|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.
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