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Natural Heartworm Prevention for Dogs

Is heartworm medication necessary?

To protect your dog from heartworm without medication, there are several steps you can take. First, it’s important to understand how dogs get heartworms. Then, you can learn how to prevent this disease. In this article I will share my experience and my take on this as an Animal Naturopath.

The fear of heartworm disease

As a pet owner myself, I can understand the fear that comes with the mention of heartworm disease. This fear is not unfounded. Heartworm disease, caused by the parasitic worm Dirofilaria immitis, is a severe and potentially fatal condition that primarily affects dogs, but can also infect cats and other types of mammals. It’s transmitted by mosquitoes and is prevalent in all 50 states, regardless of the climate.

The severity of heartworm disease in dogs stems from the fact that the worms reside in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels, causing severe heart disease, lung disease, and other organ damage. If left untreated, it can lead to an agonizing death for our beloved furry friends.

Unfortunately, many dog owners are not aware of the significant risk heartworm disease poses until it’s too late. The disease is a silent killer, often showing no signs until it has progressed to a dangerous stage. This is where prevention comes in, and why it’s so crucial. We all want to do what’s best for our dogs, and preventing heartworm disease should be at the top of that list.

Just like many, you might have reservations about conventional heartworm medications due to their chemical composition and potential side effects. But here’s the good news – there are natural alternatives available. In this article, we’ll explore these natural heartworm preventatives, their safety, effectiveness, and the science behind them.

But first and I’m sure you are aware of this since you are reading this article…

Side effects of conventional heartworm medication

Heartworm medications are not without their drawbacks. While they’re often effective in preventing heartworm disease, the harsh truth is that they can also lead to several side effects.

Most of these medications belong to a class of drugs known as macrocyclic lactones, which, although powerful against heartworms, can also cause adverse reactions in some dogs. The severity and type of these reactions can vary depending on the specific drug used, the dosage, and the individual dog’s health status and breed.

  • Gastrointestinal problems: One of the most common side effects includes gastrointestinal issues. Dogs may suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, or a loss of appetite after taking these medications.
  • Neurological issues: Some dogs may experience neurological problems, such as seizures, tremors, or unusual behaviors. These are more common in certain breeds that are sensitive to the drugs, including Collies and related breeds.
  • Allergic reactions: In some cases, dogs may have an allergic reaction to the medication, leading to symptoms like itching, hives, or difficulty breathing. If you notice any of these signs, it’s crucial to seek veterinary care immediately or even better, contact me. This is one of the most common issues I deal with and I have helped many. I have proven remedies that works very well.

It’s worth noting that, despite these potential side effects, conventional heartworm medications remain a cornerstone of heartworm prevention for most pet owners. That’s because untreated heartworm disease can be much more detrimental to a dog’s health, leading to severe organ damage and even death. However, understanding these potential side effects is essential as it allows us to make informed decisions about our pets’ health care.

Here are some of the most common heartworm Medications and their protentional side effects reported:

REVOLUTION® (selamectin), Topical Parasiticide For Dogs and Cats

  • Vomiting
  • Loose stool or diarrhea with or without blood
  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy
  • Salivation
  • Tachypnea
  • Muscle tremors
  • Pruritis (Itchy skin)
  • Urticaria (chronic hives)
  • Erythema
  • Ataxia (damage to the brain that controls muscle coordination)
  • Fever.

There have been some reports of death and seizures in dogs.

INTERCEPTOR (milbemycin oxime)

  • Depression/lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Anorexia
  • Diarrhea
  • Mydriasis
  • Ataxia
  • Staggering
  • Convulsions
  • Hypersalivation
  • Weakness.

SENTINEL (milbemycin oxime)

  • Vomiting
  • Depression/lethargy
  • Pruritus
  • Urticaria
  • Diarrhea
  • Anorexia
  • Ataxia
  • Convulsions
  • Hypersalivation
  • Weakness.

HEARTGARD And TriHeartPlus (ivermectin)

  • Depression/lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Anorexia
  • Diarrhea
  • Mydriasis
  • Ataxia
  • Staggering
  • Convulsions
  • Hypersalivation.

ProHeart 6* and Proheart 12
These are drugs that are administered through injection and last for 6 or 12 months, respectively. These drugs may cause severe allergic reactions such as:

  • Facial swelling
  • Itching
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Collapse
  • Lethargy, loss of appetite
  • Changes in activity level
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (with and without blood)
  • Weight loss
  • Pale gums
  • Increased thirst or urination
  • Weakness
  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • In rare cases, death.

*In 2004, the maker of ProHeart 6 withdrew the product from the market due to deaths. However, they have recently reintroduced it and even introduced a new product called ProHeart 12. What is concerning about these injectables is that if a dog has a reaction, it cannot simply be stopped since the drugs remain in the dog’s body for either 6 or 12 months.

Understanding the Lifecycle of Heartworms

As a dog owner, understanding the lifecycle of heartworms is essential in preventing these potentially fatal parasites from infesting your beloved pet. The lifecycle of heartworms is quite complex and involves several stages, with the mosquito playing a crucial role.

Heartworms start their life as tiny microfilariae within a mosquito. When the mosquito bites a dog, it injects these microfilariae into the dog’s bloodstream. Over time (usually about six to seven months), these microfilariae mature into adult heartworms. These adults live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of an infected dog, where they can cause severe harm.

Let’s break down this process:

  1. Initial Infection: A mosquito carrying heartworm larvae bites a dog and transmits the larvae into the dog’s bloodstream.
  2. Maturation: Over the next 6-7 months, the larvae grow into adult heartworms. They migrate and settle in the heart, lungs, and surrounding blood vessels.
  3. Reproduction: Once mature, female heartworms can produce microfilariae, which circulate in the dog’s bloodstream.
  4. Transmission: When a mosquito bites an infected dog, it ingests microfilariae. These then mature into infective larvae within the mosquito, ready to infect another dog.

It’s important to note that heartworms can live for up to seven years in a dog, and an infected dog can host several hundred worms. This life cycle’s complexity is one reason why prevention is so crucial and why I want to discuss natural heartworm preventatives in the next section. Can these natural solutions effectively break this cycle and protect your dog? Let’s find out together.

Recognizing the Early Signs of Heartworm Infection

When it comes to the health of our beloved dogs, early detection is key. This is particularly true with heartworm infection, a serious and potentially fatal disease. Recognizing the early signs of heartworm infection can make a significant difference in your pet’s prognosis and recovery. The symptoms can be subtle and easy to overlook, so it’s essential to stay vigilant.

The early signs of heartworm infection include:

  • Fatigue: Your dog may show signs of fatigue even after light exercise. They might be less eager to play and seem to tire easily.
  • Persistent cough: Dogs infected with heartworms often develop a soft, dry cough. It may seem mild at first, but it can persist or become more frequent over time.
  • Weight loss or loss of appetite: Infected dogs may lose their appetite and start to lose weight, even if their exercise and diet haven’t changed.
  • Rapid or difficult breathing: Heartworms can cause damage to the lungs, leading to rapid or labored breathing.

It’s important to remember that these signs can also be indicative of other health issues. Therefore, if your dog is showing any of these symptoms, it’s crucial to consult your vet right away. In the world of veterinary medicine, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

While recognizing these signs can indeed help, prevention is always better than cure. In the following section, we will delve into natural prevention methods for heartworm disease, their safety, and effectiveness.

Natural Heartworm Preventatives: Are They Safe and Effective?

As a dog owner, the health and well-being of your furry friend are understandably your top priorities. Naturally, you might find yourself wondering about the safety and effectiveness of natural heartworm preventatives. After all, heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition for dogs, and prevention is always better than cure.

Heartworms, as the name suggests, are parasitic worms that live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of affected pets. They cause severe lung disease, heart failure, and other organ damage. Unsurprisingly, you’d want to protect your canine companion from such a threat. Here’s where natural heartworm preventatives come into the picture.

What are natural heartworm preventatives?

Natural heartworm preventatives are alternative, non-chemical-based treatments used to prevent heartworm disease in dogs. These natural remedies often include ingredients like garlic, black walnut, and wormwood. But the question remains – how safe and effective are they?

Are they safe?

In general, natural heartworm preventatives are considered safe for most dogs. They are made from natural ingredients that are typically non-toxic and have fewer side effects compared to conventional medications. However, just like any other treatment, they may not be suitable for all dogs. Some dogs might have allergies or adverse reactions to certain natural ingredients. So, always consult with your vet before you begin any new treatment regimen for your dog.

Are they effective?

Effectiveness of natural heartworm preventatives can be a bit of a contentious topic. While some pet owners swear by these treatments, others are skeptical. It’s important to note that there’s limited scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of natural heartworm preventatives. They may help boost your dog’s overall immune system, which could potentially help in preventing heartworms, but they are not guaranteed to protect your dog completely from heartworm disease.

Remember, heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition. Therefore, while natural preventatives might be part of the solution, they should not be the only preventive measure you take. A comprehensive approach to heartworm prevention is the best course of action. This includes regular check-ups with your vet, appropriate mosquito control (since mosquitoes transmit heartworms), and a balanced diet for your dog.

The Science behind Natural Heartworm Prevention

Now comes the most intriguing part – understanding the science behind natural heartworm prevention. It’s crucial to know how these methods work before administering them to our canine friends, and most importantly, why they are considered an alternative to conventional medications.

The Basis of Natural Prevention

Most natural heartworm preventatives employ a two-pronged approach. First, they aim to boost the dog’s immune system. A strong immune system is often the best defense against any kind of infection or disease. Secondly, they try to make the dog’s body a less favorable environment for heartworms to thrive. These two strategies combined create a robust defense against heartworms.

Boosting Immunity

Many natural preventatives include ingredients like garlic, turmeric, and Echinacea, which are known for their immune-boosting properties. Echinacea, for instance, is a powerful herb that stimulates the immune system, while garlic and turmeric have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects (among other benefits). Together, these ingredients can enhance a dog’s immunity, making it difficult for heartworms to gain a foothold.

Making an Unfavorable Environment

Another aspect of natural heartworm prevention is creating an inhospitable environment for heartworms. Some natural preventatives include ingredients like black walnut and wormwood, which are known to create a hostile environment for heartworms. These ingredients are believed to naturally kill or repel heartworm larvae, preventing them from maturing into adult worms that can cause significant damage.

While it’s easy to attract to the idea of natural prevention methods, it’s essential to keep in mind that these are not magic bullets. They require consistent use and time to build up their effects. Also, they work best as part of a holistic health regimen, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and routine veterinary check-ups.

My approach as an Animal Naturopath

One thing I have learned from my raw feeding study with more than 5k participants is that the body has an amazing ability to heal and protect itself.

Indeed, the adage “nature is the best healer” rings true, particularly when we delve into the world of our furry companions. Dogs and cats, much like humans, possess an intriguing and often underestimated capacity to heal themselves. In my experience, this capacity is greatly influenced by the kind of nutrition they receive, hence my keen interest in raw feeding.

The Body’s Natural Healing Mechanisms

Just like us, our pets’ bodies are equipped with a complex array of immune responses designed to combat illnesses and facilitate healing. Remember that time when your dog had a minor cut and it healed itself without any intervention? That was their body’s natural healing mechanism at work.

In essence, when a dog or cat experiences an injury or illness, its body immediately goes into ‘healing mode.’ White blood cells rush to the site to fight off infection, while other cells work to repair tissues. Over time, the body slowly but surely heals itself.

The Role of Nutrition in Healing and Prevention

Throughout my study, one aspect consistently stood out: the role of nutrition in aiding the healing process. When our pets are fed a nutritionally balanced, raw diet, we are essentially providing their bodies with the ‘tools’ they need to heal.

  • Proteins are the building blocks for repairing and rebuilding tissues.
  • Vitamins and minerals aid in various biochemical reactions essential for healing. For instance, vitamin C plays a crucial role in collagen synthesis, a protein vital for wound healing.
  • Fats provide energy for the healing process and play a significant role in reducing inflammation.

The question is the food that 95% of per owners feed today the optimal food to accomplish a a proper healing and preventionprocess?

My answer is a huge NO!. Processed food is not what a carnivore is designed for. Yes, your cute fury friend is a carnivore. If you do not agree I encourage you to read this article: https://theanimalnaturopath.com/dogs-cats-are-carnivores-they-are-not-omnivores-like-human-beings/

So what is the proper food for a dog and cat? Both carnivores?

A carnivore is an animal that primarily eats meat. For a carnivorous animal, the proper food would consist mainly of animal-based proteins. This includes various types of meat such as beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, and fish. These protein sources provide essential amino acids that carnivores require for their growth, development, and overall health.

Feeding a raw food diet to dogs and cats can provide several benefits. One of the main advantages is that it closely mimics the natural diet of these animals in the wild. Raw food diets typically consist of uncooked meat, bones, organs, and sometimes small amounts of fruits and vegetables. This type of diet is believed to be more biologically appropriate for dogs and cats, as their digestive systems are designed to process raw food. By feeding them a raw food diet, you are providing them with the nutrients they need in a form that their bodies can easily digest and absorb. This is turn builds a strong immune system which is the ultimate goal.

If you are new to raw feeding and unsure how to get started, I wrote a book just for you. You can get it here.

In conclusion, the prevention of heartworm disease in dogs is of paramount importance. The fear surrounding the disease is justified due to the serious health implications and fatality associated with it. However, it’s necessary to evaluate the potential side effects of conventional heartworm medications. Gaining an understanding of the heartworm lifecycle and recognizing the early signs of heartworm infection can empower you in making informed decisions about your dog’s health.

Natural heartworm preventatives present an intriguing and potentially less harmful alternative, but the safety and effectiveness must be thoroughly considered with the aid of relevant scientific evidence. Your exploration into natural heartworm prevention might also lead you towards a more holistic and naturopathic approach to animal health, including understanding the role of nutrition and the body’s natural healing mechanisms.

Keep in mind that the food you choose for your canine plays a critical role in their overall health and ability to resist diseases like heartworm. As always, open dialogues with your veterinarian and animal health experts are invaluable in safeguarding the health of your beloved pet. Remember, our ultimate goal is not just to prevent one disease but to ensure a long, happy, and healthy life for our four-legged friends.

Food plays an important part in the prevention of heartworm and I believe a raw food diet is the best for dogs and cats.

Thomas Sandberg CSAN, CCNC, AADP

Thomas Sandberg CSAN, CCNC, AADP

Thomas Sandberg is a board certified animal naturopath and carnivore nutritionist. He founder of Long Living Pets Research Projects, a 30-year observational study into raw-fed dogs and cats. Thomas also consults in animal naturopathy, including the prevention of chronic diseases and longevity using all-natural modalities. With more than 20 years of experience with hundreds of cancer cases, he has a deep understanding of why so many dogs and cats get cancer today and how we can lower the risk significantly.

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This is possible, and what I do. My approach is to restore the immune system in dogs and cats so they can achieve homeostasis. That is the best protection against pathogens that can lead to diseases.


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