What is a Heartworm?

Natural Remedies for Protection Against HeartWorm. Information on Heartworm, Natural Prevention and Cure.

Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) is a parasitic worm which infects mostly dogs. However, more vets are realizing that cats may also be infected with heartworm. Although all internal parasites can be harmful to the health of your pet, heartworm infestation is serious and can be fatal unless treated in time.

What causes Heartworms?

Heartworm is spread by mosquitoes. Not all mosquitoes carry heartworm, but when an infected mosquito bites your pet, it can transfer larvae to the animal's tissues. These larvae then migrate through the body, until they reach the animal's heart and lungs. There the adult worms will grow. They can grow to 7" - 11" long and cause a great deal of damage to the heart and lungs. If untreated, the animal could die.

How do I know whether my pet has Heartworms?

Heartworms can be diagnosed by means of a simple blood test. In areas where a heartworm is common, we recommend that your pets be regularly tested for heartworms in order to prevent problems before the animal is too ill. Symptoms of heartworm disease include coughing, weight loss, lack of energy and breathing difficulties. However, during the early stages of infestation, there may be few, if any, symptoms.

How is Heartworm treated?

Conventional veterinarian treatment includes preventative medication as well as treatment aimed at eradicating the adult worms from the heart and lungs if the infestation reaches an advanced stage.

While conventional prevention and treatment of heartworm is very effective, it is increasingly being acknowledged in the veterinarian profession that there are a number of health risks associated with this form of treatment. Preventative medication used for heartworm is not really preventing the infestation - it is a way of killing off the larvae circulating in your pet's body during the early stages - before they get to adult stage and cause damage. The chemicals used in these drugs are pesticides. Although they are used preventatively in small amounts, because they are administered regularly month after month, the damage to the animal's system is cumulative. Some side effects listed for heartworm preventative drugs are weakness, vomiting, convulsions and diarrhea. More importantly, regular use can weaken your pet's immune system and place strain on kidneys and liver. This can result in greater susceptibility to infection and other diseases. Many holistic vets are of the opinion that long-term use of heartworm prevention drugs is one of the factors in the development of diseases like skin allergies, arthritis, liver and kidney diseases and even some forms of cancer. So while conventional 'preventative' treatment against heartworm may help to keep your pet heartworm free, it can also cause other problems, some of which are potentially just as serious as heartworm disease.

When an animal has an advanced stage of heartworm disease, a much stronger dose of the medication is administered in order to kill off the adult worms which have lodged in the heart and lungs and which are posing a grave risk to the animal. The treatment carries great risk as the dead heartworms may be dislodged from the heart and lungs and obstruct blood vessels, which can lead to immediate death. For this reason, conventional heartworm treatment must be closely monitored and the animal must remain quiet and confined 3-4 weeks. In some cases, surgery may be used to remove the adult worms.

Whether or not to prevent and treat heartworm according to conventional veterinarian methods or to follow a natural treatment program is a decision that you should only make in conjunction with your vet. There are many holistic and homeopathic vets who will very successfully treat heartworm and many other medial conditions without making use of synthetic drugs. There are also many integrative vets who are conventionally trained but who are increasingly making use of herbal, homeopathic and other natural treatment programs in the interests of promoting the health of their patients and not only curing conditions in the short term. Heartworm disease is a serious condition and should not be taken lightly. However, it is important to know that there are options and alternatives to conventional treatment. As always, risks need to be weighed up against benefits before informed choices are made.

Alternative treatment and prevention of heartworm

Preventing and treating heartworm using alternative medicine and natural means is not as simple as swallowing a pill - whether or not this is an herbal or a synthetic pill. In order to protect your pet properly, there are a few steps that you need to take. However, these measures will also benefit your pet in many different ways and protect against a wide variety of illnesses. The following steps may be used under veterinary supervision as an alternative to conventional treatment and prevention of heartworm or may be used together with the conventional treatment for further protection.

1. A healthy diet is the best medicine!

Holistic vets agree that processed commercial pet foods are one of the factors undermining pet health. A diet consisting mostly of raw food and fresh water is one of the best things you can give your pet to protect him against all sorts of infection, including heartworm. Dogs will thrive on raw meat, raw bones and chopped raw vegetables. Many dogs will also eat fruit willingly (especially if they see you eating it too!). Cats are largely carnivorous so need a diet of mainly raw meat. Include soft raw bones like chicken neck and add chicken giblets whenever possible. A little bonemeal can be added to the food as well as small amounts of grated or chopped vegetables. For cats and dogs, avoid milk and food containing sugar, as well as artificial flavors, colors and preservatives.

2. A healthy immune system will protect animals against parasites like heartworm

An animal with a healthy immune system will be less likely to become infected with internal parasites, including heartworm. Mosquitoes are less likely to bite healthy animals. In addition, the healthy animals own defense system is able to kill off the larvae of any heartworm that may enter the bloodstream, thus preventing them from reaching maturity and causing harm. Factors that will weaken your pet's immune system include frequent vaccination, commercial pet foods, incorrect diet, stress and even conventional heartworm and other synthetic medication. Discuss this with your vet before making changes in any of these areas.

A healthy liver is one of the foundations of a healthy body and helps to prevent the animal against illness and remove waste and toxins from the system. The liver performs many important metabolic functions and also stores glucose, vitamins and minerals. Regular use of Immunity and Liver Tonic will help to ensure healthy livers and strong immune systems for both dogs and cats, protecting against heartworm and a host of other diseases.

3. Protect and strengthen the heart and circulation system

The adult heartworm lodges in the heart of the animal and a healthy heart and circulatory system is another measure that you can take to protect your pet. Healthy circulation ensures that red blood cells carry sufficient supplies of oxygen throughout the body to provide vitality, while white blood cells are able to fight infection. Diet and exercise play an important role in maintaining a healthy heart and circulatory system. Regular use of Heart and Circulation Tonic will also benefit your pet in the fight against heartworm and many other problems.

4. Regular de-worming in areas with high risk of heartworm infestation

If you live in a high risk area for heartworm, it is advisable to take precautions and to have your pet regularly checked - prevention is better than cure. By speaking to a vet who practices integrative medicine or a holistic or homeopathic vet, you can tailor-make a prevention plan for your pet.

Regular use of Parasite Dr can help to prevent infestation by heartworms and also improve the health of your animal. Because the herbs in Parasite Dr contain bitter principles, this has the added benefit of making the animal less attractive to pests like mosquitoes, ticks and fleas, thereby reducing the risk of being bitten by a heartworm infested mosquito. The ingredients in Parasite Dr also have natural anti-parasitic properties and can help to kill and expel the worms from the body. Parasite Dr can be used regularly in order to prevent heartworm and other parasite infection and kill any larvae existing in the blood. Under veterinarian supervision, it may also be used as part of a treatment program for the treatment of advanced heartworm disease. Always consult your vet if your animal appears unwell and do not attempt home treatment of an unwell animal with suspected heartworm disease.

Regular use of Parasite Dr will help to:

  • Expel and protect against internal parasites like heartworm, roundworm and tape worm
  • Restore digestive health after parasitic infection
  • Calm and soothe the digestive system
  • Reduce parasite-related problems like restlessness and malnutrition
  • Cleanse and detox the digestive system and improve digestive functioning
  • Reduce the symptoms of flatulence, nausea and bloating
  • Protect against bacterial infection
  • Reduce yeast overgrowth in the digestive tract
  • Act as a tonic for the entire digestive system

In summary, the treatment and prevention of heartworm disease in dogs and cats is a complex subject which requires owners to be well informed about the risks and benefits of both conventional and alternative approaches. Whichever options you choose, following the guidelines above to ensure a healthy pet, with a strong and well functioning immune system, heart, liver and circulatory system can help to keep your animal free of heartworm and many other health problems.