Your dog tested HW positive? Breath…
The emails I get tell me that many are being put into panic mode by a positive diagnosis of heartworm.
Here’s a recent example, though many sound similar to Dette’s:
My 11 lb. POMCHI was recently diagnosed with heartworm disease and he gave me a complete plan of treatment, costing $1,027 for 4 months. I began searching for home remedies. She’s 10 years old and I’m worried that the treatment is too intense for her. The only symptom she has is a dry cough when she gets excited, but she can stay in my room day and night and not cough at all.
I agree with you that many of the meds used by Vets can have bad side affects. I started her on Doxycycline when she first started coughing and she stopped after 1 week, so I thought it was just slight chest congestion and stopped the Doxycycline. She began coughing again a week later, and her test showed positive for H.W. Disease. I put her back on the Doxycycline and 1/2 t. Apple Cider Vinegar in her water. What else can I do to treat her?
I’ve been keeping her inside, but she really wants to go out and gets excited when we go near the back door near the fenced back yard. — Dette, Mobile AL
Keeping her inside? Why?
Enter the poison (and the fear)
My conventional vet colleagues are certain there is but one option to treat a heartworm positive dog.
It’s an injectable arsenic drug called melarsomine (brand names Immiticide or Diroban)
It’s mode of action?
Poison those buggers, and quick!
It’s often combined with a long course of an antibiotic of the tetracycline class.
Not animal friendly, nor of course is arsenic, used for ages to poison people secretly.
Most dog owners feel compelled to start this treatment right away, fearing for their dog’s life.
That fear may be aided by a well placed jar of a real dog’s heart in formalin, sliced partly open to reveal a slew of long spaghetti-like worms.
(We had one in the mixed practice I joined upon graduation. I only learned many years later that those jars were supplied by pharma, and the dogs were often Mexican street dogs, nothing like the pampered pooch whose owner was being pushed into toxic heartworm prevention. But I digress.)
Fear is a potent tool to affect behavior. If you find yourself in that state in a veterinary clinic, my best advice is to take a deep breath and exhale slowly with words to this effect:
Thanks for your counsel and your diagnosis. We’d like to take some time to explore all our options. We’ll let you know if we opt for your recommended treatment.
Lock up is part of their treatment
When this treatment plan is proposed, you’ll be told not only of its expense, but also warned that you’ll need to crate your dog for a long period of time. Or, at least impose “exercise restriction.”
Well, when you hammer these adult worms with arsenic, they die.
That’s good, right?
Well, yes and no.
When they are poisoned, they die rather suddenly. That means pieces of the dead worms are suddenly floating around in the blood vessels and can plug them, as you might imagine.
That could mean a stroke if that’s in the brain. It could mean heart or other tissue damage depending on the unlucky location of the worm fragment plugging up the works.
The $40 word for this: embolism.
Safer Options for Heartworm Treatment
First, let’s be sure we’re on the same page.
This article is about treating a dog who’s been diagnosed with heartworm.
That means some heartworm adults (the spaghetti looking scary things), are in your dog’s heart, and they have left “tracks” in the blood, either the microscopic larvae or some antigens from the females.
Your vet read these tracks and gave you his fear inducing diagnosis.
Next, if it’s heartworm prevention you’re after, your conventional veterinarian and I have very different approaches (as you may have come to expect, if you’ve been following my work for any amount of time).
The short version is that Dr. WhiteCoat provides a plethora of pesticides while I have a natural approach that’s been successful for decades. You can explore more about that here.
Okay, on to your safer treatment options.
There are two that I’ve seen and/or used over my decades of practice.
- Constitutionally prescribed homeopathy, provided by a qualified homeopathic vet. This is what I used for years, with 95% success.
- An herbal approach. This I’ve never used, but have heard some reports that it works.
The Best First
The best approach is to hire a homeopathic vet who’s trained in curing chronic disease.
It’s a given that any dog who “allows” parasites to be present has some chronic disease that’s feeding her susceptibility to worms.
It’s the same throughout Nature:
- the unhealthy crops (in depleted soil) are beset with weeds
- the unhealthy dog ear gets invaded by yeasts and bacteria
- the “flea magnet” in your pack is old Fluffy, who’s always had more health challenges
The homeopathic approach takes appointments, usually monthly, where your homeopathic vet chooses remedies that fit your dog (no one remedy fits all) and usually in six months, the test will have gone negative.
I did this in practice with a 95% success rate.
It’s not “finding a heartworm remedy,” but rather treating your individual dog based on how she’s showing her symptoms, not only of HW, but in general.
- Is she also an itchy dog?
- Or a wildly aggressive or fearful dog?
- Has she a history of recurring illness that you can describe?
- What symptoms does she repeatedly or commonly show?
All these things are part of constitutional homeopathic treatment.
As I no longer take new patients, I explain how to find a qualified homeopathic vet to do this in my video here.
The advantages of this approach are: you end up with a very healthy dog who’s less likely to get any parasites for some time.
Resistance to all disease is heightened significantly.
And, like all homeopathic treatments, this is 100% non-toxic.
(If you want to better understand what is and isn’t homeopathy, here’s a great course I made)
Attention Homeopathic Colleagues: YOU CAN DO THIS!
If you are on my select list like I outline in the video linked above, it means you’re already very qualified to do this work.
- You’ve cured (or greatly improved) animals with chronic disease.
- Homeopathy is your main medicine, and constitutional treatment is your mainstay.
- Ideally, you offer telephone consultations (as there are just too few of us to be everywhere)
As you well know, the name of the disease means next to nothing, right? You’ll be treating the patient, not the disease.
So, fear not: even if you’ve never treated a HW positive dog, your approach is the same as treating any other chronic disease.
For more info about my experience and approach, I’ll refer you to the AVH site, where they should have past meetings available to you. I presented on this in 2014 in Portland, when the AVH + AHVMA meeting were there simultaneously. If you’re an AVH member, you can view at least the notes from my lecture. Perhaps there’s a video as well.
The Herbal Approach
A worm focused approach has been working for people, I’m told.
A supplement is out there on the internet called HWF (the name has changed now and then, but a search should find this in association with the word “heartworm” or “heart worm.”)
This is cheaper and doesn’t get your dog any healthier or more resistant, it just attacks the worm with herbs.
I have no experience with it and don’t recommend it, but I’m passing it on from others’ experiences they’ve mentioned to me.
No Lock Up Needed
As neither approach causes a sudden death of the worms (well, I can truly only speak to the homeopathic approach, remember: I’ve never used herbs for this), exercise and normal activity is just fine.
When homeopathic prescribing “wakes up” the immune system to realize there’s an invader, the innate intelligence we homeopaths call the vital force moves intelligently against the worms.
They are attacked, digested, and eliminated likely via the lymph rather that suddenly breaking up and showering the blood vessels with chunks.
I never once saw anything remotely suggesting embolism (clots) in my patients who were treated by this “Whole Dog” approach.
Of course, it would work for cats as well, not the normal host for this parasite, but it’s been seen in this species as well as ferrets on occasion.
Time: Usually on Your Side
My experience, living in Texas but taking patients all over the country, was that a heartworm positive dog is rarely on “death’s doorstep.”
Most are free of symptoms but just have a positive test, meaning there could be three worms or 30, but the dog is living normally with the parasite present.
I speak more about this in my ebook/course called “Vital Animals Don’t Get Heartworms! The Drug-Free Prevention Program That Works”.
The symptoms of a dog more seriously affected are typically:
- Exercise intolerance (Sadie used to run with you, but now flags before she used to)
- A low level cough
- Perhaps a difficulty breathing in more advanced cases
As I pointed out in my lecture, 90% of my patients had none of these. They merely had a positive test.
So, don’t let fear propel you into a toxic treatment or make you feel like you need to make a quick decision if you’re presented with,
“Your dog has heartworm.”
That may be true, but you’ve got time to weigh your options and “choose your poison” (or none, of course).
Let us know in the comments if you’ve had a scary diagnosis like this and what you did.