I’ve decided on a new name as we enter the month of May when many dog owners start thinking about preventing this pest: Heartworm Bewareness Month. While April is National Heartworm Awareness Month. I’ve learned enough about the dangers of the drugs used to prevent the worm that I think you’ll need your eyes wide open, especially now. It’s time to make your yearly decision in the northern hemisphere: will you use the toxic heartworm prevention drugs for another year, or will you seek a safer natural alternative?
Oh, I know, the conventional veterinary contenders will tell you there is no such thing as natural heartworm prevention. They are locked into their paradigm that toxic monthly preventative drugs are your only hope, and have the blessings of the drug manufacturers (natch) and the conventional organizations who drink the same Kool Aid (AVMA, AAHA, American Heartworm Society, etc.).
But you’re reading this because you are willing to think outside the box, make your own informed decisions, and not necessarily march to the same drummer that the rest of the crowd does.
Ask The Basic, Important Questions
With any healthcare choice you make for those animals in your care (who depend on your choices for their health), there are two key questions to ask about any procedure or drug being presented to you:
1. Does this work?
This is also known as efficacy. We’ve known, for example, that although 60% of conventional veterinarians still recommend annual vaccinations, they are recommending this counter to the knowledge and recommendation of veterinary immunologists for the past 20+ years. Immunologists clearly know repeating vaccinations lacks efficacy.
The heartworm preventative drugs have been showing decreasing efficacy over the years, much like antibiotics, as resistance builds in the pest. The researchers hope this resistance can be stemmed by convincing you to keep your dog on year round heartworm prevention drugs.
I’m betting you’ll not be part of that experiment.
2. Is this safe?
This is by far the more important question. Safety refers to whether or not illness is caused by a drug or vaccine or procedure. As I blogged recently, clearly there are problems with giving pesticides to your animals. And yes, that’s what heartworm “preventative” drugs are, in fact. They depend on killing the larvae in your dog’s blood stream to keep the adult parasite at bay.
Preventative is in quotes because these drugs are really not preventing infestation of the heartworm larvae, they are used to periodically poison them to keep them from developing into adults.
Similarly, the lack of safety of vaccinations is the greater problem. Chronic disease, especially allergies, is common after vaccination, as long as you look for it coming on about a month or so after vaccination. It’s usually not immediate.
So, how does a natural heartworm prevention program stack up in these two measures? As might be expected, it depends on the natural prevention program, its basis, and the outcomes in those who use it.
There are many programs based on the use of potentially toxic herbs, like black walnut, to prevent heartworm. While black walnut certainly kills intestinal parasites, does it also kill worms that live in the circulatory system like heartworm do?
I don’t know.
Wait. Beer as Natural Heartworm Prevention?
Another natural heartworm prevention you’ll find online is the use of Guinness beer! Some sources are even calling it “homeopathic” (which it’s not), and claim it can even be used to treat a dog successfully who has heartworms.
Has efficacy been demonstrated (ie does it work)?
I don’t know.
Is there a safety issues with either approach? Again, I don’t know, but I know that black walnut and alcohol both are potentially toxic.
What I Do Know
Having lived in the presence of heartworm for the past 25 years, practicing first in Hawaii (year round mosquitoes) and now in Texas (mosquitoes from April through September or even October), my clients have largely NOT given the heartworm preventative drugs. I’d estimate that about 90% of my clients are preventing heartworm with my natural heartworm prevention protocol, focused on building strong resistance in the dog.
And their annual spring heartworm tests keep coming in negative, year upon year.
Between Hawaii with its year round exposure and Texas with its 6-7 month exposure, I’m estimating the number of dogs protected this way is in the hundreds.
Has efficacy been demonstrated with this method?
I can clearly say it has. Hundreds of negative testing dogs over 25 years using the protocol in heartworm endemic areas is a pretty loud call out to efficacy.
And safety? Any side effects from this approach?
Yes, it’s safe, and yes, there are loads of side effects!
Known Side Effects of My Program
- Shiny coats that smell great (without bathing)
- Bright, clear eyes
- Stools that don’t stink
- White teeth and sweet smelling breath
- Resistance to many other diseases, like allergies, ear infections, arthritis, tumors, etc.
Do Your Research, Both Here and Elsewhere. Then Decide
This is worth studying thoroughly. To help you during this month of Heartworm Bewareness, I’ll leave you with several links for easy access to posts I’ve written on the subject of heartworm. There’s certainly a lot more strewn across the internet, but you want to be asking the hard questions on all of this:
- Does this work?
- Is this safe?
Before you decide for yourself what you’re going to provide for your animal’s heartworm prevention, be sure you are comfortable with the answers to each of these basic questions.
Articles to Help Your Understanding
The title says it all:
A case report from my practice of a dog getting sick each month after her heartworm preventative:
Another case report on curing heartworms, parts one and two:
So, tell us where you’re at in the comments, what you’ve researched and results you’ve seen in your own Vital Animals. Heartworm prevention can be “crowd sourced” to a certain extent, as you hear from real people and real animals’ experiences with the natural approach.