Heartworm Medication Part 2: Options to Fear-Based Recommendations

Written by Jan on June 16, 2009 – 12:01 am

If you haven’t read Part 1 of this article, “Heartworm Medication: Truths, Omissions and Profits,” please read it now unless you completely understand how and when heartworms are transmitted. Click the link at that article’s end to return here. 


A Heartworm Society news release states:  “By giving heartworm prevention every month, forgetful pet owners will have their pets protected when they need it most.”  But doesn’t that also mean they get it when they need it least? Or need it not at all? Are you a “forgetful” owner?

In this part of my heartworm series, we’ll discusses informed decision-making, and suggests ways, if you want them, to limit or eliminate heartworm drugs. I am a researcher and holistic health advocate, not a vet.  Please learn the facts then discuss with your vet the appropriate course given your dog’s location, lifestyle, travel schedule, health, climate and the time of year.  Expect an open-mind and respect from your vet, or find another vet.  Just as with vaccination, “one size fits all” is outdated, profit-driven, lazy medicine.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, dark areas of the map, which show the most heartworm cases per clinic, are found in the hot, humid Southeastern US, especially the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and Mississippi Delta.

Don’t let the map scare you. If published seasonally, map colors would pale significantly during cool months. Also remember that you’re seeing generalities, not specifics.  A clinic near a rural pond will likely have many cases while an urban clinic 15 miles away may have a much lower incidence.  Maps are general.  Determine your own microclimate. Ask your vet how many cases of heartworm infection he/she treated in the past year.  Also ask if he/she treats all positive cases, or just those with advanced infestation. If the vet doesn’t keep detailed records, that should tell you something.

Conservative start/stop maps from heartworm researchers Drs. David Knight and James Lok (in “Seasonality of Heartworm Infections and Implications for Chemoprophylaxis”) show only two areas requiring year round heartworm meds: the southernmost areas of Florida and Texas.  Houston, New Orleans and similar areas are shown requiring meds for 9 months.  Other states range from 3-7 months. The Drs. wrote:  “For nearly 80% of the states, the potential for heartworm transmission is limited to 6 months or less.” Here are start/stop maps for the US and California. Again, they are very conservative and very general. Do your own research and be specific.

The Heartworm Society warns that heartworm infectations are getting worse.  DVM Magazine, a magazine for vets, reports that recent results do show a rise in the number of positive cases per clinic in 31 states. DMV reports: “The reasons likely are multifactorial, including increased heartworm testing, increased client base per clinic or even climate trends.”

Does Year Round Medicating Bring Extra Protection?

Applying suncreen at night is useless. So is taking heartworm medication when climate conditions prevent transmission.  Only a small percentage of climes permit year-round transmission. Everyone else is unnecessarily subsidizing drug companies and “preventatives” sellers and, more importantly, exposing their dog to unnecessary risks.

Two exceptions: 1) “Forgetful” and irresponsible pet parents who won’t begin the medication on time or build their dog’s natural immunity might want to medicate year round, although that means they have to remember to give meds every month.  2) If your dog contracts heartworms within a few years of beginning medication … and you can show you gave meds year round … and your dog had the required blood tests (2 or 3),  you may benefit a little financially because drug companies will pay for dog’s treatment. (Read the guarantee terms published by an on-line seller.)

Are Heartworm Preventatives Safe?

You’ve seen those scary photos of worm-strangled hearts, right? Shouldn’t you give meds year round just in case? Isn’t safe better than sorry?

But is that harmless little pill or yummie medical “brownie” really safe?  No drug is completely free of risk and  adverse reactions. I can find no long-term studies regarding cancer risks and organ damage for dogs receiving heartworm insecticides year round (or even for a few months). Such a study would be difficult to conduct and very expensive.  Who would fund such a study — or publish any negative findings?

One clue to the possibility of adverse reactions should be label warnings: call your doctor immediately if ingested; keep away from children; wash your hands immediately after use…. How can medication be good for dogs but so dangerous for you?

Another question: is your dog healthy enough for these medications? The “Heartworm Prevention” page of the American Animal Hospital Association states: “Healthy kidneys and normal liver functions are essential in metabolizing most medications.”  Many dogs, including my Jiggy, do not have healthy organ function. I wonder how many unhealthy animals are nevertheless on meds?

Adverse Reactions to Heartworm Medications

With any drug, study FDA and manufacturer information before medicating.

These adverse reactions have been reported to the FDA by manufacturers.  (Click the links for more information; write or call manufacturers with any questions). Terms you might not understand include ataxia (gross lack of coordination of muscle movements), pruritus (itchy dermatologic condition), urticaria (hives), mydriasis (excessive pupil dilation), and erythema (skin redness). Other terms should be self-explanatory.

HEARTGARD and TriHeartPlus (ivermectin): Depression/lethargy, vomiting, anorexia, diarrhea, mydriasis, ataxia staggering, convulsions and hypersalivation. INTERCEPTOR (milbemycin oxime) reports the above reactions plus weakness.  Sentinel (milbemycin oxime) reports vomiting, depression/lethargy, pruritus, urticaria, diarrhea, anorexia, skin congestion, ataxia, convulsions, hypersalivation and weakness.

REVOLUTION® (selamectin), Topical Parasiticide For Dogs and Cats: pre-approval reactions of vomiting, loose stool or diarrhea with or without blood, anorexia, lethargy, salivation, tachypnea, and muscle tremors. Post-approval experience included the above plus pruritis, urticaria, erythema, ataxia, fever, and rare reports of death and seizures in dogs.

Proheart 6 :  severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis): facial swelling, itching, difficulty breathing, collapse;  lethargy (sluggishness); not eating or losing interest in food; any change in activity level; seizures; vomiting and/or diarrhea (with and without blood); weight loss; pale gums, increased thirst or urination, weakness, bleeding, bruising; rare instances of death. This product was voluntarily withdrawn from the market in 2004 because of deaths but has been reintroduced. Read my post Heartworm Protection: Do We Need ProHeart 6?

For any other brand, research the product or its active ingredient before even thinking of administering it.

Also, never give any meds without first learning if any vitamins, minerals, herbal products or drugs interact negatively with the medication. Note age restrictions. Most importantly,  learn what symptoms alert you to a reaction. Important note: Collies, Australian Shepards and related breeds have a sensitivity to ivermectin (Heartgard and others).

Beware any website or person professing the absolute safety of any medication.  I’d like adverse reactions for pet medications to be included in all TV ads, as they are for meds for humans — but I don’t expect it.

Reporting Adverse Events: Call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect a reaction to this or any other drug.  Discuss alternatives and treatment and make sure the reaction is recorded in your dog’s file. The AVMA says : “… notify the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by contacting the manufacturer. The FDA requires that manufacturers of FDA-approved drugs forward adverse event reports to the agency.”   Is the fox is guarding the hen house? Ask your vet to report the reaction, then follow up and make sure your vet did it. Under-reporting is common. (An estimated 99% of adverse reactions go unreported according to the FDA.) Click here for FDA reporting instructions.

Tests for Heartworm Infection

Heartworms can, and should, be detected by a simple blood test before administering medication.  The antigen test detects an adult female worms at least 5-8 months old. The Merck Veterinary Manual says: “The antigen detection test is the preferred diagnostic method for asymptomatic dogs or when seeking verification of a suspected HW infection.”

Microfilariae (babies) in the blood are detected by a different blood test.  These show exposure, but do not detect  female adults (potential breeders).  Antibody tests (as opposed to antigen tests) are not preferred because they indicate only that the dog has been exposed to heartworms at some time in his or her life, even if the worms subsequently died.

If you plan to give “preventatives,” test before beginning medication, preferably within a month of when daily temperatures consistently climb above 57˚ F.  Read more at the Heartworm Society Serology section.

If you’re not going to use meds, homeopathic veterinarian Jeff Feinman wrote me that he advises semi-annual testing when not using preventatives.  My own vet, Tamara Hebbler, agrees.  Testing twice yearly helps you catch disease early when it’s easier to treat. Dr. Martin Goldstein in The Nature Of Animal Healing says: “Only a small percentage of dogs who get heartworm die of it, especially if they’re routinely tested twice yearly for early detection. Even in untreated dogs, after a period of uncomfortable symptoms, the adult worms die….”

Did you know that the latest canine movie star “Benji” was found in a shelter, infected with heartworms? Benji was treated successfully and went onto canine fame and a healthy life.

Heartworms, like other parasites, don’t become life threatening quickly or inevitably. It takes at least 5 months, and more often 7-8 months, for a baby to grow to a reproducing adult — presuming the dog’s immune system doesn’t intervene.  Also, adult males and females must both survive to breed.

Important Note If your dog’s antigen test comes back positive, holistic vet Tamara Hebbler suggests that before you rush into treatment with harsh, poisonous drugs, you should get a cardiac ultrasound to determine the extent of the infestation. Heartworms, like other parasites, often live with their hosts without ever causing a dangerous problem.  It’s quite common for animals in the wild to live entire lives with heartworms. (If worms always killed dogs, they’d soon run out of hosts.)  Unless heartworms are re-introduced by another infected mosquito, the adults and their babies will eventually die off.

When Should You Start Administering Meds — If You’re Going To?

Remember, you kill heartworm babies after the fact. You can only “prevent” them by avoiding mosquitoes.  (You can also kill them with a healthy immune system.) This means starting meds 30-45 after the weather warms and mosquitoes appear. Also, Washington State University warns, “If your pet travels to heartworm areas, prevention needs to be administered within 30 days of exposure to infected mosquitoes. Adult dogs (older than 6 mos.) need to be tested before starting preventative.”

Dr. Margo Roman, an integrative vet from in Massachusetts, documentary film maker and Founder of the first-ever Integrative Health Pet Expo in Massachusetts this fall, tells me she begins medication six weeks after sees mosquitoes. This allows 2 weeks for the microfilariae (baby heartworms) to mature  inside a mosquito to the infective stage and be transferred to a dog, plus 30 days additional days covered by the medication working backwards to kill those babies.

When Should You Stop Heartworm “Preventatives”?

Dr. Roman recommends stopping meds after the first frost for people living in an area with cold winters.  In other areas, vets recommend stopping 30-45 days after weather is consistently below 57 F degrees and you see no mosquitoes. See Part 1 of this article, and the start/stop maps, for more details.

What Brand Should You Use?

Consumers often think that “preventing” as many parasites as possible with one product is a bargain — and ultimately safer for the dog.  But why expose your dog to additional, unnecessary toxins?  Most holistic vets will tell you to protect against only those pests (and diseases) your dog is likely to encounter.  To see which products do what, see the “preventatives” comparison chart at Veterinary Partner.

***Low Dose “Safeheart” Medication Approved by the FDA

More than a decade ago — on June 4, 1998 — the FDA approved a 1/5 dose version of Interceptor heartworm medication, a product called Safeheart. This expensive field trial was conducted and the dosage approved  — but inexplicably the product was never marketed in the U.S.

To duplicate the Safeheart heartworm “prevention” method — which you can’t buy — you have split the Interceptor dose into quarters. Check with Interceptor first, and ask your pharmacist or vet how to do this accurately.  The recommended once-a-month dosage is 0.1 mg of milbemycin oxime per kg of body weight (0.05 mg/lb). (Interceptor’s regular dose of dosage is 0.5 mg milbemycin oxime per kg of body weight.) Print the FDA’s Safeheart report and take it to your vet for your prescription and additional instructions.

Note: At this dose, only heartworms will be treated with the Safeheart method, not other worms or fleas.

How Often Should You Give Meds?

In his important book Homeopathic Care For Cats and Dogs, veterinarian Don Hamilton says of heartworm:  “In dogs the “monthly” preventives are effective if given at six week intervals, and possibly even at seven- or eight week intervals….”  Author/veterinarians Richard Pitcairn and Allen Schoen told us essentially the same thing when we were researching our book Scared Poopless.  If you opt for this “less is more” treatment with “preventatives,” mark dosing dates on your calendar and don’t miss them.

The vets at Holistic Vet Center say:  “… monthly heartworm preventatives are actually 100% effective if given every 45 days and 99% effective if given every 60 days.”

I presume that the monthly schedule was designed for the ease of remembering when to give meds.  However … giving meds monthly rather than every 45 days requires more doses  — and offers more opportunities for adverse reactions.  For someone medicating year-round, that’s 4 fewer doses per year.

Are There Natural Heartworm Preventatives?

Mosquito control is the ultimate natural preventative.  No mosquitoes, no heartworms.  Control mosquitoes by eliminating standing water and staying indoors at dusk and dawn. Use bug spray (marked safe and non-toxic for animals and children). Buy bug zappers. (All these are good ideas for human protection from mosquito-borne diseases as well.)

Is mosquito control 100% effective? No, but  Mosquito.org has some great tips. (Note: one study showed that a full moon increased mosquito activity by 500%.)  Find more information on controlling mosquitoes in this University of California report.

What do I do? Well, for me, the choice was easy. I live in So. California. I rarely see mosquitoes. My dogs spend most of their time indoors. Nights are invariably cool.

With the advice of two local vets, I decided to protect my own dogs (both of whom have health challenges) against the toxicity of heartworm “preventatives” rather than protect against an unlikely infection. I use non-toxic alternatives like mosquito control, an excellent diet and no drugs unless they’re absolutely unavoidable. I increase safety by testing blood twice yearly. I haven’t used “preventatives” for five or six years and my dogs remain heartworm free. This is my personal decision.  I am not a vet.

If I lived in a mosquito-heavy area, however, I might do much the same. I would determine local risks and would consult a local holistic vet to get help preventing heartworms naturally. I would control mosquitoes and test blood twice or more yearly. Someone who had “outside dogs,” and who was the nervous about heartworms, might also use heartworm meds or the Safeheart method during the peak heartworm months of July and August, but only if their dogs had healthy kidneys and livers. They should make any decision with a knowledgeable vet.

Dr. Will Falconer, a holistic vet certified in acupuncture and homeopathy, has written an e-book called “Drug-Free Heartworm Prevention.”  This 50+ page, well-written e-book is delivered electronically.  I do not profit from sales of this book although I was given a complementary review copy.  Drs. Richard Pitcairn and Martin Goldstein have also written about heartworms in their books.

Please leave us a comment and let us know how you liked this article. Tell us about your concerns and decisions.  If we have made any errors, please let us know so we can rectify them. And, please, tell your friends the facts behind heartworm transmission.

Most importantly, do not make decisions out of fear. Don’t let anyone, even your vet, intimidate or ridicule you. Be an educated consumer and a rabid advocate for your dog’s health.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational purposes only. Do not rely on this information without doing your own research including consultation with your own veterinarian.  Do not buy or fail a product for treating heartworm without evaluating it carefully.

Sign up for notification of  future articles and our free dog care e-newsletter (delivered quarterly). Follow K9Author at Twitter.

There are reports of medication-resistant  heartworm in the deep South region of the US.  Read the article at http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20100424/NEWS/4240342/1001/Pet-owners-concerned-with-resistant-heartworms

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Posted under Heartworms, Uncategorized | 99 Comments » Email This Post

99 Comments to “Heartworm Medication Part 2: Options to Fear-Based Recommendations”

  1. Jan Says:

    DMH, It’s an nteresting thought, but heartworm infestation has been thoroughly investigated by major university vet schools. Not only is it transmitted by mosquitoes, but it’s only by female mosquitoes. But it’s a good question. Thanks for posting.

  2. Debbie Says:

    Help!! My neighbor took her dog to the doctor for his yearly shots. The dog is a rat terrier who had never taken heartworm medication. The doctor asked my neighbor why she does not give the dog heartworm medication and my neighbor said, “you never told me to”. The docotr perscribed a chewable monthly pill by Virbrac, called Iverhart Plus. The next day the dog stopped eating and started vomiting, a few days later the dog started swelling and my neighbor took the dog back to the vet. The vet did xrays and found the heart swollen and surrounded by fluids. The vet wanted her to take the dog to a specialist. Can this be a cause of and adverse reaction to the medication. My neighbor seems to think so and will not take the dog to a specialist due to the high cost, she feels that as the medicine wears off, the swelling will go down. I cannot sleep at night thinking about this, please give me advise as to what I can do?

  3. Jan Says:

    Debbie, I have a few thoughts.

    First, why would the dog need heartworm meds in the winter? Heartworms can’t mature absent mosquitoes and hot weather. Did you read: http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2009/05/13/heartworm-medication-safety/ Also, did the vet do a heartworm test first, to make sure the dog didn’t have heartworms?
    This is very important. It’s extremely dangerous to give heartworm meds without a test first. Your vet has to know this. Every medication stresses this.

    Second, why is the dog getting yearly shots? No veterinarians are supposed to give them anymore. Actually, they never were necessary for the most important vaccines. Please read this http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2010/12/02/what-to-do-when-your-dog-has-a-vaccine-reaction/ and also this about why the dog probably didn’t need shots in the first place.

    Find out some details and get back to me. This condition sounds serious. Don’t ignore it, but also see a better vet. If the vet caused the problem, he/she is unlikely to fix it. And especially contact the heartworm meds manufacturer.

    Your friend needs to find out what shots were given and should contact the vaccine manufacturer. Also contact the heartworm manufacturer.

  4. karen Says:

    Lost here on HW treatments We will be in Ocala Fla from jna- march have a 6 month old golden and confused if he should have heartworm med while we are there He is not going to be outside much In the other months we live in NYS We do put flea and tick treatment on him Our vet does not really convince me and she is new to us HELP

  5. Jan Says:

    Hi Karen. Everything I know about heartworm meds is in the two articles I wrote at Truth4Dogs. The decision has to be yours.

    If it were my dog, I wouldn’t give them when the weather is cold. 6 weeks after you return from Florida, presuming the weather is below 57 degrees at some time during each day, I’d ask your vet to test for HW. If it’s warmer, test sooner. You test and give meds 6 weeks AFTER exposure, not before. You’ll have to decide what to do during the summer months. The Part 2 article should help you.

  6. Kira Says:

    I came here because I was interested in Safeheart, and had never heard of it before. I was always told though that we can’t cut heartworm pills because the medicine isn’t distributed evenly. Is that true?

  7. Valerie Immel Says:

    Thank you for this enlightening information. My German Shepherd, Morgan, has developed bad side effects to Heartgard and Interceptor. I have thought many times he was being over medicated. Now I’m sure of it!

    We live in Southern California in a cool, mountainous area and the bats eat the mosquitos if there are any flying about. This wonderful article has helped me decide to test first, (twice a year), and then decide if treatment is needed. Once again, thank you so much for confirming what I have long suspected!!

  8. Jan Says:

    Valerie, I’m glad my article was helpful. Tell your friend! And do make sure you test your dog regularly.

  9. Lori Says:

    My rescued Golden Retriever almost died from heartworm preventative medication. He first got bloody diarrhea. Then he got ‘wandering lameness’ which went from leg to leg, he had to be lifted up with a towel to get up and limped severely when he had to go to the bathroom. He went to the Critical Care Hospital, had 7 joint aspirations, all abnormal (not Lyme), then developed a massive kidney/bladder infection, suspected glomerulonephritis and possible diabetes implications (the latter two worries cleared up). He was on massive doses of prednisone, antibiotics, and pain medication. Thankfully, I was lucky to have him for 4 more years when he succumbed to malignant melanoma of the mouth and I wonder if the prevent./meds instigated this. His major diagnosis was immune mediated polyarthritis – never could have any type of vaccine again as his immune system was rendered ruined. I am very wary about heartworm prevention and the vets said his illness was definitely caused by the med. I felt so bad, thinking I was protecting him and instead he got very ill. I grieve for him and miss him terribly. I love him so much, he’ll always be in my thoughts.

  10. Sharon Fraxer Says:

    I enjoyed reading the article and it is very informative. I had my 2 dogs on a heartwarm preventive for the first 2 years of their lives. However, I took them off of it. The blood test every year alone , cost very much. I can not understand if I had them on a “prevenitive” medication, why were they required to go in every year for a blood test. If the medication prevents heart warms, I do not feel they should be tested every year. Maybe every 2-3 years, but not once a year. I live in So. Calif. so I do not feel there was a big need for the medication. But the Vets here really push it on you.

  11. Jan Says:

    Sharon, ask your vet how many cases of heartworm he has reported to the Heartworm Society in the past three years. And ask how long the dogs had lived in Calif and where they were before that.

    I live in So Cal and just test my dogs every year or so — on the recommendation of my vet. I haven’t given them hw meds in many years.

  12. AJ Says:

    That map is from 2007! I live in a “cold” area of the country, by the Great Lakes, and we have had WARMER AND WARMER winters every year since then. The lakes haven’t frozen, we’ve had warm weather beginning in March, etc. We have been infested with bugs formally seen only in Southern areas, and we have not seen the long freezes we used to, and even our cold and flu patterns have shifted because we do not have the cold weather we used to. This is not to suggest that anyone needs to make any particular decision regarding heart worm meds, but I would suggest that we need very updated info on mosquito populations because ours have changed markedly since that map was created.

  13. DEBORAH Says:

    Thank you do much for the information. It has helped me decide what is best for my dog rather than just blindly giving her medication.

  14. pet sitting Says:

    Hi there, You have performed a great job. I will certainly digg it and in my opinion suggest to my friends. I am sure they’ll be benefited from this site.

  15. JR Says:

    Thanks I have been concerned about refilling Jeb’s meds. Money is tight right now and that would help alot. I understand so much now…. and once again I see it comes down to “lining the pockets of the drug company” human or pet…. GOD help us all.

  16. Alexa Says:

    I have 2 dogs–one is just over 25 lbs and one is just under. Of course, the packaged doses are for 1-25 and 25-50. I hate having to buy 2 different packages. Any thoughts on the efficacy of underdosing–giving a 28 1b dog dosage for a 25 lb dog?

  17. Jan Says:

    Alexa, I’m told that most brands of heartworm meds can’t be cut into pieces. Winter is coming up. Did you read the article on heartworms not being able to mature in cold weather?

  18. Liver Disorders in Dogs/Heartworm Preventives too - Pitbulls : Go Pitbull Dog Forums Says:

    […] […]

  19. Susie Says:

    These articles are very freeing and confirmation of a decision I made a long time ago with regard to my dogs (and myself). I will not allow “Big Pharma” and doctors/vets scare me into taking meds or giving my pets meds that “they say” have been proven “safe”. My pets have had terrible reactions to annual shots and there is no telling what damage I have already inflicted upon them by buying into the fear factor that they must have monthly doses of poison to “prevent”/”kill” these parasites. I know now that the toxic heartworm meds are a very lucrative business and not necessary. The conflict of interest is HUGE and the incentives to sell yet more medicine and get pet owners to come in yearly for exams and give drugs to their pets monthly far outweighs their incentive to go against “conventional wisdom” and recommend healthy (non-processed foods) for their pets in order to build their immune systems as the best preventative. We (and our pets) are not broken by design and do not need help from drug companies to be “healthy”. My own research with myself and my pets is proof of this. I wish more people (especially MDs and vets) would be brave enough and take the time to do the research and tell the truth to their clients about how they can take control of their own health by leading a healthy lifestyle rather than depending on a system that encourages dependency on drugs to take care of problems that we create ourselves by poor choices.

  20. Jan Says:

    Susie, you seem very enlightened. You didn’t mention vaccines. I hope you read this: http://truth4pets.org/question-before-vaccination/ It’s one my other blog, truth4pets.org It’s all about vaccination.

  21. Judi Says:

    My 3 collies that I had on Interceptor Spectrum year round just became very, very ill after their last dose. My other 3 dogs on Heartgard did not. The 3 that were ill had terrible explosive diarrhea, vomiting, and would not eat for several days. It took 3 weeks to get them back to normal. I am positive they’d built up toxic levels of Interceptor. No more year-round for me. I have a breeder friend who uses Dimmitrol and worms for other worms periodically. I am going to try this only during our warm-weather months b/c I am still too scared to go with nothing. I’m also stopping Advantix. Less is more.

  22. Jan Says:

    Judi, make sure you report the reaction to Spectrum to the manufacturer. This is very important. If reactions aren’t reported, they’re considered safe. http://truth4pets.org/reporting-reactions/

    Please investigate Dimmitrol. I don’t know much about it and just because someone is a breeder doesn’t mean they know what’s best. I know many breeders who are completely ignorant about meds, shots and food. Sad but true. Your breeder may be great but would probably agree that many aren’t.

  23. 6Tigers Says:

    I was so relieved to find this article! We have finally solved the mystery of why our dog was having seizures. Thank you. Putting this page on my favorites for all the helpful reader comments.

  24. Jan Says:

    6Tigers, another thought about the seizures is vaccination. Many vaccines are known to cause seizures. http://www.dogs4dogs.com/dog-seizures-and-vaccination Also, look into acupuncture and homeopathy for treatment. Check out the referral lists at http://www.truth4pets.org/vets

  25. Brittany Says:

    I have a question that deals with both heartworm meds and vaccines. My dog needs to get his rabies vaccine this week so I can take him to the groomers ( he’s a mini poodle) as well as take him camping in a few weeks. He’ll be getting a CBC\chem before hand to make sure everything is good with him.

    Is 2 weeks long enough to wait till I give him his heartworm?

    Also, since only Sentinal is available now, is that still a good brand to use the safeheart dose with? Is every 6 weeks enough for the safeheart dose or is every 4 weeks recommended?

    I haven’t given him any heartworm meds yet this season so I would like to get him tested and started as soon as possible but since he needs to get the rabies vaccine I know I need to wait for at least a couple weeks. So in the mean time I’m trying to find the safest means to do so.

    Are there any better brands out there besides Sentinal and without the flea meds that use Milbemycin Oxime?

    If not it looks like I’m going to have to stop giving him a topical flea & tick preventative which worries me because he’s already had 2 tick born diseases with the use of Frontline.

  26. Jan Says:

    Brittany, see if the groomer will accept titers. If your dog has had two vaccines, they should be strong. Titers give the groomer assurance that the vaccine “took” — just vaccination guarantees nothing. And it’s a lot safer for your dog. Also, consider a groomer who is not a stickler for vaccines.

    Also, remember that heartworm meds are given 6 weeks after exposure. Doing it before does no good according to experts.

    If you have to vaccinate, have a holistic vet do it if you can. That vet will know how to do it more safely. http://www.truth4pets.org/vets

    Two weeks is a good rule of thumb between meds, but there are no guarantees, especially for a mini. http://truth4pets.org/2012/06/vaccinating-small-pets/

    The brands some of my vet friends use are Advantage (not Advantix) and Comfortis. Neither are really all that safe. I wish there is something I could recommend wholeheartedly, but there is not. I’m getting ready to research it again before too long. In the meantime, you might check out archived issues of whole-dog-journal.com.

  27. fm stecker Says:

    I have read all these comments and would love to have a definitive answer as I want to do the best for my 6 month old lab pup. I have never used heartworm med on any of my dogs..but the weather in Wis has been very wet and then gets warm. I would not forgive myself if my new puppy would test positive for heartworm but I struggle with putting toxic stuff” into his young body. I do as much as I can that is good and natural so I am going back and forth with what to do.IF I would do HW I would only do it every45 days and once he is older I would not use meds,when his immune system is stronger. Please, would you take time to answer my concerns. Thank you in advance. FM Stecker

  28. Jan Says:

    FM, I’m afraid there is no “definitive answer.” If you read the article on heartworm, you know what experts say.

    I am not a vet, but if it were my puppy, I’d probably not use meds and test at the end of heartworm season or maybe halfway through. Then you could give the meds under vet supervision to kill the worms, if any. Or, I’d start 45 days into the season and give it every 45 days. And I’d keep my dog inside when mosquitos are biting. There are also more natural sprays to ward off mosquitos. As I recall, there is another good article on it in the archives at whole-dog-journal.com.

    Of course, you won’t want to give the meds within several weeks of vaccinating. Here’s my best article on vaccinating. http://truth4pets.org/question-before-vaccination/

  29. Heart worm area map :)and Trifexis Warning - Boxer Forum : Boxer Breed Dog Forums Says:

    […] worm area map :)and Trifexis Warning Not making recommendations just posting info. Heartworm Preventatives: Safety and Alternatives | Truth4Dogs https://www.facebook.com/TrifexisKillsDogs __________________ […]

  30. wendy Says:

    I wanted to thank you for this site it has been very helpful! I wanted to know about other dogs, can heart worms infest other animals while you treat the one animal or do you treat all even thou there are no sighns?

  31. Jan Says:

    Wendy, heartworm infestations are caused by an infected mosquito biting an animal with a compromised immune system. They are not transferred from one dog to another. If you have a dog with an infestation, you need advice from a vet who understands the treatment.

  32. Nicole Says:

    Thank you for this very informative article. I live in Orange County, California, and my vet has not personally treated a dog with heartworm. My terrier mix is very sensitive to topical flea treatments, so in terms of heartworm, I have opted to test her twice per year instead of medicating her. Now to deal with those pesky fleas safely…yikes…

  33. dave gray Says:

    Great article,have to admit, I see some vets just ignore some signs and still over vaccinate and prescribe their money maker poisons.
    case in hand, adopted large terrier APBT.Early years for her with original owner wasnt the best in taking care of her. I adopted her and 1st changed her old roy kibble to Blue Buf. WILDERNESS.Big improvement but found out slight elevations in all of her liver enzymes and other liver functions. Put her on a good quality SAMe supplement and also some silymarin. 2 years go by liver is so so but what does the vet do, full vaccinations and changed from Trifexis to H.G . With in 40 days my baby came down with IMHA, 4k$ and 4 days later GONE.

    you think the vet seeing the age of the dog, compromised liver ,he would have known or advised ,”Hey this is your choice we can skip all of the non required by law Vac’s and I would suggest you might not want to give her HW meds any more from this time on or maybe just the summer months.” He knew the dog spent 22 hrs a day inside and 2 hrs a day outside for 2 one hour exercise romps at mid morning and late afternoon (5pm) Nope!! poison the hell out of her and make my $$ to pay off my loan. No regard for the life of the pet. I now am more in tune and knowledgeable in what my new companion needs.

    She gets just the rabies 1x every 3 yrs and we use essential oils to ward off skeeters and fleas & ticks. We do also administer an herbal extraction for HW as well but more importantly we provide 5 good basic components in her life 1. species appropriate raw diet, 2. purified water ,not the plastic jug BPA garbage but a very good reverse osmosis and filtration for all chemicals (VOC’S,CHLORAMINES , FLUORIDE,ETC) 3. enzymes and probiotics,4. a good quality greens mix im currently using one with blue green algae concentrates,chlorella,spirulina,it has over 20 trace minerals and vitamins in its compound , 5. exercise and structure and LOVE LOVE LOVE . This is the basics of building a rock solid immune system. We also give her coconut oil in her food 2x a day and also a good mushroom complex which aids in her organ functions. She is as strong as a horse and looks amazing, teeth white as snow and sweet breath from which she kisses you a lot with.

    I figure i can spend it NOW on giving her the best i can, for me its better than spending it on measures to save her life form not taking care of them as if they were your child. Pay now and give them a great life or pay later trying to save them from the neglect that you implemented instead of the prevention you should have been doing all thru out their life. My baby isnt my car or a piece of property as the law defines them but are furry 4 legged children who need us to help them be the great living creatures they are!!

  34. Jan Says:

    Dave, what a great doggy dad you are. I wish more people would follow your example. I wish more VETS would!

  35. M69 » Heartworm Preventatives: Safety and Alternatives | Truth4Dogs Says:

    […] Heartworm Preventatives kill heartworms; they do not prevent them. Are these products safe? Are there more natural alternatives? Strip away the marketing and find the truth. http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2009/06/16/heartworm-preventative-options/ […]

  36. Ashley lozano Says:

    I’m a first time pet owner. My dog teddy is about 4 years old. He was doing great! For his first check up the vet asked me if he was on prevention unfortunately he wasnt. He told me they had to run a test before I choose which prevention I want to use. He came back with a positive test. So he explained the treatment and cost. I was horrified. So we began with steroids. He still seemed perfectly fine. Then was the moment for his first treatment. He came back pretty much the same Teddy. But now it’s been a week…he is coughing and gagging. He wasnt interested in his favorite treats. He wasn’t rushing out the door for his walk. I don’t think he can handle two more treatments of this. Then I read this article and another called “heartworms:the billion dollar scam” I don’t know what to think. I just want my teddy back to normal…do I have to go though the last two treatments? Any advice?

  37. Jan Says:

    Ashley, my vet recommends doing a heart ultrasound before doing treatments. A dog can be positive but not in a big danger, and the treatment is harsh. Unfortunately, the ultrasound is expensive. My advice: find a holistic vet. They’re likely to treat your dog with fewer side effects. Of course, it will cost money, too. http://www.truth4pets.org/vets

    Let me know where you live. Maybe I know a vet in the area.

  38. Heartworm Research | Perfect Dog Says:

    […] The following adverse reactions have been reported to the FDA by the manufacturers: […]

  39. Lindsay Jackson Says:

    Hi, and thanks so much for this site! I have a 3yr old Bouvier des Flandres who’s never been treated for heart worm. She was born in So. Calif., lived in Spokane WA, now lives in No. Calif. And we are moving to Atlanta GA this summer!
    I never used flea meds in WA but do in spring and summer here. I hate doing it but otherwise she gets flea problems.
    I’m not wanting to do heart worm medication either because I know that ALL of this stuff will ruin her health eventually.So I like the idea of seasonal treatment. Are there any natural options or less toxic options? What about the medication that was never marketed? Surely someone knows why. Thanks, Lindsay

  40. Jan Says:

    Lindsay, you might read this from holistic vet Will Falconer: http://vitalanimal.com/heartworms/

    And remember that vets tell me you give the meds, if you use them, after exposure and every six weeks is fine. You need to be especially careful in Atlanta, as you know.

  41. Joel Says:

    Hi Jan – Thanks for all the info! Can you recommend a holistic vet in the Long Island, NY area? Our new addition to the family came from a local shelter (our first pet…) and although they screened her for heart worms, she tested positive a week later. Thanks, Joel

  42. Jan Says:

    Find referral lists for holistic vets at http://www.truth4pets.org/vets.

  43. Kathy Says:

    Thank you for your research, information and articles. It really
    helps to make informed decisions. I live in the Midwest with cold winters. Many vets advise to keep dogs on meds year round. I give them every 6 weeks only in the warm weather. I am a firm believer in knowing facts and thinking for myself. We are all exposed to enough chemicals and toxins.

  44. BRE Says:

    Thank you for these articles on heartworms. I honestly didn’t know much about heartworms and never had an issue with any dog until I recently moved to Houston (from Kansas). My two, 11-year old German Sheps both tested positive according to my vet, I’ve used heartworm treatments but I admit I’ve never done so regularly. They wanted to do x-rays and give them the shots and have me keep them in cages for 2 months. My doggies are senior dogs that have never been crated for more than a couple hours and would not handle being crated that long. There couldn’t promise that the shots would make them live longer and at this stage in their life I just want them to enjoy the time they have. I agreed to giving them Doxycycline tablets for a couple months and retest but they said it would be a miracle if it cleared them of HW. They made me feel so terrible for not doing the “fast-kill” approach. Perhaps if they were just a couple years old I would consider it but not this late in their lives. Reading your articles make me feel like I’m not the horrible pet owner the vet is making me feel I am for not attacking this so aggressively.

  45. Jan Says:

    Bre, try contacting a holistic vet. They will likely be able to recommend a more gentle treatment. There’s a list of holistic vets at http://www.truth4pets.org. My own vet has long suggested that you do an ultrasound to see if the investation is serious. A dog can test positive without being in dire straights. Good luck.

  46. Ann Says:

    I had a dog who would hallucinate after taking heartguard . She would also get depressed. She developed canine carcinoma and lived only a few months after that. A holistic vet told me giving my new dog heartworm meds at three month intervals was all I needed to do and all I have done for 4 years. Do you agree with his advice?

  47. Jan Says:

    Ann, if it’s working, great. You didn’t say where you lived. It makes a difference.

  48. Sandra Says:

    I live in Phoenix, AZ and your articles have relieved my mind so much. I don’t give my dogs heartworm medicine and even according to the map, there are 5 to 20 heartworm cases a year in the Phoenix area. I don’t want my babies being posioned with these medications!! My previous vet told me that they probably won’t get heartworms, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. I don’t take them to places where there is standing water and I don’t take them out usually at dusk or dawn. With all of that said, Thank YOU so much for writing these articles.

  49. Jan Says:

    Sandra, just be sure to do blood test checks at least yearly. Twice a year is better.

    Over-vaccination is also something to avoid; please check out http://truth4pets.org/question-before-vaccination/

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