Can you naturally prevent/treat heartworm?
Worms give many people the ‘heebie jeebies’, and the last thing you want is to have your dog/cat having a worm in their heart…
Fortunately for most of us, the chance of this ever happening is incredibly unlikely, BUT I would suggest a supplement that can help keep your pet’s heart strong and functionally normally.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids are one of the few supplements documented maintain and potentially improve cardiac function.
We now have an Omega 3 Fatty Acid supplement in the form of Krill oil, which has a high level of the anti-inflammatory Essential Fatty Acids, EPA and DHA- also very beneficial for Allergies and Arthritis: Dr Jones’ ULTIMATE Omega 3 Supplement for Dogs and Cats
Heartworm: Is Medication Needed?
Heartworm disease in dogs – it’s a potentially very serious disease, which sounds very ominous.
What could be worse than a parasitic disease of the heart?
The American Heartworm Society has produced this infographic showing what percent of dogs leave the clinic without a heartworm preventive. The idea being MORE dogs need to be on them.
But do they?
One of the more common questions I was asked by pet owners was whether or not their dog really needed to be on a conventional preventive medication. More often than not, most clients are told only one thing: to give their dog a monthly Heartworm preventive. In this article I’ll explain exactly what is heartworm, the causes of heartworm, determining if your dog needs to be on a preventive heartworm medication, and the holistic options available to prevent heartworm in pets.
Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) is a parasitic worm which infects mostly dogs. Although all internal parasites can be harmful to your pet, heartworm infestation is serious and can be cause death. The worm mainly affects the lung arteries, and clinical signs are associated with damage to the lungs, and then the heart.
Heartworm is spread by mosquitoes. Not all mosquitoes carry heartworm, but when an infected mosquito bites your pet, it can transfer larvae to the animal’s tissues. The worms require development in the mosquito at a temperatures above 27 °C (80 °F) ; below 14 °C (57 °F), development cannot occur, and the cycle will be halted. If the temperature is warm enough, and the heartworm larvae progresses to being infective, they can infect another dog. These larvae then migrate through the body, until they reach the animal’s heart and lungs. There the adult worms will grow. They can grow to 70 -110 cm long and cause a great deal of damage to the heart and lungs.
Dogs show no sign of infection with heartworm during the first 6 months. The first signs include a cough, especially after exercise. As the disease advances, signs can include fainting, pronounced coughing, syncope, crackles in the lungs, general weakness, and heart failure. In serious cases of heartworm disease, it can lead to sudden death.
Most (certainly not all) holistic veterinarians consider the use of pharmaceutical preventatives to be less harmful than a heartworm infection. What you need to be aware of is the incidence of Heartworm in your area, and whether or not your pet really is at risk of Heartworm disease. For example in Canada, Heartworm is difficult to acquire, and usually not fatal; far less than the dire warnings and marketing claims of the Heartworm preventive companies. For heartworm to be transmitted to your pet, you need the correct temperature for a long enough period of time, the right climate, and the correct species and sex of mosquito.
Medication Side Effects.
Most of the conventional heartworm preventives are relatively safe, but there are concerns NOW about heartworm resistance (ie we have used the same medication for so long that the microfilaria are no longer susceptible…)
This has led to ‘newer’ generation Heartworm meds, such as Proheart… but it has it’s own issues/serious side effects.
Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis): facial swelling, itching, difficulty breathing, collapse; lethargy (sluggishness); not eating or losing interest in food; any change in activity level; seizures; vomiting and/or diarrhea (with and without blood); weight loss; pale gums, increased thirst or urination, weakness, bleeding, bruising; rare instances of death. This product was voluntarily withdrawn from the market in 2004 because of deaths but has been reintroduced.
Holistic Heartworm Prevention
Holistic heartworm prevention options include many common sense natural health suggestions to keep your dog’s immune system healthy, along with preventing mosquito bites.
First, avoid unnecessary vaccines- keep your dog’s immune system healthy.
Avoid repeated uses of steroids, or conventional antibiotics.
Provide excellent nutrition by feeding quality natural brands of dog food, home diets and raw food. Ensure that the diet includes certain nutraceuticals that help prime the immune response; essential fatty acids in adequate levels, probiotics, and consider the use of colostrum.
My supplement Ultimate Canine Health Formula contains these ingredients.
Practice excellent mosquito control, as this is the insect that spreads heartworm. I have had some great success with a natural mosquito repellent using cedarwood oil.
‘New’ Natural Flea/Mosquito Spray
Witch Hazel with Aloe: 1/2 cup (120ml)
Liquid coconut oil: 1/4 cup (60ml)
Neem Oil (warmed to liquid state): 2.5ml (2.5 dropperfuls)
Lavender Essential Oil: 20 drops (1ml)
One study said this…
Repellent action of neem oil was evaluated against different mosquito species. 2% neem oil mixed in coconut oil provided 96-100% protection from anophelines, 85% from Aedes, 37.5% from Armigeres whereas it showed wide range of efficacy from 61-94% against Culex spp. Therefore, neem oil can be applied as a personal protection measure against mosquito bites.
Regular Testing: This is inexpensive, and important if you are in an area where heartworm exists… . especially if you are not giving the preventive medication.
Use natural alternatives when possible: This can mean using nosodes and herbal supplements, while also having your dog tested for heartworm. This is better under the guidance of a holistic veterinarian.
Dr Steve Marden’s Heartworm Regimen
This formula is from Steve Marsden DVM, in the Manual of Natural Veterinary Medicine. Again, don’t use it on your own because you’ll need a holistic vet’s advice on dosing.
The tincture blend contains:
* 14 ml ginger
* 9 ml wormwood*
* 4 ml garlic
* 14 ml thyme
* 9 ml cinnamon
Dosage: Ask your holistic vet or herbalist about the right dosage for your dog. Dr Marsden suggests a starting dose of 0.1 ml per 5 lbs of body weight, divided into 2 or 3 doses per day.
*Wormwood can cause gastrointestinal irritation. Giving the tincture separately in a gelatin capsule with meals can reduce the effect.
Dr Marsden has used the above herbal blend successfully in his practice.He gives it along with Bromelain.Bromelain is an enzyme extracted from pineapples. It helps break down the dead worms. This can lower the chances of your dog getting a pulmonary embolism from worm die-off.
Dr Marsden recommends a starting dose of 30 mg per lb of body weight. Divide this into two or three daily doses and give it two hours away from meals.
About Monthly Preventives…
My thoughts on conventional use of monthly heartworm preventives are this: If you are in a high risk area, use the conventional preventives, but for as short duration as possible – ie when the conditions really exist to transmit the disease.
Use the lowest effective dose of the preventives; you can also follow up the conventional meds with liver supportive products such as milk thistle and Vitamin E. If you live in an area with little to no risk of heartworm, consider no use of conventional medication.
You should now have a better understanding of what heartworm is in dogs, and how it is spread from dog to dog. Now you know the clinical signs of heartworm infection, plus are able to determine whether or not your dog needs heartworm preventives based on the incidence in your area.
Lastly you can use some of the suggested holistic modalities to prevent heartworm, avoiding the potential side effects of the conventional heartworm drugs.
P.S. Is Heartworm serious… Yes
Does your dog NEED to be on Heartworm Preventive?
In many cases… likely not.
P.P.S. An easy way to help your pet’s heart (and joints, skin and brain!)
Omega 3 Fatty Acids are considered to be one of the most important supplements in Veterinary Medicine(Clinician’s Brief). Dr Jones’ Natural Krill Oil provides high levels of the important Fatty Acids, EPA and DHA, better absorption/bioavailability, WITHOUT the toxins now found in many Fish Oil supplements.