Heartworm Treatment. Every spring, pet owners are faced with the battle of how to prevent Heartworms. The EPA’s recent warning about the safety of topical products used to prevent Heartworm disease has many pet owners worried. Dog and cat owners are looking for safe solutions to protect their pets from the dreaded mosquitos that carry and spread this disease. Is there any hope that we could see an end to these pesky parasites?
Believe it or not scientists discovered the heartworm parasite of dogs over 150 years ago and it was found in cats over 80 years ago. Yet, each year countless dogs and cats suffer from this horrible worm and estimates indicate cases of heartworm disease in dogs and cats in North American number in the millions. So, what’s the solution? Heartworm disease is no joke and is devastating to your pet’s health. Spread by the bite of a mosquito
these worms can grow up to two feet in length and lives in your dog’s heart. This takes a toll on the heart and causes it to work much harder than normal to pump blood and vital nutrients throughout your pet’s body. The result is that your dog’s heart gets tired from excess work and begins to fail. As time passes, pets show signs of heart failure. Initially, dogs get tired quickly, sleep more and play less. As their heart disease progresses, fluid accumulates in their lungs so coughing especially in the morning, when they wake up is common. Without treatment pets die.
In cats, heartworms prefer to live and grow in the lungs. Signs in cats may include vomiting, breathing problems that mimic asthma and occasionally cats die suddenly. The EPA’s recent warning about the safety of various topical preventative products currently marketed for heartworm prevention has scared many pet owners. The fact is prevention is both safe and effective. Because of the flurry of online pet pharmacies and web stores, selling heartworm preventatives at deeply discounted prices, one has to wonder whether or not the products are ”as represented” or bootleg copies from overseas. As a practicing holistic veterinarian for over 20 years, I also question the validity of some internet offers when the product and price both look”too good to be true.”
I have prescribed heartworm medications for my canine patients for many years and never had a single problem. I do make it a rule to never try or recommend a newly released pharmaceutical products until they have been on the market for at least 3 or more years with no reported adverse effects, as I don’t want any of my 4-legged clients to be ”guinea pigs” for the pharmaceutical companies.
I also do not believe in either of the two radical internet theories stating that either the heartworm medications are ineffective or that the worms have become resistant to the current medications. While conspiracy theorists may relish these ideas, scientific evidence for both is lacking. Heartworm preventives have a failure rate of less than 1 in a million doses. In addition, the life cycle of the heartworm as pictured above, is quite complex and does not naturally lend itself to developing resistance.
Your veterinarian is always your best resource as to the best way to deal with this issue this for your pet. Likewise, if you purchase pet meds online and a particular product looks too good to be true, my advice is to move on. Pet owners have a variety of choices as far as deciding which heartworm preventative is best for their pet. Oral formulations, including HeartGard and Iverheart, and monthly topicals, such as Advantage and Revolution, can help keep you and your pet stay on the winning side.
As far as “natural” and/or organic solutions to prevent heartworms; to the best of my knowledge, they simply don’t exist. Following your veterinarian’s advice and keeping yourself updated at reliable web sites like the American Heartworm Society are wise choices. It’s the best way to keep your pets and your wallet safe!