while his foster mom still controlled how much activity he had while outside. He had to wait ten days before he was tested again to determine if he was finally heartworm free.
FEBRUARY, 2003 The vet gave approval for short walks and said he could slowly increase his activity level so Otto started going on walks around the block. He pulled on the leash like any dog that hadn't been outside to see the world in four months. He pretty much kept his nose to the ground and marked whatever he could. A few basic commands were being worked on during this time, mostly sit, heel and quiet. He was also very vocal to the world, as most Schnauzers are. Otto was taken also taken on several outings so we could determine what his personality was really like and how he interacted with other dogs and people. It was quickly discovered that he was an alpha dog, very bossy, dominate and he would do best as an only dog. His foster brother didn't get along with him since he was also dominate and an alpha dog so Otto had to continue to be crated. After ten days he went back to the vet for the last time. The test for microfilaria (or the larvae) was given and he tested negative! Otto was heartworm free at last! He could finally resume all activities that any Schnauzer does. He could run and jump, climb steps again and do what Schnauzers do. He could finally leave his crate after 4 months!
OTTO'S ADOPTION Otto was adopted a week later by a family who had followed his progress on the website. He would be an only dog in his new home and they had Schnauzers before so they knew how bossy they could be! A huge snowstorm was predicted for the entire weekend when his adoption was scheduled. It was determined at the last minute to try and beat the snowstorm by doing the adoption the night before. So Otto left his foster home one night rather hastily to go to his new home. He stayed in the back seat and looked out the window most of the trip to meet his new parents. All he wanted was to see the world! There’s no question that he knew something was up and his life was about to change. He wiggled all over when he saw his new parents and wagged his little tail. He was uncertain what laid ahead for him but he jumped into their car and he headed off to his new home and a new life.
Otto's story has a happy ending but many dogs with heartworms aren't as lucky. Most dogs in shelters would simply be put to sleep rather than spend the time and money for the treatment. The heartworms can be avoided simply by giving the dog an inexpensive pill each month to prevent them. Testing dogs more frequently only catches the heartworms sooner if the pills aren't given. Once a dog tests positive for heartworm, the dog must go through at least six weeks of being crated and kept quiet to be cured, just like Otto did. Dog owners who opt not to give their dog the heartworm pill each month, including the winter months, greatly enhance the dog’s chances of contracting heartworm.
Otto didn't deserve all this at all. He spent many lonely days and nights in his crate. His former owners could have prevented all his time he had to spend in the crate. Plus Otto’s treatment was very costly, but well worth it. Schnauzer Rescue of the Mid-Atlantic paid for Otto’s heartworm treatment partially through donations. Otto is a sweet boy who just wanted his own family to love him for the rest of his life. He can now look out the window and bark at strangers, squirrels and anything else he sees, he goes on lots of walks and gets the love he deserves. Otto’s heartworm test won’t show up as negative for 4-6 months even though he is heartworm free. It takes that long for the antigens to disappear in his blood. His new family is committed to keeping him on monthly heartworm pills for the rest of his life so he never has to go through this again.
UPDATE February 14, 2006
Today is the anniversary of the day we picked up Otto right before the huge snowstorm of Valentine's weekend 2003. We have had three great years with him and are hoping to enjoy him for yet a while longer.
Just as an update, he has some type of tumor growing in his skull which is very noticeable when you pet his head. We have consulted with our vet and mutually decided that we will keep him as happy and comfortable for as long as possible. He is still a loving wonderful companion, although not quite as spunky as he was in the past.
He was finding it difficult to eat his dog food and he wasn't digesting it well so we are feeding him ground turkey with rice and broth. We try to give him as much broth as possible because in the past couple of weeks he has not been drinking water. He takes an arthritis medication and an anti-nausea medication and they both help him quite a bit.
We want to thank you again for the Schnauzer rescue organization. Even if someone rescues an older dog or a dog of unknown age there is nothing in the world like the joy our little guy has brought to us. As you noted when we adopted him, he seemed to prefer men, and Mike and Otto have walked countless miles together. Otto has had a wonderful time trying to keep our yard squirrel free, although as a ground hunter he still has no idea that they disappear UP the tree. It still irritates Otto that the geese swimming in the middle of the pond don't fly away when he barks at them. He forgets sometimes and starts to go in after them, then looks up with that surprised look that says, "Schnauzers DON'T like water!" He is as loyal as can be to his adopted family to the point of being fairly protective, but he grudgingly accepts visitors after we insist that they are okay.
We just wanted to share a little on the day we choose to celebrate his adoption day.
He is our BEST Valentine.
Mike and Jane
Thanks to everyone who inquired about Otto and contributed to his heartworm treatment. If you would like to contribute to our veterinary fund and help other needy dogs like Otto, please click on "make a donation or send your check to the address below.
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**Schnauzer Rescue of the Mid-Atlantic, Inc. is a non-profit organization under Internal Revenue Code section 501 (c)(3)**