Natural Heartworm Treatment for Dogs
Natural heartworm treatment for dogs follows a similar course as conventional treatment, with one major difference: prevention options.
This page reviews the essentials about heartworm disease in dogs, including…
- Cause and transmission of heartworm disease in dogs (& heartworm picture)
- Dog heartworm signs & symptoms
- Dog heartworm treatment
- Prevention of heartworms in dogs
Heartworm disease in dogs is caused by the parasite Dirofilaria immitis which is a worm that lives its adult stage in the heart of the dog. Each worm can be about 8 to 10 inches long.
The female worm produces microscopic larvae, called microfilaria, that are released into the bloodstream and continue to circulate throughout the entire body.
So how does the parasite get into a dog in the first place? Mosquitoes.
For transmission to occur, a mosquito must first bite a dog infected with heartworm disease. When it sucks up blood from the infected dog, the microscopic larvae are taken into the mosquito with the blood. The larvae continue to mature and pass through two more larval changes while inside the mosquito.
When the mosquito then 'bites' another dog it will transfer the larvae into the new host. The larvae then enter the new dog’s blood stream and continue to mature.
The parasite is able to mature into an adult heartworm about 6 months after the original mosquito bite.
The good news is that most dogs that contract heartworms are able to fight it off… you may never even know that your dog had them.
As discussed in more detail on our Dog Heartworm Symptoms page, infested dogs that don’t fight it off can show a number of initial signs ranging from a persistent cough to overall weakness. As the heartworms multiply, symptoms gradually get worse and may lead to death if left untreated.
Your veterinarian will diagnose the condition by taking a blood sample to check for heartworm antibodies or the microfilaria (young worms) in the blood stream.
Once a dog shows clinical symptoms, treatment can be very involved. A complete blood panel is done, along with chest x-rays to check if there has been heart enlargement. The severity of the disease is determined with a physical exam and by evaluating the blood panel and chest x-rays.
Conventional heartworm treatment for dogs involves the use of very toxic drugs. If the infection is not too severe, treatment may not be required and should be avoided (especially in elderly or sick dogs).
Unfortunately, there is not a good alternative treatment. Therefore, dog heartworm prevention is emphasized…
Since dogs of any age can be bitten by a mosquito, heartworm prevention can be started when a puppy is old enough to be weaned… normally between 8 and 10 weeks of age.
There are a variety of heartworm preventive drugs on the market now. While they are effective at preventing heartworms, they can have some side effects.
If you live in an area where mosquitoes are bad such as the Southeastern United States, the only truly effective preventive option is to give the preventive drugs. But before you decide to implement the year-round treatment that is encouraged by many conventional vets, talk with a local holistic veterinarian to determine if another course of action could make sense for your dog.
Less severe treatments discussed could include…
- Only giving the conventional heartworm medication during mosquito season
- Opting out of conventional medication if you live in an area with few mosquitoes
- Supplementing your dog’s diet with natural preventive medicine such as Parasite Dr. or Para-Gone Herbal Formula.
Regardless of how you choose to treat your dog, owners that are committed to making their dog healthier can work to enhance the dog's natural resistance to the parasite.
Feed a completely raw natural dog food (preferably organic) fortified with raw garlic and liberal amounts of yeast. The foods may help to repel mosquitoes from the skin in some animals.
To further minimize exposure to mosquitoes, you can keep the dog indoors in the evenings and at night. Using a natural insect repellent such as Only Natural Pet's Herbal Defense Insect Repellent Spray will also help to repel mosquitoes.
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