Heartworm Medication Part 1: Truths, Omissions and Profits

Written by Jan on May 13, 2009 – 1:00 am

Heartworms are Spread by Mosquitoes. Heartworm Meds are Spread by Fear.

Heartworms are Spread by Mosquitoes. Heartworm Meds are Spread by Fear.

It’s getting warmer outside — time for sellers of heartworm medications to start scaring you to death.Television and print ads, which used to push meds only during warm summer months, now urge you to keep your dog on medication year round. The question is: why the change?

Drs. David Knight and James Lok of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, addressing recommendations for year round meds, warned:  “The practice of some veterinarians to continuously prescribe monthly chemoprophylaxis exaggerates the actual risk of heartworm transmission in most parts of the country and unnecessarily increases the cost of protection to their clients.”

So, is the change to year round meds all about money? Or is there more to this story?

Heartworm “prevention” is a major health decision for pet parents and multi-billion dollar Big Business for drug companies, veterinarians, testing laboratories and on-line sellers of medication. When health intersects money, there’s a lot of room for conflict of interest. Only by understanding the business aspects and the truth about heartworm transmission can you make an informed decision about if, how and when to protect your dog with commercial products.

While everyone agrees that heartworm infestations can be life-threatening, infestation is far from inevitable nor is it the immutable death sentence advertisers would have you believe. (Otherwise, all dogs and cats not on meds would die of infestation. But they don’t.)

Every holistic vet I’ve consulted had concerns about the long-term safety of heartworm medications. Well-known vet, author and columnist Martin Goldstein wrote in his wonderful book The Nature of Animal Healing that he sees heartworms as less epidemic than the “disease-causing toxicity” of heartworm medicine.

Dr. Jeff Levy, vet and homeopath, concluded “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.” Those factors include, “… being vaccinated yearly, eating commercial dog food, and getting suppressive drug treatment for other symptoms….”


Heartworm meds do not, by the way, prevent heartworms. They are poisons that kill heartworm larvae (called microfilariae) contracted during the previous 30-45 days (and maybe longer due to what is call the Reach Back Effect).

The heartworm industry authority, The American Heartworm Society (and their cat heartworm site) offers a wealth of information. Their website is a public service but also a marketing tool aimed at buyers and resellers of heartworm meds. Sponsors of this website are a Who’s Who of drug companies. Fort Dodge Animal Health (Wyeth), Merial and Pfizer are “Platinum Sponsors.” Bayer merits Silver. Novartis, Schering-Plough, Virbac and Eli Lilly get Bronze. Most of these companies have sales reps that regularly call on vets and show them how to sell you heartworm meds. With any purchase of any drug, we recommend you ask for information regarding possible adverse effects, the necessity for taking this drug and available alternatives.

How Heartworms Infect Dogs: It’s Not Easy!

Well, now that we’ve looked behind the scenes of the heartworm industry, let’s take a look at how the heartworms themselves (called Dirofilaria immitis) do business. Seven steps must be completed to give your dog a dangerous heartworm infestation:

Step 1: To infect your dog, you need mosquitoes (so you need warm temperatures and standing water). More specifically, you need a hungry female mosquito of an appropriate species. Female mosquitoes act as airborne incubators for premature baby heartworms (called microfilariae). Without the proper mosquito, dogs can’t get heartworms. Period.

That means dogs can’t “catch” heartworms from other dogs or mammals or from dog park lawns. Puppies can’t “catch” heartworms from their mothers and moms can’t pass heartworm immunity to pups.

Step 2: Our hungry mosquito needs access to a dog already infected with sexually mature male and female heartworms that have produced babies.

Step 3: The heartworm babies must be at the L1 stage of development when the mosquito bites the dog and withdraws blood.

Step 4:  Ten to fourteen days later — if the temperature is right –the microfilariae mature inside the mosquito to the infective L3 stage then migrate to the mosquito’s mouth. (Yum!)

Step 5:  Madame mosquito transmits the L3’s to your dog’s skin with a bite. Then, if all conditions are right, the L3’s develop in the skin for three to four months (to the L5 stage) before making their way into your dog’s blood.  But your dog still isn’t doomed.

Step 6:   Only if the dog’s immune system doesn’t rid the dog of these worms do the heartworms develop to adulthood.

Step 7:   It takes approximately six months for the surviving larvae to achieve maturity. At this point, the adult heartworms may produce babies if there are both males and females, but the kiddies will die unless a mosquito carrying L3’s intervenes.  Otherwise, the adults will live several years then die.

In summation, a particular species of mosquito must bite a dog infected with circulating L1 heartworm babies, must carry the babies to stage L3 and then must bite your dog . The adult worms and babies will eventually die off in the dog unless your dog is bitten again!  Oh, and one more thing.

Heartworms Development Requires Sustained Day & Night Weather Above 57˚F

In Step 4 above I wrote that heartworm larvae develop “if the temperature is right.”

The University of Pennsylvania vet school (in a study funded by Merial) found: “Development in the mosquito is temperature dependent, requiring approximately two weeks of temperature at or above 27C (80F). Below a threshold temperature of 14C (57F), development cannot occur, and the cycle will be halted. As a result, transmission is limited to warm months, and duration of the transmission season varies geographically.”

Knight and Lok agree: “In regions where average daily temperatures remain at or below about 62˚F (17˚ C) from late fall to early spring, insufficient heat accumulates to allow maturation of infective larvae in the intermediate host [the mosquito], precluding transmission of the parasite.”

The Washington State University vet school reports that laboratory studies show that maturation of the worms requires “the equivalent of a steady 24-hour daily temperature in excess of 64°F (18°C) for approximately one month.”  In other words, it has to be warm day AND night or development is retarded even if the average temperature is sufficiently warm. They add, that at 80° F, “10 to 14 days are required for development of microfilariae to the infective stage.”

Jerold Theis, DVM, PhD, says, “If the mean monthly temperature is only a few degrees above 14 degrees centigrade [57 degrees F] it can take so many days for infective larvae to develop that the likelihood of the female mosquito living that long is remote.”

I have never found this temperature-dependent information on a website promoting “preventatives,” but only in more scholarly works not easily accessed by the public. There is, as far as I can find, only one mention of temperature on the Heartworm Society (on the canine heartworm page) and none in the Merck/Merial Veterinary Manual site or Merial’s heartworm video — even though Merial funded the UPenn study.

The Society also reports, “Factors affecting the level of risk of heartworm infection include the climate (temperature, humidity), the species of mosquitoes in the area, presence of mosquito breeding areas and presence of animal reservoirs (such as infected dogs or coyotes).”

 Canadians: Please click the link find maps and stats on heartworm in Canada in 2010.  


Read Part 2 of this article: Heartworm Preventative Options Learn how to reduce the number of times you give “preventatives,” about the little-known FDA approved low-dose preventative, and what to do if you don’t want to give meds at all. If you’re considering using the 6-month remedy ProHeart6, please read our previous blog post: Heartworm Protection: Do We Need ProHeart 6? You might also like reading Pesticides & Preventatives Poisoning Pets?

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Please leave us a comment and let us know how your thoughts or questions regarding heartworm prevention.

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Tags: dog, dog heartworm, heart worms, heartworm, heartworm disease, heartworm in dogs, heartworm medication, heartworm medicine, heartworm preventative, heartworm prevention, Heartworms, mosquito, mosquitoes, mosquitos, natural cures, natural preventatives
Posted under Heartworms, Pet Meds | 185 Comments » Email This Post

185 Comments to “Heartworm Medication Part 1: Truths, Omissions and Profits”

  1. Beth Says:

    If you choose not to give your dog heartworm preventative, I hope you understand the risk you are taking. The drugs used to treat heartworm infection (FYI: “infestation” is the term for ectoparasites, not endoparasites) cost hundreds of dollars and are essentially thousands of times more poisonous than heartworm preventative. Immiticide is an arsenic based compound that must be injected in the the muscles of the lumbar (lower back) region. It also requires your pet to be crated for weeks at time while undergoing treatment. It is very dangerous and very expensive.

    Furthermore, as stated above, heartworm preventatives also prevent many other intestinal parasites, many of which are transmissible to humans. And if you think your dog isn’t at risk for intestinal parasites, you’re mistaken. Internal parasites can be carried (by squirrels, mice, chipmunks, etc) and shed (via feces) into your back yard or neighborhood. So when you take your dog for a walk, she accidentally steps in it. Then she comes in and and cleans her feet and ingests the ova (eggs) of parasites. I’m a veterinary student and I have my dogs on heartworm preventative religiously, yet I still had one of them become infected with tapeworms (not prevented by heartworm preventatives).

    The reason your vet requires heartworm test every year is because the dog must be negative for heartworm infection before heartworm preventative can be administered. If your dog is infected with heartworms and preventative is given, an adverse anaphylactic reaction can occur as a result of mass killing of microfilaria.

    All of the protocols recommended by your veterinarian are approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Believe it or not, not every vet is out to scam the public. People don’t enter this profession to get rich. If that was the case, we would all go to medical school (only one species and about 2-3X more money). I hope, for the sake of all of your pets, that you understand vaccines and heartworm preventative are in the best interest of your pet.

  2. Sherri Says:

    Thank you for posting this.. I am so not into taking medicines for everything.. Its all about money.. Specially chemical made meds.. I took my puppy to vet first visit they tried to sale me Flea meds.. Said not thanks, I have had my other dog 13 not a single flea..she was amazed.. Now today they are trying to get my puppy on heartworm meds.. I said no right away.. did some research found your site and glad i said no… Thanks again…

  3. Jan Says:

    Sherri, good for you for being a responsible pet parent. Just a reminder: if you’re not giving meds you should get your dog tested once or twice a year, depending on the incidence of heart worm in your area.

  4. Karen Says:

    Thanks so much for the information you share in your website. I have a 10 yr old dog that is paralyzed from the waist down, and I it was only a week or two after she received her last round of shots last year. Now surgery will be $7,500 which I can not afford. I also have a cat that had an extreme reaction to the topical flea medication and lost all of her hair and has seizures. This website has helped me decipher between fact and fiction and the reality of what these vaccination and pesticides are doing to our pets. I wonder what humans would be like if we had to get shots every year and receive monthly ingestions of pesticides? Cancer rates are so high in the US due to carcinogens and pollutants and we are doing the same things to our beloved pets.

  5. Kristin Says:

    thank you fir this article I liv in Virginia and they say that HW is a huge problem here… my two chi girls jabs been off of it for almost a month and I was scared to get the tested but this makes me feel so much better! 🙂

  6. Jan Says:

    Karen, I suggest you contact a homeopathic veterinarian. Find a link to referrals at http://www.dogs4dogs.com/vet Homeopathy might help. I don’t understand why surgery would. And homeopathy is inexpensive. If you can’t find a vet in your area, write me again.

    Also, get your dog’s file and contact the vaccine manufacturer(s) and tell them about the reaction, giving brand, serial #, lot #, etc. They’ll have to report it to the USDA and may help pay for your dog’s medical care. Read more here: http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2010/12/02/what-to-do-when-your-dog-has-a-vaccine-reaction/

    I’d give your vet hell. Why would he/she vaccinate a 10-year-old dog? http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2009/04/22/no-unnecessary-dog-shots/

    I wish you and your dog the best of luck. Don’t give up!

  7. Jan Says:

    Kristin, the time to test for heartworms is 6 weeks after you’ve had the last continuous warm weather and after you’ve been off medication.

  8. Karen Says:

    All very interesting posts, however my 11 year old mini dachshund went into heart failure last spring because of heartworms, she survived an injection of immiticide but was very hard on her. Immiticide then became in short supply and now its Nov. She has been on doxycycline for 1 month and heartgard for 7 months. I am hesitant to give her 2nd shot of immiticide, but she has a significant heart murmur, and worms need to be destroyed. What a mess, we live in extremely hot climate in summer, now temps are below 40 at night. Any feedback regarding final immiticide injection? Thanks, Karen

  9. Jan Says:

    Karen, I’m not an expert on this subject. I do know that there are holistic vets who treat heartworms in a more natural way. Find referral list at http://www.dogs4dogs.com/vet I wish you the best of luck.

  10. Bettina Says:

    Hello, what an interesting blog site. I’ve had 4 border collies over the last 30 years. Sonya was around when heartworm med was never pushed, living in OK we have mosquitos and she was outside, went to the park, neighborhood, and never got heartworm..living to a ripe age of 14. When I had 3 BC’s all were on heartworm and it (as well as the testing) was a financial strain …the male still got heartworm, and it was almost 200 to treat. He and one female have passed on from old age. My last BC, Dottie, I took off heartworm. She passed on this last summer from old age at the age of 14.5. I just rescued an adult BC/Lab mix and have no intention of dealing with heartworm or lots of medicines. Basic immunizations will be kept, regular bathing, yard control and quality of life will be utmost. The number of tests and medications for animals is fast approaching the number for humans and instead of addressing causes and environment, we pre-address an assumed illness/disease. Thanks for the site, pharmaceuticals are chemicals…and should be used wisely if needed.

  11. Jan Says:

    Bettina, I have two thoughts. 1) Regarding “basic immunizations,” please read Vaccinating Dogs: 10 Steps to Eliminating Unnecessary Shots at http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2009/04/22/no-unnecessary-dog-shots/ 2) Re heartworm, OKLA is heartworm country. If you choose not to give meds, please get the blood test at least yearly, at the end of the season. You might want to read Part 2 of my heartworm article: http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2009/06/16/heartworm-preventative-options/

    You’ve evidently been doing a lot right. Good luck in the future with all your dogs.

    PS Re your dog who got heartworm on the meds. If you gave them on time, and bought them from a vet, the medication maker should have paid your dog’s medical bills.

  12. Melissa H Says:

    Very good blog which prompts me to ask a couple of questions. I have a part toy part miniture poodle she is 4 yrs old. We have a hell of a time as she is allergic to fleas, and also alot of the flea medication. We finally have her ok with the medication but she is always biting scratching she does not have fleas i check her everyday but during the months she does not get the medication on she bites and scratches till she bleeds. She has very sensitive skin and we dont know how to make her stop except ask for 12month flea stuff.Can you give some advice so my little girl doesnt hurt herself.

  13. Jan Says:

    Melissa, you have been led down the path of treating the symptoms, not the cause. Why is your dog so reactive? Does she have other allergies? Food allergies, perhaps?

    You need a vet who specializes in holistic medicine to find out what’s going on. Remember, when you suppress symptoms, the problems just turn up elsewhere. I can’t think of anything worse than a 12-month flea med. Would you take it yourself? And how could she have the same symptoms when NOT taking flea medicine?

    There are referral lists for holistic and homeopathic vets at http://www.dogs4dogs.com/vets I can also refer you to vets who consult over the phone.

    Flea meds are serious medicine. Please see a vet who will look for the cause.
    I hope this helps.

  14. Is it ok to skip heartworm preventive? - Page 2 Says:

    […] to develop that the likelihood of the female mosquito living that long is remote.” source: Heartworm Medication: Is Year Round Protection Necessary? | Truth4Dogs I am not trying to persuade anyone one way or another and I admit I get sort of scared not to […]

  15. Melissa Holmes Says:

    Hello Jan I think you were right we were giving her Ceasar wet for small dogs. I looked all over online and it says alot of dogs have allergies to it. I assume she was there were 30+ black spots on her body and she just scratched when she was awake. I changed her food about a month ago and i just gave her bath last week and most of the black spots are gone and she isnt scratching or dragging her bum anymore. So for know ive fixed her but i might get the list from you closer to flea time as she is allergic to the fleas and also allergic to the medicine to get rid of the fleas however we changed vets last year and we did not seem to have a problem with the medication so knock on wood fingers crossed it will be ok thisn year. Shes hypoallergic so her skin is super sensitive.. thank you for you help my dog missy thanks you too..

  16. Debra Says:

    I have a new Berner pup and I am finding vets to NOT be accomadating to my research into over vaccination and heartworm prevention. It’s amazing what they want to pump into these creatures. Even vets listed as ‘holistic’ are reading from the script of treatments. Seems if they add the words accupuncture or chiropractic care to their services it makes them holistic. It use to be buyer beware, now it’s owner beware and be protective of our furry loved ones.

  17. Jan Says:

    Debra, you’re so right. I have started writing an article making that very point. Acupuncture and chiro certification can just mean they took one course and do everything else alopathically. Or maybe they’re on a journey. Have you checked the referral lists at http://www.dogs4dogs.com/vets ? If you write back telling me where you live, I may have some suggestions.

  18. Karen Pluta Says:

    Jan – thank you for all this information. While my vet fully supports our raw fed diet for our 5 yr old Lab, he will still attempts to push heartworm meds and tick prevention. We did use both on Keb last summer, but no longer, especially the tick prevention because it did nothing to keep them off of Keb nor did it kill them, we were always removing them alive. I would much rather pay for blood testing (annual or bi-annual) than to spend the $$ on these so-called preventatives.

  19. Heartworm Medication Part 2: Options to Fear-Based Recommendations Says:

    […] profit-driven, lazy medicine.Take a look at the map above, courtesy of the  Heartworm Society.  Part 1 of this article demonstrated that transmission is heat and mosquito dependent.   As expected, […]

  20. Earl Says:

    This is excellent information. Wish the gal at the Wake Co. SPCA knew this. She lectured on the use of monthly preventatives and her concern for me on the financial burdens if my dog developed them. I was there to adopt a cat and I guess I looked poor.

  21. Alan Says:

    Great report, and I agree.

    Our vets here in Oz push every type of med on the average pet without researching into the pet’s circumstances.

    After being asked by my vet to have my Border Collie put on an annual heartworm injection, I then asked him how many cases had he seen where a dog had heartworm. He said none recently.

    I went home and rang another local vet and asked them what do they recommend for heartworm preventative. They said the annual. I then asked how many dogs come in with heartworm. They said, “None”.

    Rang another. Said there had been some “through the years” but none recently. Says that the ones who do have it simply die at home. I find that hard to believe. So no one brings their sick dog in? Oh, they also recommend the annual. I asked isn’t that over doing it a bit? They said its a pill like injection that sits in the fat layer and slowly releases. Interesting.

    And another. This vet was more frank stating they have not seen a heartworm case at the clinic or heard of one in this area. They agreed with me that it probably wasn’t needed.

    Now I know these results may be because everyone is taking preventatives, but if its not prevalent, why should I be injecting poison into my dog to kill a parasite which appears non-existant in my area?

    Then again, if no one uses preventatives will it then be prevalent? I don’t think many used preventatives in my area in the 60s, and our family farm had many dogs through the times. All lived healthy long lived lives and no one ever heard of giving heartworm medication.

    What I want to know is why the rise of canine cancer in the past 10 years? We never saw this previously. Maybe something to do with the other meds we give our dogs such as intestinal worming? Or is it hidden ingredients in the dog food? Ingredients which we also eat which accounts to the rise in human cancers of late?

  22. Jan Says:

    Alan, good for you for doing the research.

    Why so much cancer? I think the prime cause is the over-use of vaccines. Also, unnecessary “pet meds.” Also, chemicals on yards. And terrible pet food — especially corn laden foods. Add them all together and cancer seems all but inevitable.

    Thanks for posting.

  23. Do dogs need Heartworm meds in Reno? - City-Data Forum Says:

    […] searching the net provides a lot of very interesting info on the subject. According to this Heartworm Medication: Is Year Round Protection Necessary? | Truth4Dogs Seems there's a lot of FUD surrounding heartworm meds. I'll be watching this […]

  24. Stephanie Z. Says:

    Hi Jan: I’m working with a holistic vet in Solana Beach, CA. I’m trying to get as much info as possible – I do worry, but I’m heeding her suggestions. I have a 10-month old Bichon puppy – Hasn’t had 2nd set of vaccinations, no rabies as yet (she suggested I wait until he’s a year old), not neutured yet, but will do in a month or so. Can I have the vet who neuters him give him a titer test at the same time – because he fights like crazy when the holistic vet tries to draw blood.
    I’m feeding him Perfect Pet dog food – which he seems to be thriving on – amI doing OK? Thanks for your fabulous and valuable info.

  25. Don Says:

    I read that black walnut hulls (ground) are an excellent cure for worms of most kinds in dogs and cats. I’ve even taken them for myself!

    I had a hound dog that developed heart worm symptoms, coughing and loss of weight. I started giving her the black walnut hull capsules, 1 capsule twice a day. Her symptoms did not get any worse and she lived for two years after I started that treatment. She may have lived longer, I don’t know, she disappeared, maybe got hit by a car as she was prone to wonder the countryside.

    On the other hand, I had a Collie who received the heart worm medicine monthly in warm months (April through November) and she developed severe arthritis at age 12 and at age 13 she had to be put to sleep.

    I just ordered the generic version of Heart Gard for my golden retriever, but will not give her the pills all year, just in the warm months. I wouldn’t give her the pills at all except my wife insists on it. I would treat her once a month with the black walnut hulls, but then, I have to keep peace in the family.

  26. Sam, Veterinary Student Says:

    Jan, I noticed you do a great job responding to comments that agree with you and systemically ignore those by people with actual qualifications that point out the issues with your recommendations (eg Beth the veterinary student and Julia the DVM). Immiticide is dangerous and expensive, and so is heartworm infection. It is dangerous and illegal to make treatment recommendations to people online and may constitute practicing veterinary medicine without a license. Many comments on here are based on logical fallacies (attributing an adverse reaction to a vaccine or drug based on temporal association without evidence of causation). I am a proponent of judicious vaccination and use of preventative drugs, but I feel that people vastly underestimate the danger of heartworm and other infectious diseases because of their lack of experience with them. Ivermectin is an incredibly safe drug, even for dogs that are MDR1 mutant homozygous, at the doses in heartworm preventative. Feel free to risk your own dogs’ lives, but don’t spread misinformation without an understanding of the risks.

  27. Jan Says:

    Sam, numerous vets have read and approved my articles. Many are written by vets. Everything is based on expert information. If you have a specific complaint about misinformation, please send it with validating written evidence from an expert source with no conflict of interest. If I’ve mistated something, I will rectify it immediately. I don’t make money doing this. It is a labor of love to try to help people.

    BTW, I have to approve all comments and could have just deleted any of them if I had some hidden agenda.

    Also, I have found that vet students and techs are generally the last to know the truth as their education is often based in propaganda from drug companies. Have you vetted the source of your information for a conflict of interest? Harvard medical students have filed complaints about this. Conflicts of interest are not often disclosed.

    Also, have I recently talked with a number of students who said they know almost nothing about vaccination; they plan to learn it when they go to work at a clinic. Dr. Ron Schultz, one of the world’s top experts, has stated the lack of good education on vaccinology is alarming.

    Here’s an article that’s a complilation of comments from vets about what they learned in vet school. http://truth4pets.org/2012/06/vets-on-vaccines/ I do not mean this to be a criticism of you or your school. But all is not what it seems.

    Have you seen our new video on pet vaccine reactions? And our new all-vaccination-info website? It is all evidence-based information. I hope you’ll take a look. http://truth4pets.org/2012/07/vaccine-reactions/

  28. Sam, Veterinary Student Says:

    Since I’m also currently a PhD student, yes I am quite educated about how to read primary literature and to evaluate the quality of studies. One of the first things taught is that anecdotes are not evidence. For example, some of the comments mention adverse events that occur after administration of a drug. While, certainly, adverse reactions are possible, we don’t know if the drug caused these problems. If the reported problems were not seen during studies of hundreds or thousands of dogs, it’s unlikely that the drug directly caused these clinical signs.

    Additionally, you state that heartworm medications kill intestinal parasites because they contain additional medications. In fact, just ivermectin intself kills roundworms and whipworms as well as the mites that cause sarcoptic mange. So there is one bit of misinformation.

    You also stated that heartworm medication and vaccines should not be given together. While there is evidence of more reactions occurring in animals given multiple vaccines in one visit, there is no research of which I am aware that shows any increase in adverse events when giving ivermectin together with a vaccination. In fact, the amount of antigen in each vaccine is hundreds of times smaller than the amount your immune system is presented with each time you consume a meal. As you know, typically it is the carrier or the adjuvant aspect of the vaccine that the animal is likely to react to, and thus giving a non-adjuvanted vaccine to an animal is quite safe even in conjunction with ivermectin.

    I am also an advocate of, as I said, judicious vaccination, which to me includes appropriate protection of puppies and one booster vaccine, followed by titering if desired. The vast majority of animals that are protected at one year of age will also be protected 7+ years later, as Schultz’s lab has shown. I am very familiar with vaccine literature and with potential adverse reactions.

    You also say that you believe over-vaccination causes cancer. Do you have any evidence or peer-reviewed journals linking vaccination to common cancers such as lymphoma or hemangiosarcoma? To my knowledge, no neoplasia besides injection site fibrosarcoma has been definitively linked to vaccination. One could easily argue that prevention of infectious diseases has led to longer lifespans in companion animals and thus a higher incidence of neoplasia as animals now rarely die of infectious disease. Do you have evidence that “corn based diets” cause cancer? Unless you do, this is also misinformation that you are spreading. If you do, please provide evidence. I don’t disagree that carb-heavy diets are not ideal, but to jump to them causing cancer is not scientifically valid.

    My school provided significant training in immunology (an entire immunology course) and vaccinology, including information on DOI studies, safety testing, appropriate vaccination intervals in puppies and why these intervals were chosen. Vets also have access to continuing education and are free to contact researchers or companies directly if they have questions about science or about product testing.

  29. Brenda Says:

    My husband and I have four dogs. We believe in adopting animals from the Humane Society and if we can, take in a stray and hungry animal. But, we recently are having a hard time financially, and can no longer buy heartworm pills for our four dogs. Our dogs have been on the heartworm pills since they were pups.

    We just got a note from our vet that it is time for their heartworm blood tests; that will cost us $125.00. Then, we have to purchase a 6-month box of heartworm pills for each dog which will cost us: $200.00.

    I can’t afford for myself to go to the doctor and pay this much?!

    I believe there will come a time when having a pet will only be for the rich! And those who are poor and have a pet will just have to take their chances and see how long their pet will live without these tests and meds!!! Although, I can only pray, and ask God to look after my dogs. My son is grown, but needs to go to the doctor; and if I did have $300.00 to give, then I believe my priority would be to take care of my son’s medical issues.

    Why can’t something be done to stop these outrageous prices of vet bills and medications so we can keep our pets healthy??

    Taking a pet to the Vet will only be for the rich in the future if things don’t change!!!

  30. Jan Says:

    Brenda, if you read my two articles on heartworms, you may have part of your solution. For one thing, heartworm isn’t a problem in cold weather. Did you read my article Part 2? There are alternatives there.

    Are you paying lots for vaccinations? People spend a fortune on unnecessary shots and the reactions the cause. Please read this: http://truth4pets.org/question-before-vaccination/

    Remember: an ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure, but unnecessary “preventative” medicines can be terribly expensive.

  31. Shay Says:

    @Brenda – I am in a similar situation and now have 7 dogs (all but one 65+ lbs with our biggest @ 165lbs) so they would take a TON of meds if we continue to give all the ones recommended. All but two of my pups were rescued (1 German Shepherd, 3 pit bulls, and 1 Norfolk Terrier). The dogs I actually meant to have are my Bullmastiff and Eng. Mastiff… the other 5 just kinda joined us over the last 5 or so years 🙂

    I haven’t bought the heartworm meds from my vet in a while because it’s about $50 a box for 6 mo @ 51-100 lbs – I was spending about $400 per 6 months. I ordered last time from drsfostersmith and it was half the price for the same product.

    I got to this site since I have been contemplating reducing how often I give this to my dogs since it is very expensive. I live in Phoenix, AZ where the winter months can be from 30 deg to 80 deg from week to week and 90 deg to 120 deg in the summer. I might give them the meds from May 1 to Sept 1 and test in April instead of monthly. I need to find out how much the test is x 7 dogs though.

    Also looking into given shots to my dogs myself and after looking at various information (including this site), I think I will only do that every 3 years which seems to be the current recommendation for most vaccines excepting bordetella which is annually (or more in high risk areas). I currently take all of them to the vet once every 6 months for a complete physical, but this is also becoming too costly and ends up costing me about $200 per month if I divide it up from the previous year (so about $300 per dog per year). They seem to get the same couple of shots every year. I still plan on doing this, but only having the vet do things I can’t do like a physical and blood work and I plan on changing vets to save some money.

    I do tire of my current vet always suggesting various tests or meds, which I personally think they do to cover themselves for liability more than anything. If I decline, I don’t get much push back (anymore). I’m trying out a new vet now since where I currently have been taking my dogs for probably 10 years now keeps changing vets which is annoying. The new vet I found is about half the price for various items such as x-rays, meds, visits, etc (it’s a shelter vet). My Shepherd has hip displaysia real bad so he’s on rimadyl pretty much constantly; rescued him when he was a wee pup (maybe 8 weeks old) from some crazy lady with like 40 dogs (mass breeder type). He had giardia real bad and had to have 14″ of his intestine removed at a young age ($1300 vet bill).

    On another note, does anyone have good information on the use of glucosamine as a supplement and if it’s worth it (as in if I give it will it slow/prevent/have no effect on things like hip displaysia)? It probably won’t help my Shepherd since he’s pretty far gone according to his x-ray last week, but the other dogs might benefit (most of them are 5-6 yrs old, with two of them being 2-3 years old). Vet said my Shepherd needs surgery for his hip and I’m not looking forward to that bill.

    I have been supplementing fish oil for years and buy it in 5 gal buckets….

  32. Jan Says:

    Shay, the latest protocols say to vaccinate “no more often than every three years,” not “every three years.” The three-year figure was a political compromise made to keep vets from losing money from reduced vaccination practice income. Please read this for the facts: http://truth4pets.org/question-before-vaccination/

    Re Bordetella, please read this: http://truth4pets.org/2012/07/kennel-cough-vaccine/ Experts say the vaccine is dangerous and ineffective and is only for kenneled dogs. Save your money.

    Also, remember when you vaccinate yourself, your dogs are at great risk if they have an immediate, life-treatening reaction.

    Re fish oil: oil goes rancid quickly and should be protected from heat and light. Experts recommend you buy in small containers, keep it in a cool dark place, and use it quickly. Rancid oil is a health hazard.

    I hope this is useful. You sound like a great dog parent.

  33. Sandra Says:

    I have two Chihuahua’s one takes Heartguard and seems fine with it the little girl is only 4 1/2 lbs and Hearguard makes her sick. We live in Austin, Texas. I want to protect her, what do you recommend?
    Is there a natural spray that I can use on her.
    They go outside to do their business and go for walks when the weather is not to hot or cold otherwise they are indoors… but I know that the mosquitos get inside as well. Appreciate any advice.

  34. Jan Says:

    Sandra, if you read the article, you know that it isn’t easy for dogs to get heartworm. They have to be bitten twice, at the right time of year, by the right mosquito. Unfortunately, this is the right time of year in Austin. One alternative is to test twice a year. Please read Part 2 of the article for more suggestions, and ask your vet. http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/category/pet-meds/heartworms/

  35. Bea Says:

    Thank you for putting this info out there for folks .I do think sometimes you do need to use the preventive,but I am not a big fan of it or the vaccines every year. My Chihuahua lived to be 18 years old and did not have heart worms .All of my dogs live to be very old dogs and none of them have been on the preventives. They are in the house at dusk and at dawn.If I were to use the preventive I do not not think I would use it all 12 months of the years.Oh I live in South Carolina about 45 miles inland,so we do have lots of mosquitoes . It is really all about being responsible with your pet.There are natural alternatives to use ..

  36. Jan Says:

    Bea, here is a two-part article on heartworm prevention. http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2009/05/13/heartworm-medication-safety/

  37. D. Campbell Says:

    My little Maltese has gotten tape worms and I think has had them about a month. When I discovered the worms, it scared me so took him to the vet and he gave him Ivermectin Max and vaccinated him again. He is almost 9 yrs old, and I’d heard that rabies shots aren’t really necessary every year, so I’ve been skipping a year or sometimes two and he’s been fine. After reading about the “Revolution” it sounded safer to me. He’s so tiny (4 3/4 lb. and I don’t like it that he gets the same amount of rabies vaccine as the giant dogs do. Makes no sense to me. And if the heart worm pil is for 6-12 lbs., then why wouldn’t 1/2 pill be enough for him at less than 5 lbs.” I hate giving him anything, but he has tapeworm now, so I have to do something to treat him, and the vet said that the Ivermectin Max would take care of that. Now he is wheezing, acting irritable, then sleeping, then around and around again. I suppose he’s OK, I just don’t like them overloading this precious little white ball of hair. I just hopehe gets through this. He was clean for heartworms. Now I wish I’d gotten the Revolution as it seems to take care of everything. Thanks for your comments.

  38. Jan Says:

    D. Campbell, get another vet. Your tiny dog, actually NO dog, should be vaccinated at the same time he is getting wormed. Also, rabies is given no more often than every three years. Your vet should have told you that. It’s a very reactive vaccine, and especially hard on little dogs. I’m hoping your vet didn’t give other vaccines as well. Puppy shots are for puppies.

    Where do you live? Are you sure your dog is being exposed to mosquitos regularly? Heartworm medicine and flea meds are poisons. Only give what you absolutely need. It’s best to only give heartworm during hot weather, if at all. I hope you read both parts of my heartworm article.

    Please read this on vaccines: http://truth4pets.org/question-before-vaccination/

    Most importantly, please read this and take action to help your dog. http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2010/12/02/what-to-do-when-your-dog-has-a-vaccine-reaction/

  39. Diane Nichols Says:

    My pup has had 2 recent bouts with tummy upset..the first being after his monthly heart worm pill…it lasted for about a week..Our vet ‘sloughed’ it off as ‘no other dog has had this problem’..he also tends to get lethargic after his flea/tick meds..He is on Osteo 3 for arthritis and we’ve always tried to feed him well..even to the point my husband cooks much of his food and we add some dry food to this..We just started him on a new food this last week+ The Blue series..with bison and venison..in addition,my husband adds a bit of cooked beef, rice, green beans to this..Again he started with the tummy upset..my He has tested positive for both Lymes and Eric.(I never spell correctly word)..I was tested and determined to be Alpha Gal a few years ago due to a tick bite…is it possible the pup could be also allergic to red meat? My vet is stumped and not heard of such.

  40. Jan Says:

    Diane, I moved your comment on Blogs4Dogs to a post on heartworms on truth4dogs.com, another of my sites. It will get more visibility, and perhaps more comments, there.

    If your dog has problems with any medication, don’t give it anymore. Please read this article: http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2009/05/13/heartworm-medication-safety/

    Re your vet, his comment is ridiculous. Ask to see the package insert, if you didn’t keep it, to see possible side effects. Either your vet is oblivious, untruthful or informed.

    Re food, kibble isn’t a great product. Please see http://www.dogs4dogs.com/food If you feed it, don’t feed the same food every day. And don’t add other carbs like rice. It likely has too many carbs already.

    Re beef, yes, it’s a common allergen — or rather, food sensitivity. I’ve had two dogs who got diarrhea every time they ate it. Try adding other meats — a new one for a few weeks, then another for a few weeks, and so on to see what’s bothering your dog. You might also want to get a saliva food sensitivity test from hemopet.com It’s call Nutriscan. http://www.hemopet.org/nutriscan.html I just had the first panel done on my dog Mulligan and he was sensitive to turkey and venison to the point he should avoid them. If your vet doesn’t know about common conditions like food sensitivities and adverse reactions to medication, you need a new vet.

    Testing positive for Lyme just shows exposure to the tick or the Lyme vaccine.

  41. Diana Says:

    I’m responding to Shay, #131. Will you send this to her?
    In regards to her dog’s hip displaysia: Vets recommend surgery most of the time when it’s not needed. You cannot see ligaments on x-ray, so any diagnosis involving ligaments, is a complete & blind guess.

    Here are the recommended dosages for Glucosamine & Dhondroitin, & YES, they make a huge difference.
    . . . Recommended Daily Joint Supplement Dosages :
    Glucosamine: 500mg per 25 lbs. of body weight ( 20mg/lb)
    Chondroitin: 400mg per 25 lbs of body weight.
    You can safely give more so you don’t have to split tablets. Just give however many tablets it takes to be at or over those dosages. These are very safe supplements.
    —- Many supplements’ front labels say something like “1500mg Glucosamine” when this is the amount in what they consider a serving, rather than per tablet. Be sure you are calculating properly to give the right amount. For instance, if there are 3 tablets per serving & a serving is 1500 m.g., then each tablet is 500mg.

    From http://tiggerpoz.com/id12.html (devoted to joint healing only): “Surgery is often recommended for dogs’ stifle (knee) ligament injuries in cases where surgery is not the best treatment choice. When they have ligament injuries, most dogs will recover well wo/surgery. Sometimes surgery will be needed, but it is a mistake to accept any vet’s claim that your dog needs surgery wo/1st considering the facts presented here at this website.
    —- It is important for your dog that you understand these injuries & treatment options. “Just trust the doctor” is not a good way to make medical decisions. This is especially true w/
    dogs’ ligament injuries for the reasons explained at this website.
    This website was most recently updated in August 2013. The information here is current & accurate.
    In addition to in-depth study of the research literature on this subject, I have communicated w/100s of vets experienced in treatment of these injuries, & w/researchers who have studied all the various treatment options. Since this website was 1st created I have heard from 1,000s of people who have dealt w/these injuries in their own dogs about their experiences w/surgery & non-surgical recovery.
    I have reached these conclusions:

    —-That the majority of the surgeries done on dogs diagnosed w/ligament injuries are unnecessary, & do not improve ultimate recovery outcome.

    —-That surgery is often described to clients by vets as a medical necessity in cases where it is neither necessary nor the best treatment option.

    —-That the reasonably expectable results of ligament-injury-related surgical procedures are often misrepresented (lied about).

    —-That all the ligament-injury surgeries, especially the bone-altering TPLO, TTO & TTA, have risks which are often not disclosed to clients by surgeons.

    —-That non-surgical recovery, while usually the best 1st- choice treatment for dogs’ ligament injuries, is frequently inaccurately (lied about) portrayed or ignored in surgically-inclined vets’ presentations to clients of the available treatment options.

    —-That TPLO, TTO & TTA have become cash-cows for a # of veterinary ortho-surgeons who are making huge profits selling these questionable procedures by misrepresenting (lying about) potential outcomes & risks to clients.

    When a dog has been diagnosed w/a damaged ligament, there are many vets who routinely recommend immediate surgery. In the majority of cases these surgeries are unnecessary & potentially harmful. Most dogs will recover very well wo/
    surgical intervention if given the chance. It is not wise to let a vet rush you into agreeing to surgery. The way to determine if your dog needs surgery is to carefully restrict the dog’s activity for a period of 8 wks. as described on the pgs. of this website. If you see improvement in symptoms during the 8 wks., this will indicate that your dog is beginning to recover & will restore stability to the joint wo/surgical
    intervention. (This does not mean the dog will be fully recovered in 8 wks..) If you can look back at wk. 2 from wk. 8 & see that your dog has been improving during that time, Fido is stabilizing that injured joint.
    A quick decision whether to have surgery is not necessary at the time of diagnosis. Proper restriction of activity will minimize the risk of further injury to the joint while answering the question “Does Fido really need surgery?” Any vet who pushes you to quickly agree to surgery should not be trusted.
    Some vet-surgeons try to push people into agreeing to immediate surgery by telling them that wo/immediate surgery their dog will be crippled w/arthritis. This is not true. They may claim that only immediate surgery can protect against further injury to the joint. This is also false. Controlling the dog’s activity during recovery is the key to minimizing both future arthritic risk & the risk of further injury during recovery. Please see the page ‘Arthritis Risk?’ here at this website & the pages describing non-surgical recovery based on proper activity restriction.
    To be the best decision-maker for your dog, you need to be cautious & skeptical, not blindly trusting.
    A vet may have talked to you about your dog’s injury as though surgical intervention is a universally accepted medical necessity whenever there is a ligament injury. This is not true.
    Vets promoting surgical approaches may make claims like this:

    —” Large dogs always require surgery when they tear these ligaments”

    — “If a complete rupture rather than a partial tear is diagnosed, then surgery is necessary.”

    — “Research shows that only a very small % of dogs over 30 lbs. can recover wo/surgery.”

    —– You may see other websites which unquestioningly accept such statements & repeat them as though they were proven facts. But these are not facts.
    When I dug into the research literature looking for evidence that would back up such statements, I found that these statements are based on low quality Class III & IV articles written by surgeons promoting the surgeries they sell. These ‘studies’ are full of methodological flaws & outrageously sloppy reasoning which would be laughed at by anyone familiar w/the accepted norms of medical research. (See the page “But the Vet Said…” which is linked in the column at left.)

    —- Many large dogs recover well wo/surgery, as do many dogs diagnosed w/complete ligament ruptures. These non-surgical recoveries disprove the claims that dogs-over-so-many-lbs. always require surgery or dogs-diagnosed-w/-complete-ligament-tears always require surgery. Sweeping statements like “Large dogs require surgery” in the absence of any solid evidence, & in spite of numerous successful non-surgical recoveries by large dogs, shows that these vets are either incompetent or primarily interested in selling high-profit surgical procedures.

    —- Small dogs almost never need surgery for these injuries, so it is true that large dogs w/severe injuries are more likely to require surgery than small dogs. But the majority of large dogs & those diagnosed w/severe injuries do also recover well wo/surgery.

    The only way to know if a particular dog needs surgery is to restrict activity & see if the dog begins to re-stabilize the joint.
    Your vet cannot tell from an exam whether Fido will need surgery.
    Nor can the ortho specialist surgeon you are referred to by your vet.
    It is not surprising that vets who sell high-profit procedures praise those procedures.
    Vets reduce their own income significantly by recommending non-surgical recovery. Nevertheless, there are vets who recommend what is best for dogs even if that means they make much less $.
    “‘I have read over your website. I think it is fantastic. I am a veterinary surgeon & have been board certified for 10 yrs..'”

    “– A general practice vet’s opinion can be heavily influenced by the specialists he has relationships w/. The huge profit in these bone-alteration procedures has resulted in large #s of ortho-specialists enthusiastically promoting them. (A TPLO takes about 1 hr. in the operating room & costs the surgeon a few $100s to do. TTO & TTA are even faster & cheaper to do. Prices charged average over US $3500+. Several $1,000s profit per surgery.)

    “‘…Medical history is littered w/once-popular procedures that subsequently proved ineffective or dangerous …. ‘”
    ~ Consumer Reports ‘On Health’

    This website: http://tiggerpoz.com/id12.html tells it all. It’s excellent & complete with ALL the information about joint injuries & healing. Take a look.

    Best always!
    ~ Diana

  42. Jan Says:

    Diana, thanks for your informative post on truth4dogs.com. As requested, I forwarded your response to Shay. I have previously recommended tiggerpoz to people who have written me. I’d like to post your response more prominently, as a guest post, but I’d need to know that you are a vet. I won’t divulge your name to others if you’d rather I didn’t. You can email me; the address can be found at http://www.dogs4dogs.com/contact.

    Come back and post again soon.

  43. James Spaulding Says:

    Hello;My names is James Spaulding I making website called Chemicalfreepetproducts.com. At moment I doing a section on parasites in pets. I look at your page on prevention medication dogs and all the steps a dog has go through to Heart worms. i want very accurate information on my site. Is there any way you confirm what you saying? Jim

  44. Jan Says:

    James, I site sources for everything in my articles. I don’t care what information says, only that it’s factual.

    Much of my information comes from heartwormsociety.org However … bear in mind that it is sponsored by numerous makers of heartworm medication.

  45. Frannie Says:

    Seriously grateful for this website. I moved to NoVA and then to VaBch from Ohio Nov 2012 and my newest vet is already pushing the heartworm medicine and flea preventative really hard. In Ohio, we never saw a flea or tick on the dog and he always tested negative for heartworm. I’m sad to say that I used the flea and heartworm poisons on him monthly when we first got him as a pup. And then about 5 years ago, I realized that we had extreme cold winters (duh) and I ditched the poisons until spring and summer (without the consent of my vet!), and then I only dosed every other month for about four months out of the year.

    Upon arriving in Virginia I lived up in NOVA, I took him to a vet who scared me into putting him back on monthly heartworm and flea topical. I started him monthly on Interceptor, then they stopped making it and I put him on Pet Trust. His last dose was September 1, 2013 because I couldn’t find the Pet Trust anymore. It kills me every time I give him that stuff and ditto the Frontline.

    Now me and my dog are in Virginia Beach (sorry, it’s a long story – but we’re here to stay). He saw another new vet two days ago and now here I am with the heartworm pill decision. His heartworm accuplex panel came back negative today. Why can’t I just get him tested twice a year? He’s about 8 years old, 74 lbs. Again, he’s been off heartworm pills for 3 months and his test was negative. I just can’t do this to my dog anymore and it’s just horrible what I’ve done to him already.

    My dog is a great dog and I want him to have a good life. I need to try to find a vet that will work with me and my “less is more” approach.

    Again, all your research is much appreciated as is all the comments from people that want to make a difference. My heart goes out to everybody.

  46. Jan Says:

    Frannie, I’m so glad my heartworm article was helpful.

    You certainly can have your dog tested twice a year, but there are no guarantees of protection. It’s what I’d do but many people don’t feel comfortable doing this and I’m not a vet. It does take a long time for an infestation to become dangerous so frequent testing prevents anything major from happening without your knowing, while there’s still time to treat.

    Check out the holistic vet referral list at http://www.truth4pets.org/vets for a more sympathetic vet. You might also want to get an ebook by a vet who believes in prevention by making sure your dog is as healthy as possible. http://vitalanimal.com/drugfreeheartworm/

    I hope this helps.

  47. Frannie Says:

    Thank you so much for your input. I found a vet that provides care that will fit our needs. He provides chiropractic care, energetic stimulation including homeopathy and nutritional therapy. He has outstanding credentials. Haven’t gone yet, but will be soon. I would rather test my dog 3-4 times a year, titer him, and be proactive about prevention than apply poisons to him. He already has allergies so that means he has immune system problems. We had a crazy time with fleas too – he never had 1 flea in Ohio, but here we are in VaBch and now I’m throwing down DE in the carpet, flea combing him everyday, etc. Right now we have a break because the weather is colder, but I’m not looking forward to it again next time around.

    Now if I can just figure out the raw diet . . .. . . . .

    Really glad there are other people out there that are asking questions; and you are right, we need to get the word out.

  48. Question about heart worm meds - Boxer Forum : Boxer Breed Dog Forums Says:

    […] I can't find it on there site?? Maybe it's me?? General heartworm info and a heartworm map here: Heartworm Medication: Is Year Round Protection Necessary? | Truth4Dogs __________________ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qaru1pvCHOU Gunther Mastiff/Pit Mix […]

  49. Edward Says:

    I have been unable to ind an answer to this question.

    If a mosquito has contracted the heartworms and the teperature stays at the required point – say for 1 week and then drops to below 57 degrees for 1 night, is the cycle broken and the mosquito
    must be reinfected or will the cycle restart from where it left off or will the cycle restart from day 1 without being reinfected.
    Have done considerable research and maybe I just missed it.

    Thank You

  50. Major Heartworm Med Rant!!!! - Page 6 - YorkieTalk.com Forums - Yorkshire Terrier Community Says:

    […] Told These Facts about Heartworm?), and this one (The Billion Dollar Heartworm Scam), and this one (Heartworm Medication Part 1: Truths, Omissions and Profits), and countless […]

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