Buddy's Heartworm Success Story & Updates

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This is from a pet Dad that considers himself an "over thinker" but asked that we publish all the comments and updates for any who are like him that may benefit from his overall experience .... and so we have.

Buddy
Buddy is a lovable mutt that we took off the streets. He appears to be part yellow Lab and likely part sneaky neighbor's dog. Buddy decided to be ours in November of 2002. Living in the country we have the unfortunate experience of seeing lots of pets "dumped" and Buddy came to us in sad shape, but after a few months of healthy living and a roof over his head he was lookin' good. An absolute Wonder Dog in terms of obedience and house manners. The vet estimated him to be 4 or maybe 5 years old. He took to living with us like he had been ours forever.

We thought we did everything right with Buddy, but a very brief lapse in his routine heartworm treatment was all it took. We missed ONE DOSE and in Mid-July of 2004 we got the sad news from the vet during a routine check-up that Buddy had a full blown case of heartworms. The vet went on to voice concerns over his heart, saying that it "didn't sound too good." Having tested positive for heartworms on the "blood drop test" our vet immediately drew some blood for a lab analysis and prepared a slide to look for signs of the microfilaria that adult worms produce. Our vet office is small, and we could overhear him call an assistant over to look at the blood sample under a microscope where he said, "look – you can see tons of microfilaria." As expected, the lab work came back positive for heartworms.

Having had bad experiences of early pet mortality with 2 prior pets I immediately decided to investigate alternative methods to address Buddy's condition. A search brought me in short order to Bandit's Heartworm Program site.

I started to read the information. It appeared to be sound information, but I had concerns over Robin's apparent tie to Nature's Sunshine. I didn't want to think this could possibly be a scam, but it is, after all, the Internet and there are plenty of examples of dubious behavior to draw upon. I decided to contact Robin directly and voice my concerns and ask the myriad of questions I had already.

We exchanged emails & Robin put me in touch with a couple of "Bandit's Buddies" from the past. We eventually spoke on the phone and I started to see what a great lady Robin is. Within the week we had Buddy on the program as outlined by Robin. Robin continued to send me links to information on just what heartworm is all about.

I ordered from Nature's Sunshine and was impressed with the way they ran their business. So much so that after a couple of months I tried some stuff for myself with good results! Their products are high quality and very consistent. Reading their literature made me understand why Robin chose them.

Until we learned that Buddy had this parasite (and my investigation of what it means for a pet to have heartworms) we had no reason to think Buddy was ill, but after reading about the progress of the "worm lifecycle" we came to realize that Buddy was starting to exhibit classic patterns – tired all the time, no pep when we took him outside, and the initial signs of some issues with his respiratory system.

Buddy took to the regimen well. We had one or two initial incidents where he vomited after taking the capsules, but we attribute that more to him eating like a rabid wolverine than anything. Once we developed a system for "dosing" we had no issues for the rest of the course we followed for the next months. We learned a few tricks along the way as Buddy really did not like to take pills directly and the dosage schedule meant that we had to administer pills in the morning before going to work when our time was something of a premium. I hope that doesn't sound too callous, but it was important to us that we had a regime that was something we could faithfully follow as part of a daily plan. I knew that routine was a critical factor for success.

Robin had some great suggestions (like cheese), but we found that a spoonful of wet dog food was something of a treat to Buddy and we could easily bury 3 capsules at a time and he was happy to take them. Further, after a few issues of capsules sticking to his gums, we found that if we dropped the caps into a small cup of water for 10 or 15 seconds prior to jamming them into the wet food we had a 100% success rate on "pilling" Buddy in a matter of a minute or two. He'd get his Artemisia Combination when we woke up, then just before we left for work he'd "go walkabout" and then come in to his morning meal and the HS II/CoQ10.

Our biggest "issue" as part of the outlined routine was around Buddy eating, or rather his schedule of eating. He's never been a "big eater". Initially his appetite was not great (here again the wet stuff really helped) and then he was always an "I'll eat when I wanna eat" kinda guy. So there may have been the occasional night when he didn't get all of his Black Walnut (he is amazingly adept at eating around things) but overall it always worked out.

I would take a moment to say that, again based on information from Robin, we chose to feed Buddy a high-quality dog food as part of his new plan for health and fitness. I initially balked at the cost – but now that we're 4 bags into it we've found that the food is so nutritionally dense that bags of food are lasting much, much longer. We started at monthly delivery and are now on a 90 day schedule! It is at least break-even when compared with his old food, perhaps even cheaper! And there's nothing like having someone else carry the 50# bag to my front door! But I digress……

After about a month we started to notice that Buddy was giving the occasional cough. Not anything serious, but again a classic (and subtle) sign of the worms, and what we hoped were indicators that the worms were finding his system inhospitable. Being hyper-sensitive at this point, I contacted Robin who again had to tell me to just chill and keep doing things as we were. But, at the same time we also noted that Buddy was starting to get a bit of spring back into his step. While I never really checked all the time, once Buddy was positive for worms I started to become aware that his nose was hot & dry all the time; however, after the first month or so of following Bandit's path we started to find that Buddy was having more and more "cold nose days" – a trend that would continue as his time on this path progressed.

Around November of 2004 it was getting really hard to continue without some kind of concrete proof that the heartworms were dying off. My attitude was not so much doubt in the "program" as it was my desire for an "immediate solution." It was hard to argue with the fact that Buddy was exhibiting far more energy than he had in the months prior and that his cold-nosed days were finally exceeding his warm-nosed days, but I am a fairly "black & white" person and I wanted some kind of tangible proof. Sometimes you can't always get what you want, and a routine trip to the vet showed little new info – there was still clear evidence of microfilaria in his blood, and according to the vet there wasn't a real gauge for that. They're either present or they're not. However, at this time the vet promised to dig out a more precise filtration test kit he had and we would use that test in the spring at Buddy's next scheduled check-up (nail trim).

One great thing about this particular visit to the vet – when Buddy first was found to be worm positive I had spoken to our vet about the information Robin was offering and asked what he thought. He had heard some things, but had done no real investigation on his own. Well, on this visit he told us that he wanted us to continue the holistic/herbal approach until Spring. He assured us that Buddy was doing fine as he was and a few more months would not have any affect on our ability to resort to traditional chemical therapies should we choose to do so. He wanted us to continue with the herbs. This was great news for me to hear – our vet was willing to consider the value of holistic treatment based on information he had gathered.

I sent an e-mail to Robin telling her there was no change – and she shot me more information on the life cycle of the microfilaria to help me understand that they can be around for quite some time even with a pet in recovery. I learned a little more about the bugs and knew that we just had to hang in there a little longer.

Fast-forward to March 19, 2005. Buddy had just the past week run low on some of the herbs, and the vet's office had also called to tell us he was due for blood work. He again needed his nails trimmed, so we did a "drop-in" for that (this is a small town vet and they welcome that kind of thing). We were shocked to find that the vet wanted us to do a full visit and get other things done – he had found the filtration kit as promised without us even asking and wanted us to do some testing while we were there. We felt bad about just dropping in, but we weren't going to refuse the added service.

After a quick blood draw and a couple tests, the Doctor came back in and said, "Well, I don't really know what to say, but there isn't a trace of microfilaria in his blood." He got down on his knee and listened to Buddy's heart (who is a TOTAL SPAZ when it comes to being at the vet and his heart rate hits about 200bpm). The Doc said it sounded "absolutely excellent." We were floored. The vet was understandably cautious, stating that it looked good, but urged us to get the $9 lab work done to test for the adult worms. He said it was clear the microfilaria were gone, but that adults could still be present, just that it could be multiple male or multiple female worms (i.e. unable to breed additional microfilaria).

It was to be 2 days of pins-n-needles waiting for the phone call and trying to keep from emailing Robin before I had a full story from the vet. Well, a few short hours ago I got a call from the vet himself, telling me that BUDDY HAS NO SIGNS OF HEARTWORM! None. Nada. Zip. He was incredibly pleased - I know this because it's his day off - and urged me to gather the information I had on Bandit's Heartworm Program and bring it to his office. I of course had to let Robin know immediately and asked her if I could share Buddy's story. I started typing right away!

It was very hard to put faith into a relative stranger and a "non-traditional" means of approaching a problem (traditionally considered as somewhat grave) when it comes to a potential life threatening issue with your pet, but I am so very happy to say that my dog's life is another one that Bandit's program helped maintain (dare I say save). As Robin will state, it's up to you to decide what steps you are willing to take, but I have 100% faith in what Robin has put together here, and I am so very pleased to say that Buddy is yet another success story to be added to these pages.

I, of course, want to send my warmest thanks to Robin for her selfless devotion to helping others over any other motivation and I also want to send "mad props" to Dr. Nokes and the staff at Middlefield Veterinary Clinic! Should anyone wish to ask me anything about the course of events in Buddy's "winter of discontent," feel free to ask Robin to pass your contact information my way, and I'd be glad to give you a call. Sadly, lawyers and the internet preclude me from using the verbiage I'd prefer around this issue and it's important that Robin continues to be able to provide this information, so I'd be happy to speak with you one to one. -- Don Vanco, Middlefield, Ohio

Update September 1, 2006 on Buddy: He is doing absolutely phenomenal. He still acts like a dog half his age. His last checkup, which was about two months ago, he was still negative and the vet could not detect the murmur he had for so long. After he tested negative, we continued him on the COQ10 and the HS II for a while longer to support his heart. The vet was generally really pleased to see the condition that Buddy was in – he's really healthy. I gotta tell you that I really think the food is making a HUGE difference – his coat and nails are exceptional, his digestion is totally predictable, and he's just never been sick. We were worried that after the neutering he'd get fat or lazy, but not at all – he's simply filled in a little more like he should be (maybe and extra 2 or 3 pounds) and he still has 2 "states" - either sleeping comfortably or in full-on berserker mode. He's now on Bandit's Preventive or Maintenance Program. He has not had any fleas or ticks AT ALL this year and only an occasional mosquito bite. Keep in mind that is a MAJOR feat as I live in a swamp. He's still on the Life's Abundance food mix I talked about in his story- we will not be changing that at all. -- Don Vanco

Update February 17, 2007 on Buddy: We got hammered with snow this week, so Buddy is in heaven! I think he was a very happy sled dog in a past life. Here he is having a ball (his tongue is hanging out because he is constantly shoveling snow into his mouth). -- Don Vanco

Update March 14, 2008 on Buddy: Well, another update following yet another unbelievable weather week here in Ohio. I never mentioned in past updates that one of the changes Buddy went through in 2006 was to get neutered. It was absolutely the best thing for him for several reasons, but as a guy it was really hard to send him in for "the snip." Plus, I'd heard tales of deep behavioral changes and massive weight gain in some dogs and I didn't want to see either of those in Buddy. However, I am happy to report that he's the same old dog he's always been – his demeanor did not change one bit and his weight has stayed at a near-perfect level. He eats right and gets out at least 4 times a day for several minutes of "crazy time" and that seems to be all it takes.

Last summer was a tough one for the Budster – on May 24th, when leaping about on the rear deck one morning he let out a sudden yelp, and long story short he had a broken toe on his front right paw. And in the worst possible location – imagine a break between the fingernail and first joint of your pinkie finger. The vet warned of a long heal time because of the lack of blood flow in that location and sadly 4 different hard plastic casts would prove no match for Buddy's boundless need to be a spaz (he split one of them in half). After 6 weeks of trying to battle with hard casts, we decided to try a very thick soft cast and after 2+ months of walking a dog with a plastic bag on his leg, Buddy finally healed well enough to be set loose on all fours. But we still had to keep him sedated for weeks. Happily he's fully recovered!

While his muzzle and coat are starting to show a little more white in all that gold, Buddy continues to thrive and be the perfect companion to us. We're looking forward to summer already – even got our bottle of Bandit's Mosquito Repellent ready by the door. Think it's too soon? I was out chipping ice in the gutters during a thaw 2 weeks ago – and saw not one, but TWO mosquitoes in flight (yes, I'm sure because I killed one of 'em). All they need is a little warm sun, but we're ready for 'em! We owe Buddy a lot of walks near the lake this year, because he didn't get a single one last year. Until next time, Buddy says, "Woof!" -- Don Vanco

Update Summer of 2010 on Buddy: In June we had Buddy in to the vet for his semi-annual check-up. His overall physical health remains excellent. The Doctor again commenting on how great his heart sounds, and how his general health is excellent. And yes – his blood test showed him to still be free of heartworm!

But even the vet is noticing that Buddy is transitioning to an older dog, commenting that his age is starting to show in his face. And it's true – Buddy is getting a bit gray in the face (well, white
really) and is starting to slow down a bit (which is actually a good thing). He also developed a wax plug in one of his ears, and that's been some fun extra maintenance for him, but we were easily able to take care of it with an ear wash solution. With amount of goop in there I'm amazed he could hear at all in one ear!

As he's been getting older Buddy seems to be developing some mental issues – odd "fearful" behaviors, mostly around separation. He's suddenly a 75# lapdog. While we're trying to understand why this is happening, it is likely that it's just some behavioral changes associated with his age. And, of course, he loves his dad! When he was at the vet he had an hour of poking, prodding, balance, hearing, and visions tests – and everything seems to be as expected.

We decided to try a specialty food designed for dogs dealing with cognitive changes, but it hasn't proven to be of any benefit other than the cash flow at the vet. Buddy is still on the Life's Abundance diet, and in my opinion that food is nearly impossible to beat. So, we're just making some adjustments to how we interact with him and hope it's not a sign of anything more serious.

However, we've also decided to start to give Buddy some supplementation. Robin suggested this a couple times, and the vet agreed that it's a key part of keeping a healthy dog healthy.

And – this old dog has learned a new trick. If you've read about Buddy you know he's a "country dumper" – and he came with some issues from being abandoned. One of the things that he NEVER did was to roll over (and if you ever tried to MAKE him roll over you'd better be prepared for a fight). Suddenly this year when out in the yard he decided that wriggling on his back is his new favorite thing. No, he's not rolling in poop or on a tasty crushed frog, he just seems to love wiggling in the grass, flopping back and forth on his back.

Unfortunately for us he also doesn't care if there's dew on the grounds, so he frequently starts the day with a morning rinse compliments of Mother Nature. I can't tell you how heartwarming it is to see this simple act of doggy joy. Mosquito and deer fly season have been brutal this year, but thanks to Buddy's general state of health his coat is generally too thick for them to penetrate. However, they're smart, and they know to aim for his face. We still spritz him with essential oils and water, just making sure to cover his eyes, and he's good to go. We've been lucky to only have a few bug bites this year.

We take Buddy with us all over the place – he owns the back seat of my Mercury Sable (don't take my word for it – the skid marks on his blanket should convince you). We haven't taken him anywhere exotic, but then he gets as much thrill from a ride to the local McDonald's as he did from our trip to North Carolina last year. He knows his dad is bound to cut loose with a french fry or two. We're just grateful that he's still around to be a travelin' dog!

The attached photo is from just a couple of weeks ago – this is Buddy in his "hydrangea hideaway" – this is his idea of helping with the yard work! -- Don Vanco


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