Heartworm Information

  The Heartworm Information
By Dr. Jeffrey Levy DVM PCH

This parasite is a source of great anxiety among dog caretakers. (I don't 
believe that one "owns" a dog.) Thanks in large part to the scare tactics of 
many veterinarians in promoting preventive drugs, many people believe that 
contracting heartworms is the equivalent of a death sentence for their dogs. 
This is not true.

I practiced for seven years in the Santa Cruz, California area, and treated 
many dogs with heartworms. The only dogs that developed symptoms of 
heart failure were those that were being vaccinated yearly, eating 
commercial dog food, and getting suppressive drug treatment for other 
symptoms, such as skin problems. My treatment, at that time, consisted of 
switching to a natural (that is, homemade) diet, stopping drug treatment 
whenever possible, and eliminating any chemical exposure, such as flea and 
tick poisons. I would usually prescribe hawthorn tincture as well. None of 
these dogs ever developed any symptoms of heart failure.

I concluded from this that it was not the heartworms that caused disease, but 
the other factors that damaged the dogs' health to the point that they could 
no longer compensate for an otherwise tolerable parasite load. It is not 
really that different from the common intestinal roundworms, in that most 
dogs do not show any symptoms. Only a dog whose health is compromised is 
unable to tolerate a few worms. Furthermore, a truly healthy dog would not 
be susceptible to either type of worm in the first place.

It seems to me that the real problem is that allopathic attitudes have instilled 
in many of us a fear of disease, fear of pathogens and parasites, fear of 
rabies, as if these are evil and malicious entities just waiting to lay waste to 
a naive and unprotected public.
Disease is not caused by viruses or by bacteria or by heartworm-bearing 
mosquitoes. Disease comes from within, and one aspect of disease can be the 
susceptibility to various pathogens. So the best thing to do is to address 
those susceptibilities on the deepest possible level, so that the pathogens will 
no longer be a threat. Most importantly, don't buy into the fear.

That having been said, there are practical considerations of risk versus 
benefit in considering heartworm prevention. The risk of a dog contracting 
heartworms is directly related to geographic location. In heavily infested 
areas the risk is higher, and the prospect of using a preventive drug more 
justifiable. Whatever you choose to do, a yearly blood test for heartworm 
microfilaria is important.

There are basically three choices with regard to heartworm prevention: 
drugs, nosodes, or nothing.

There are currently a variety of heartworm preventive drugs, most of which 
are given monthly. I don't like any of them due to their toxicity, the 
frequency of side effects, and their tendency to antidote homeopathic 
remedies. Incidentally, the once-a-month preventives should be given only 
every 6 weeks.

The next option is the heartworm nosode. It has the advantage of at least 
not being a toxic drug. It has been in use it for over 10 years now, and I am 
reasonably confident that it is effective. It is certainly very safe. The biggest 
problem with the nosode is integrating it with homeopathic treatment. But at 
least it's less of a problem than with the drugs.
The last option, and in my opinion the best, is to do nothing. That is to say, 
do nothing to specifically prevent heartworm, but rather to minimize the 
chances of infestation by helping your dog to be healthier, and thereby less 
susceptible. This means avoiding those things that are detrimental to health, 
feeding a high quality homemade diet, regular exercise, a healthy emotional 
environment, and, most of all, constitutional homeopathic treatment. Of 
course, this will not guarantee that your dog will not get heartworms, but, 
under these conditions, even the worst-case scenario isn't so terrible. If your 
dog were to get heartworms, s/he shouldn't develop any symptoms as a 

For what it's worth, I never gave my dog any type of heartworm preventive, 
even when we lived in the Santa Cruz area where heartworms were very 
prevalent. I tested him yearly, and he never had a problem.

Visit Dr. Levy's website


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