Among the things dog-parents dread hearing, there is this disease called heartworm. It is a condition that can be transferred by the bites of an infected mosquito and is extremely painful. In case you didn’t know, the heartworm is a condition when worms called Dirofilaria immitis cover the dog’s heart and other vital organs worms.
When an infected mosquito bites a dog, it transmits the larvae into the dog’s bloodstream where it starts thriving and growing. Over a passage of 5 to 6 months, these heartworms mature through several stages and become adults. It is only after this period that they are detectable via testing. The severity of the disease depends upon the number and size of the heartworms. These worms live in the dog’s heart, lungs, and blood vessels and pose a severe threat to the health of your pooch.
The pain and the medications your pup has to go through are horrible. In most cases, the dogs are given injections based on derivatives of arsenic. The drug targets the worms and kills them. Your dog’s body then has to absorb the dead worms. There is another slow-kill method available. However, it is too risky and painful. Owing to these reasons veterinarians suggest you consider preventive measures as a preferred option for protecting your dog.
The medicines available for the prevention of heartworms mostly work by killing the larvae. The common side-effects include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea whereas the long-term effects are not known. Another way is to use the natural preventive methods such as holistic medications and home remedies. As for the herbal or other natural medicines, don’t administer any of these at home as the dosage may go wrong and consult the holistic vet first.
Common Questions About Heartworm
There are some common questions and misconceptions about heartworm around what it is and what to do.
If My Dog Has Heartworm, Should I Keep Them Away from Other Dogs?
The short answer is "no". The disease is spread by mosquitoes, so your dog cannot directly give it to another dog.
Can I Reduce The Risk Of Getting Heartworm By Keeping My Dog Away From Other Dogs?
If you think keeping your pup away from other dogs will keep your pet safe from the risk of heartworm, unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
Heartworm is not only carried by dogs but by many other mammals including cats, ferrets, wolves, coyotes and even humans.
Mosquitoes spread the illness by biting a carrier and then passing this on when they bite their next victim. Mosquitoes can easily cover a one-mile radius, so even if your dog isn’t physically around other dogs, he is still at risk.
We Don’t Live in a Heartworm Epidemic Area, Does My Dog Need Preventive Medications?
Even if you think you live in a considerably safe area, there might have been heartworm cases around you. Other than that you may have traveled through such a city or state without noticing, so it is always better to protect your dog instead of risking his health.
If My Dog Is Given Preventives, Do I Still Need To Have Them Tested For Heartworm?
Although you do get your dog the preventive injections, some dosages may be vomited. It is recommended to get your dog tested every year so your vet - an early diagnosis will give your vet and pet a much better chance of a successful treatment.
Isn’t Treatment for Heartworm the same as Prevention?
This isn’t true at all. The treatment for the disease is not just expensive but also painful and risky. If the condition worsens your dog may even require surgery, so prevention is definitely best.
Natural Ways of Protecting Your Pooch from Mosquito Bites
An infected mosquito will be responsible for causing heartworm. So if you can reduce the chances of your pet being bitten then the chances of picking up an infestation are also reduced.
There are many ways of protecting your pet - you can either use synthetic repellents or natural sprays to prevent your pooch from mosquitos. However, even with the best preventative measures, there is still the risk your dog will be bitten by an infected mosquito, but these will help minimise the chances.
Among the natural substances, lemon eucalyptus oil is found to be useful for repelling mosquitos according to research. Other options include geranium and soybean combination based oil, clove oil, etc. You can get natural products based on these ingredients in stores.
You can also prepare your mosquito repellent at home by mixing 25 drops of lemon eucalyptus oil with 2 oz. of almond or coconut oil and rubbing this into your dog's fur and skin. Do keep an eye out for any adverse reactions especially if your pet has a history of sensitive skin or skin allergies.
Other preventive measures include simply keeping your dog inside during the dawn and dusk hours when the insects are most active. Also keep your dog away from standing water and minimize exposure to mosquitoes in every possible way.
Let's talk about the alternative medication options; there are lots of preventive medicines available in the markets. You can use substances like HWF, Walnut Hull that prevent the growth of heartworm larvae and kill them at the initial stage. Here I would reiterate the fact that the dosage needs to be carefully administered especially since some of these supplements contain garlic.
There are other remedies available too, some people recommend using Guinness beer and feed him one or more tablespoons depending on his body weight. Others suggest using wormwood based treatment products. Since both the ingredients above specific quantities may trigger allergies, please do consult your vet before trying out the options and don’t increase the dosage to improve effectiveness.
You can follow the preventive remedies- from medications to keeping your pooch away from the mosquitoes. What I would like to reiterate here is that these herbal or homeopathic medications need to be administered carefully. Always take your vet’s advice before using any preventive measures. For homeopathic medicines, it is also suggested to get your dog more frequently tested as compared to when using vaccines.
What To Do If My Dog Tests Positive?
The first step is to confirm the diagnosis by getting other tests done. Once the vet is sure of the diagnosis, the treatment will begin. During this time you will have to restrict your dog’s physical activity as that will increase the rate of damage to the organs.
The disease is curable if the treatment begins at the correct time and you follow all protocols. Your vet will determine if the pup is stable for treatment before beginning the process.
If the condition has already advanced the complications will increase but your dog will survive and return to health. Stay positive and support your pup through the disease so your fur-baby can quickly bounce back to health.
Jenny Perkins is an Animal Behavior Specialist and a passionate writer.
- 1 Common Questions About Heartworm
- 1.1 If My Dog Has Heartworm, Should I Keep Them Away from Other Dogs?
- 1.2 Can I Reduce The Risk Of Getting Heartworm By Keeping My Dog Away From Other Dogs?
- 1.3 We Don’t Live in a Heartworm Epidemic Area, Does My Dog Need Preventive Medications?
- 1.4 If My Dog Is Given Preventives, Do I Still Need To Have Them Tested For Heartworm?
- 1.5 Isn’t Treatment for Heartworm the same as Prevention?
- 2 Natural Ways of Protecting Your Pooch from Mosquito Bites
- 3 Holistic Medications
- 4 What To Do If My Dog Tests Positive?
- 5 AUTHOR BIO