guide to heartworm

“To judge by your local veterinarian’s stern insistence on regular heartworm pills for your dog, you’d think we’re in the midst of a brutal epidemic, leaving piles of the dead in its wake. I think there’s an epidemic too, but of a different sort: of disease-causing toxicity instilled in our pets by heartworm preventative pills.” – The Nature of Animal Healing by Martin Goldstein, DVM

Every spring, vet clinics everywhere put up signs telling you it’s time to test your dog for heartworm and start giving them heartworm meds. You might diligently take your dog to the vet for the testing and meds, but you might also be wondering …

Is heartworm really this serious or is all the hype just about the money? Let’s take a closer look at heartworm disease and you can decide for yourself.

What Is Heartworm Disease?

Heartworm is a parasite transmitted by some types of mosquitoes. Once they enter the host, these worms circulate in the bloodstream and can grow up to 14 inches long. When the worms reach maturity, they migrate to the heart and pulmonary arteries, where they can cause lung, heart and organ damage. This is called heartworm disease.

The Heartworm Life Cycle

Parasitic worms, like heartworms, go through 5 larval stages of growth (L1, L2, etc). Each stage of growth requires different environments and conditions.

Heartworms reproduce when adult male and female heartworms mate. Heartworms don’t lay eggs like other worms … they produce live baby worms called microfilariae. If a dog is bitten by the pregnant female mosquito, her microfilariae are released into the circulatory system and they wait there for a new mosquito to bite the dog again.

This is the only way microfilariae can begin to develop into adult heartworms … they must be picked up by a second mosquito to develop into larger, and more mature larvae, called L2 and L3. They do this while they’re in the mosquito’s body and this can take a few weeks to occur. If the temperature falls below 57°F, they’ll die off.

heartworm stages of growth

How Dogs Are Infected

heartworm lifecycle

If the microfilariae are lucky enough to be hanging around an area in the dog that’s bitten by a second mosquito, and that mosquito lives long enough with a high temperature, the microfilariae can develop into L3 larvae. Also, the second mosquito can bite and infect a dog.

When the dog is bitten, the mosquito leaves a tiny drop of saliva on the surface of the dog’s skin that contains the L3 living in it. In order for the L3 to make it through the saliva and into the dog, the day needs to be humid. If the weather is dry, the saliva will evaporate before the L3 can get into the dog.

If the L3 makes it into the dog, they can develop into L4 and this takes up to two weeks to happen … if the dog’s immune system doesn’t find the L3 and destroy them first.

You might think the immune system is only capable of dealing with viruses, but your dog can defend himself against heartworms and microfilariae. Special white blood cells can seek out and destroy heartworms and their larvae.

If the L3 and L4 survive the dog’s immune system, the L4 will reside in the dog’s skin for about 3 months while it develops into an L5 or adult heartworm. Once the heartworm is in the L5 stage, it will leave the skin and move to the dog’s circulatory system, and eventually move to the heart and the pulmonary arteries if the dog is large enough. Once there, the adult heartworms will mate and produce new microfilariae. It takes about 6 months for microfilariae to develop into adult heartworms and once they mature, heartworms can only survive in their host for 3 to 5 years.

Heartworm Disease

Once adult heartworms take up residence in the heart and pulmonary arteries, the immune system will continue trying to attack them … and this causes inflammation and irritation of the blood vessel lining. This is when heartworm disease occurs and the dog may start to suffer from:

  • Aneurysms
  • Blot clots (embolism)
  • Fluid accumulation in the lungs
  • Lack of oxygen in the blood
  • Heart failure

When this happens, common signs in the dog will include:

  • Exercise intolerance
  • Coughing
  • Nose bleeds
  • Pneumonia

How Can My Dog Get Heartworm?

Although heartworm appears to be rampant, there are several important steps that need to occur before a dog is infected. Let’s take a quick look at these steps …

  • Heartworm is spread only by certain breeds of mosquitoes (not all breeds of mosquitoes are able to transmit heartworm).
  • The infected mosquito must first land on and bite an affected dog or other animal to carry heartworm.
  • Dogs can’t “catch” heartworm from other infected dogs – it must be carried by a mosquito.

Because heartworms rely on mosquitoes as their mode of transportation,  there are very specific steps that must be met to for your dog to be at risk for heartworm disease …

STEP 1
The first step is for the weather to be warm enough for there to be mosquitos. Dogs can’t catch heartworm from other dogs … there must be a proper mosquito of the right species involved.

STEP 2
The dog (or other host) must already be infected with mature male and female heartworms and they must have produced microfilariae that are alive when the dog is bitten and are at the site of the bite.

STEP 3
A female mosquito needs to land on and bite the animal carrying microfilariae. Only female mosquitos can act as an incubator for the microfilariae to grow into the L3. This takes 10 to 14 days and it requires the right temperature.

STEP 4
Your dog must be bitten by a female mosquito that is actively incubating microfilariae and the temperature and humidity need to be high enough for the L3 to make it through your dog’s skin (L2 won’t be passed to your dog). Many studies say this requires a steady daily temperature of at least 64°F, day and night for a month for this to happen. The veterinary college at Washington State University also notes that at 80°F the time to maturation would be about half that. If at any time, the temperature drops belos 57°F, the maturation cycle will fail and the female mosquito can no longer transmit heartworm to dogs.

So a lot of events have to come into play for your dog to be bitten by a mosquito-carrying heartworm and to develop heartworm disease if he/she is. So what’s the real risk for your dog?

What Is The Real Risk For My Dog?

The American Heartworm Society is an organization that keeps track of heartworm cases.  Keep in mind who sponsors the Society (a bunch of pharmaceutical companies who sell heartworm drugs).

Here is the incidence of US heartworm cases for the last 5 years.

heartworm statistics

As you can see, the nationwide average (which includes high and low prevalence states) is 1.19%.

States most likely to have heartwormFlorida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Montana and Puerto Rico

States with moderate likelihood to have heartworm – New Mexico, Arizona, California, Utah, Kansas, Colorado, Nevada, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, Delaware, Washington D.C., Maryland, Wyoming, Michigan, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Hawaii and Alaska.

States with low chances of getting heartworm: Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota West Virginia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey.

https://www.capcvet.org/parasite-prevalence-maps/

You can also see from data posted on heartwormsociety.org that heartworm outbreaks are rarely severe in the same places every year (with the exception of the Mississippi river and southern Louisiana).  Therefore, some years a specific city may be high incidence and the very next year it may be moderate or low incidence.

(Data taken from https://www.heartwormsociety.org/pet-owner-resources/incidence-maps)

Data from the NCEI (National Centers for Environmental Information) gives great insight into why this happens.  Climate averages and ranges are responsible for heartworm’s ability to proliferate in an area.  As you read above, the conditions must be warm and lasting for heartworm to be spread.  National Temperature and Precipitation maps show the following data:

2011 ranked “Above Average” in temperature for the year, with Texas and parts of the Northeast being Much Above Average.

2012 ranked “Record Warmest” in temperature for the year.

2013 ranked “Above Normal” in temperature for the year.

2014 ranked “Above Normal” in temperature for the year.

2015 ranked “Much Above Average” in temperature for the year

2016 ranked “Much Above Average” in temperature for the year

So if your state doesn’t have the climate conditions for heartworm, why are there sometimes heartworm cases? Natural disasters are the primary cause.

Most pets infected with heartworm are homeless for some period. Therefore, they are often also dealing with other immune-compromising issues such as poor diet, mange, group diseases and infection.

Natural disasters mean that local shelters often transfer animals to shelters in other states. If an animal is infected with heartworm in another state then tests positive for it in your state, your state is listed as heartworm positive. This will increase the statistical values of heartworm in your state, even if your state doesn’t have conditions under which heartworm can spread.

Viewing Fema.Gov/Disasters/Grid/Year is a great way to get an idea of when and where natural disasters have occurred and where shelter dogs may be moving out and dispersed into shelters in other states.

So, if you do live in a state where heartworms are prevalent, what should you do to protect your dog?

Heartworm Prevention

The first option you’ll encounter is giving your dog conventional heartworm drugs.

Conventional Heartworm Drugs
Your vet will probably advise you to give heartworm “preventive” drugs all summer long – or even year round!

But those drugs don’t actually “prevent” anything … they just kill any heartworm microfilariae or larvae that may already be in your dog.  And they do that by paralyzing the heartworm larvae. If they can kill heartworm larvae, then they can also harm your dog.

There are many reports of dogs suffering adverse reactions after taking heartworm meds. Here are just a few reactions that have been reported after dogs took some of the popular heartworm prevention drugs on the market:

HEARTGARD and TriHeartPlus (ivermectin):
Depression/lethargy, vomiting, anorexia, diarrhea, mydriasis, ataxia (staggering), convulsions and hypersalivation.

INTERCEPTOR (milbemycin oxime):
Reports the above reactions plus weakness.

SENTINEL (milbemycin oxime):
Vomiting, depression/lethargy, pruritus, urticaria, diarrhea, anorexia, skin congestion, ataxia, convulsions, hypersalivation and weakness.

REVOLUTION® (selamectin), Topical Parasiticide For Dogs and Cats:
Vomiting, loose stool or diarrhea with or without blood, anorexia, lethargy, salivation, tachypnea, and muscle tremors. Post-approval experience included the above plus pruritis, urticaria, erythema, ataxia, fever, and rare reports of death and seizures in dogs.

Proheart 6 (moxidectin):
Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis): facial swelling, itching, difficulty breathing, collapse; lethargy,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.

Adverse Event Reporting

Keep in mind that adverse events are generally underreported (vets don’t have time, pet owners don’t bother or don’t realize that they can report the reaction themselves) and it’s estimated as many as 99 percent of reactions aren’t reported.

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends reporting the adverse reactions to the drug company itself, it’s questionable whether those reports get to the FDA to be recorded.

If your dog suffers a reaction to heartworm drugs (or any drugs for that matter), you can ask your vet to report it, and you can also file your own report with the FDA following the instructions on the FDA’s site.

If, despite these alarming reports, you still want to give your dog heartworm meds, here’s some information about which products work on which stages of heartworm development.

Which Stages Of Heartworm The Drug Kills

Products containing selamectin and moxidectin (Revolution and Proheart 6) are not effective in clearing microfilariae but will kill L3 and L4 larvae.

L3 and L4 larvae can also be killed by Ivermectin-based products like Heartgard. If your dog has heartworms, veterinarians will often use ivermectin to clear any microfilariae that are present. However, the Heartgard product insert specifically warns that Heartgard is not effective for microfilariae clearance, and that some dogs may get diarrhea or other “mild hypersensitivity reactions” after being treated with ivermectin when they had circulating microfilariae.

The products containing milbemycin (Interceptor and Sentinel) will also kill microfilariae, L3 and L4 larvae but they will do it much faster, which can create circulatory shock if a large number of microfilariae die at the same time. Sentinel and Interceptor provide a similar warning to Heargard about mild hypersensitivity reactions in a pet carrying high levels of microfilariae.

Examples of “mild hypersensitivity reactions” are diarrhea, labored breathing, vomiting, hypersalivation and lethargy.

Timing Of Heartworm Meds

If you’re going to give heartworm meds despite the risk of these drugs, it’s important to know how they work, so that you know when best to give them.  Remember, the meds kill the heartworms when they’re already in your dog, so giving meds when there are no mosquitoes present, is pointless and only adds to the risk for your dog.

So the best time to start giving heartworm meds is 30 to 45 days after the weather warms up enough for mosquitoes to appear

If you live in an area with cold winters, you can usually stop giving heartworm drugs after the first frost. Otherwise most vets recommend stopping 30 to 45 days after the weather is consistently below 57°F (and the mosquitoes aren’t around any more).

If you’re using heartworm drugs and you take your dog on a trip to warmer heartworm areas, you’ll need to give prevention within 30 days of exposure to infected mosquitoes. Dogs over 5 months old need to be tested before starting preventative.

Note: The American Heartworm Society recommends year round heartworm drugs, whatever part of the country you live in; they claim that even in a cold weather state like Minnesota, some species of mosquito are adapting to cold climates. Again, remember that their sponsors are the companies that sell the drugs, and then make a common sense decision based on your dog’s real likelihood of getting bitten by mosquitoes in the middle of winter – as well as the risk of harm to your dog from the drugs.

How Often To Give Heartworm Drugs

Most heartworm drugs come with instructions to give them every 30 days. But according to many holistic vets, the monthly drugs are just as effective if you give them every 45 days, and 99 percent as effective if given every 60 days. Yes, it’s easier to remember to give the meds at the beginning of every month; but it’s safer for your dog to reduce the dosing frequency to every 45 days – that’s 4 fewer doses a year if you use the drugs year-round.

Manufacturers’ Guarantees

Some heartworm drug manufacturers guarantee your dog won’t get heartworms if you use their products.  But the terms of these guarantees are quite stringent and it can be hard to get paid. For example, check out the requirements for Revolution’s guarantee. https://www.zoetisus.com/contact/pages/product_information/pdf/RevolutionSG.pdf

heartworm disease guidelines revolution

Hopefully you’re now thinking “I want to avoid these poisonous drugs for my dog.” If that’s the case, keep reading.

Natural Ways To Prevent Heartworms

There are several approaches you can take to protect your dog from heartworm.  But the foundation lies in a healthy immune system.

Your Dog’s Immune System

Many dog owners who want to avoid toxic drugs choose to rely on their dog’s strong immune system to prevent parasites like heartworms. Even the American Heartworm Society admits on its website that “host immune responses affect the presence of circulating microfilariae” … in other words, your dog’s immune system can kill the microfilariae or prevent them from reproducing.

Your dog’s immune system is his first defense against any kind of disease, including heartworm disease. Did you know that wild canines like wolves and coyotes don’t get sick or die from heartworm disease?

In a Wisconsin study from 1991 to 1996, researchers captured and tested adult wolves for disease.  Only 2 percent of those wolves had any trace of heartworm.

Another study in Illinois tested 920 coyotes caught by hunters from1995 to 1997. Only 16 percent had any incidence of heartworm, and even the ones who had it, weren’t sick – their body weights and fat reserves were unaffected.

These wild animals are outdoors 24/7, so they’re exposed to a much higher risk of being bitten by mosquitoes than our domestic dogs who spend most of their time indoors. So why are our dogs more susceptible to heartworm disease?

The difference lies in what we do to our dogs to weaken their immune system … things like:

  • Vaccination or over-vaccination
  • Poor nutrition
  • Exposure to toxins like drugs, pesticides, fertilizers, household cleaners, and other chemicals

6 Steps To Strengthen Your Dog’s Immune System

Taking these steps will help strengthen your dog’s immune system:

  1. Feed your dog a fresh, whole food diet
  2. Minimize vaccines
  3. Avoid commonly prescribed drugs like antibiotics or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)
  4. Avoid chemical pest control products (like spot-on products) and dewormers
  5. Don’t use pesticides or herbicides on your lawn
  6. Use natural cleaning products in your home

Control Mosquitoes

Since heartworm is transmitted by mosquito bites, limiting your dog’s exposure to mosquitoes is important.

How To Limit Your Dog’s Exposure To Mosquitoes

  • Keep your dog indoors at dusk and dawn
  • Eliminate standing water in your gutters, flowerpots and yard
  • Change water in birdbaths, fountains or kiddie pools at least once a week
  • Use bug zappers
  • Don’t overwater your garden
  • Cut back weeds where adult mosquitoes like to rest
  • Avoid swampy, mosquito breeding areas when you walk your dog

The American Mosquito Control Association has a number of helpful tips to keep mosquitoes away from your home and yard.

Prevent Bites

There are a number of safe, natural products you can use to prevent mosquito bites. These products can also repel other pests like ticks and fleas, so they’re a good investment in your dog’s health and comfort.

Topical Sprays
There are many natural sprays available to repel insects. You can apply most of these daily if your dog’s exposed to mosquitoes regularly … or when you’re going for a walk in an area where there are likely to be more mosquitoes.

Essential Oils
You’ll find a number of companies selling products that use essential oil blends. They’re available from natural grocers, holistic pet supply stores and online.

Use caution with these because some dogs really don’t like being sprayed with them … essential oils are quite powerful, even when diluted, so make sure they don’t make your dog uncomfortable. But if your dog tolerates them well, they can be very effective.  Avoid products that use geraniol or pennyroyal essential oils as they can be toxic to dogs.

Cedar Oil Based Products
Sprays such as Cedarcide are safe and effective against mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas … and most dogs don’t seem to mind the smell.

Homeopathic Remedies

There are a number of homeopathic remedies that can repel insects as well as heal the bites if your dog does get bitten.  Individual remedies like Staphysagria, Ledum palustre, Grindelia, Cedron and Urtica urens can all help prevent mosquito bites.

Rather than trying to select the appropriate remedy yourself, you can make life easier by choosing a homeopathic blend called Mozi-Q, which contains all these remedies and is a non-toxic, effective way to keep mosquitoes from biting your dog. It comes in a tablet you can pop in your dog’s mouth, or, if he spits it out, dissolve it in water and dose him with a dropper or syringe of the liquid.

Testing

Regular testing for heartworm disease is a good idea for any dog – at least once or twice a year. But doing a certain kind of test, and testing more often can also help you protect your dog against heartworm disease.

There are different kinds of tests, depending on the reason for testing.

Antigen Blood Test
The most widely used heartworm test is an antigen test on a blood sample. The test detects adult heartworms if there are more than 5 female adult heartworms present (the test doesn’t recognize a pure male heartworm population). This test is the one veterinarians use for annual heartworm testing.

DNA Heartworm Testing
This is a different kind of test based on PCR (polymerase chain reaction) technology. The benefit of this test (offered by companies like Healthgene) is that it’s highly accurate and can test for heartworm in larval stages of development (not just adult heartworms like the antigen blood test).

This means you can detect heartworm in your dog at a much earlier stage than the antigen testing.

If your dog does test positive, you’ll have many more treatment options and they’ll be much safer than the risky conventional treatment vets use when adult heartworms are present. (We’ll talk more about treatment options later.)

So instead of giving your dog heartworm drugs that can potentially harm him, you can use the DNA testing.

Here’s how to do that …

First, find out the beginning and end of heartworm season in your area, using the maps below.

heartworm season map

Next, find out how many tests you need from the table below.

heartworm season duration

Ask your vet to get the DNA test done (NOT the antigen test) according to the schedule above based on the heartworm season where you live.

If your dog’s test is negative, there are no heartworms present and you just need to retest according to the schedule above.

If your dog tests positive, this means your dog has been infected with heartworm. The next step depends on how long it’s been since his last test.

  • If the last test was done 4 months ago or less, your dog doesn’t have mature heartworms in his body and a heartworm preventive can safely be given.  Work with your vet who may want to run additional bloodwork or an ultrasound before prescribing medication.
  • If your dog has missed a test and it’s more than 4 months since his last test, he could have adult heartworms present and you mustn’t use preventive drugs. Preventive drugs can be dangerous when used on adult heartworms and your dog will need a different treatment protocol.

If your dog tests positive for heartworms, you’ll have some decision making to do about his treatment.

Treatment Options

There are conventional and natural treatment options.

If you’ve done the DNA testing and found your dog has early stage heartworm larvae, he can be conventionally treated using ivermectinn preventive drugs.

If your dog has adult heartworms, treatment becomes quite a daunting prospect. The method used by most veterinarians involves three injections of Immiticide (merlarsomine).

Before starting this treatment, veterinarians often recommend a course of the antibiotic Doxycycline, to eliminate a bacteria called Wolbachia, which may affect successful treatment.

The Immiticide treatment takes about three months, during which time your dog must be on crate rest and restricted exercise. This is to minimize the risk of dead worms getting into your dog’s bloodstream, which can be fatal.

That’s not the only risk in using this drug for heartworm treatment.  Here are some of the Adverse Event Reports filed with the FDA on melarsomine. Note that the first adverse event is that it’s ineffective in treating adult heartworms … and then Death is at number 9 on the list.

side effects to heartworm meds

Fortunately, there are some alternatives to conventional heartworm treatment.

But first a caution … please don’t attempt these treatments without the guidance of a holistic vet.

Heartworm is not something to treat at home by yourself. If you don’t have a holistic vet, you can find one at theavh.org or ahvma.org.  Many will do phone consults so they don’t have to be local.

Natural Heartworm Treatments

Herbal remedies
The first three herbal remedies are commercially available products.

HWF
By law, the manufacturer isn’t permitted to say that the product treats heartworm, so the description says HWF may support the heart by cleaning the cardiovascular system from unwanted  substances.

heartworm cardiovascular detox for canines

This is a gentle treatment option that takes from 16 to 36 weeks to help your dog eliminate heartworms. Your dog doesn’t have to be on restricted activity during this time.

The remedy contains the following herbal ingredients designed to work together to detox your dog:

  • Black seed
  • Hops flowers
  • Apricot kernel extract
  • Hawthorn berries
  • Garlic
  • Sheep sorrel
  • Grapefruit seed extract

natural heartworm ingredients

Work with your holistic vet to determine the appropriate dosing schedule for your dog. AmberTech recommends starting with their “Basic Detox” dosage guidelines if your dog has heartworms. It may be necessary to increase the dose over time if your dog’s heartworms aren’t clearing up.

Canine Heartworm Kit
This is another herbal product that’s been used successfully to treat heartworms.  It contains four different herbal blends containing the following ingredients

natural heartworm ingredients

Clearacell, Pet Clear and Worm-X are started together (added to food) and given for 10 days, 12 days and 7 days respectively (follow the recommended dosage). Coriolus is given after the other products, for a 30 day period.

No kennel time is needed while using this treatment and your dog’s activity doesn’t have to be restricted.

Azmira Giardia and Parasitic
This herbal extract supplement contains all-natural ingredients to help defend your pet’s body against a wide range of worms, amoebas, and parasites, including heartworm.

The product contains wormwood, quassia bark, black walnut hulls, neem leaves, bilva herb, embelia ribes, eclipta alba, phyllanthus amarus, gentian root, ginger root, grain alcohol and spring water.

The company recommends the following dosing protocol:

  • Give the blend daily 6 days a week for 6 weeks
  • Take the 7th week off
  • Repeat this cycle for 6 months
  • After 6 months, take a month off
  • After the month off, begin the cycle again if needed
  • Give 1 drop per 5 pounds of body weight per dose. Can be doubled initially to build up therapeutic properties or needed for acute situations
  • Give orally, mixing extract in a small amount of warm water or food
  • For optimum results repeat dose up to 3 to 4 times per day in between meals

Herbal Heartworm Formula
This formula from Steve Marsden DVM is published in the Manual of Natural Veterinary Medicine and is used successfully by holistic veterinarians to treat heartworm.

The formula includes:

  • Ginger
  • Wormwood*
  • Garlic
  • Thyme
  • Cinnamon
  • Peppermint is sometimes added as well

*See the caution about wormwood in #5 below.

Dr Marsden states that the formula should be used in conjunction with Bromelain. Bromelain is an enzyme extracted from pineapples. It helps break down the dead worms. Bromelain is available at many health stores and the recommended starting dose is 30 mg per lb of body weight, divided into two or three daily doses and given two hours away from meals.

Holistic veterinarian Dr Patricia Jordan told us she uses a modified version of the formula in her own practice.

To find a holistic vet who uses herbal treatments, search at ahvma.org and select Western Herbs as the Modality.

Homeopathic protocol by Dr Deva Khalsa
Holistic veterinarian Dr Deva Khalsa has found the following homeopathic protocol to be successful in treating heartworms.

You’ll need the following remedies in all the potencies indicated.

Croton tiglium 9x, 20x, 30x, 200x

Lycopersicum esculentum  9x, 20x, 30x

Tanacetum 9x, 20x, 30x

Allium cepa 9x, 20x, 30x, 200x

Allium sativum 9x ,20x, 30x, 200x

Mix all of these remedies together and give a few drops orally, twice a day for three months.

This protocol combines a number of carefully selected potencies of the same remedy to produce a remedy called a potency chord. These work on a number of different healing levels in the body at the same time, and can be faster acting and more effective than single potencies.

After two months, ask your vet to run an occult heartworm test twice a month to monitor your dog’s progress. It may take two to five months for testing to show as negative but Dr Khalsa has had great success with it.

Please work with your homeopathic veterinarian when using this treatment. You can find a homeopath at theavh.org or pivh.org.

If Your Dog is Very Ill

If the heartworms have caused serious damage to your dog’s heart, or if he is older or has a kidney or liver problem, you may want to use the above treatment concurrently with Crataegus (hawthorn) tincture to strengthen the heart.

Give a few drops three to four times a day, along with CoQ10 (30 to 100mg twice a day) to boost the metabolism in the heart muscle and detoxify the body.

Constitutional Treatment From Your Homeopathic Veterinarian

Homeopathy can offer another way to help your dog with heartworms.

The goal of constitutional treatment by a homeopathic veterinarian is to bring your dog’s vital force into balance so that his own healing process can take place. Over time, this can help your dog overcome the heartworms.

What To Expect

When a homeopathic veterinarian treats your dog constitutionally, she will start by taking a detailed case history of your dog. This process usually takes well over an hour.

She’ll want to know everything about your dog … not just medical history and physical symptoms, but emotional and mental symptoms as well. You should even tell her about any character or behavioral quirks your dog has.

This process helps your homeopath get a complete picture of your dog so that she can select the best remedy to help your dog with his overall health.

When your homeopath selects a remedy, she will give you dosing instructions and ask you to observe your dog and keep notes of any changes over a period of time. Some of these changes may be subtle. She will tell you when to report back to her.

Depending on what you feed your dog, your homeopath may also recommend some dietary changes to support your dog’s return to health. Most homeopathic vets will insist you feed a whole food based, raw meat diet.

Next Steps

At your second appointment, depending on what changes you’ve seen in your dog, your homeopath may prescribe a new remedy or recommend repeating the same remedy.

This process will continue until your dog’s condition is resolved. You will probably find your dog’s overall health will improve as well, and other health and behavior issues may resolve along the way.

To find a homeopathic veterinarian, search at theavh.org (use the search filter 75-100% homeopathy cases to find a more experienced homeopath) or pivh.org.

Most will do phone consults so they don’t have to be local.

Black Walnut and Wormwood

There are several products and protocols using these two powerful herbs, and there are reports that they are effective. However, due to the risk of side effects they should be used with caution, under guidance from your holistic vet or herbalist.

Strong tannins in both herbs can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Don’t give wormwood to dogs who suffer from seizures, kidney or liver disease, or to pregnant or lactating dams.

Some heartworm treatment products and protocols that include these herbs are:

Again, it’s important to only use these with guidance from your holistic veterinarian or herbalist, because they can be toxic when used improperly.

I hope your dog never gets heartworm. But if he does, you have some options to avoid the dangerous Immiticide treatment.