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If you’re a dog owner, you would have heard about heartworm and it’s devastating effects multiple times by now. Most veterinarians recommend a heartworm preventative dose of medication every month, year round. However, evidence shows that this may be doing more harm than good.
What Is Heartworm?
Heartworm disease is caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis which can spread through mosquito bites. The larvae get injected into the bloodstream of the dog. If the dog’s immune system does not kill the larvae, it can reach other organs where it will mature into an adult. The worm can reach lengths of up to 12 inches when fully grown and predictably, cause havoc. The disease can result in lung, heart and organ failure, and even lead to fatalities if not treated early.
Since this disease is the result of mosquito bites, the logical thing to do is prevent the likelihood of your dog getting bitten by one. Here are some ways to do that.
1. Install Netting
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This step will benefit you and your dog. Install netting on windows and ventilation shafts to prevent those annoying critters from entering your home. This way you’ll be able to enjoy a breeze during the warmer weather without risking bites.
2. Use Insect Repellent
Find a non-toxic, effective mosquito repellent and use it liberally. Especially in warmer weather when the dog is outdoors. Alternatively, several herbs and their oils may be natural mosquito repellents. Just be careful and use a small amount since your dog’s nose is extremely sensitive to fragrances. Herbs and oils that can be safely used on dogs include lemongrass, catnip, lavender, and sage. You can even plant these herbs around your house to make sure the insects are kept far away.
3. Give Your Dog A Balanced Diet
Giving your dog a healthy, balanced diet can help boost their immunity. This helps them fight the parasites as soon as they enter the bloodstream and reduces the likelihood of the worms actually maturing.
4. Stay Indoors At Dusk And Dawn
Minimize your dog’s activity outside at dusk and dawn which are peak mosquito hours. If your dog must “do his business”, use a non-toxic, pet safe bug spray before he steps out and make sure he comes back inside immediately.
5. Get Rid Of Stagnant Water
If there is a spot in your garden or backyard where water tends to collect, like old tires or unused flower pots, tip the water out regularly.
Stagnant water is where mosquitoes lay their eggs and doing so can reduce the likelihood of them hatching around your house.
6. Avoid Places With Stagnant Water
Don’t take your dogs to places near standing water. This means you should stay away from ponds, swamps, and other similar settings. These spots would be breeding grounds for mosquitos during warmer weather.
7. Try Nosodes
Nosodes are a homeopathic vaccine that may be a less harmful option. They are used as preventatives but their effectiveness has not been proven scientifically. It’s best to combine this practice with regular blood tests for heartworm detection.
If you must administer the commercially produced preventative medicine, these tips can help reduce some of the damage caused by the harmful chemicals.
- Before any preventative test, have a blood test done to see if your
dog has heartworm.
- If your dog’s liver and kidneys are healthy, use the lowest possible effective dose required for your dog’s weight. Increase the interval to 6 weeks rather than 4 weeks and use it only during the warmer months.
- Reduce the likelihood of liver damage with liver detox agents like milk thistle, a herbal remedy, or SAMe which is sold as a dietary supplement. Both of these have been touted for their effect in preventing liver damage.
Heartworm can be a fatal disease but it is one that is easily preventable. Monitor your dog and his outdoor activity to make sure he stays safe.