I just got a Great Pyrenees pup and want to keep him safe from heartworm. Without recapping what I've learned about heartworm here's a few of what I think are some key points when assessing the risk of infection with some questions.
1. Temperature - the larvae needs two weeks or more of temperature above 57 degrees F so the more time it stays above 57 degrees F the greater the odds. So the further south you go the greater the risk. I've read that heartworm is not a problem in Alaska . . . anyone know if this is true?
2. Population density of dogs - it goes from host to host via the mosquito so the more dogs in an area the greater the odds a mosquito can become infected. So dogs in neighborhoods would be at greater risk than dogs out in the country?
3. Humidity/moisture levels - mosquitos need water to breed and the larvae need it to stay moist to travel through the saliva. SO the closer to water and more humid the environment the greater the risk.
4. Time outside - most mosquitos are outside so the more time the dog spends outside the greater the risk.
5. Size of dog - mosquitos use carbon dioxide as a means of detection so the bigger the dog the greater the amount of carbon dioxide.
6. Density of fur - the less dense the fur the easier for the mosquito to bite the dog?
As far as prevention and treatment go I know almost nothing. It seems like the key for prevention is to prevent the mosquito from ever biting the dog but how? Encourage mosquito eaters, limit breeding area or spray the dog with something like citronella or peppermint oil?
What about after it's been bitten? Is there a way to kill the larvae when it's in the mosquito saliva or under the skin before it advances into the bloodstream? I've read that the larvae don't like cold in the first two stages of life what about the stages before entering the blood? Would cold baths work to kill the larvae? DE?
Once it's in the bloodstream is a strong immune system sufficient enough to fight it off or will the dog need additional help like herbs, vitamins etc. I'd hate to have to poison my dog to prevent or get rid of heartworm.
Heartworm is a nasty parasite that, as far as I know, there are no "natural" preventatives for. There are still areas of the US that heartworm is not a major problem in but there are others that you can pretty much count on your dog coming down with it if they are not given a preventative.
Heartgard is one of the safest medications out there. The drug is ivomectin. Lets just say that this is frequently found in over the counter horse dewormers that cost around $6 at the feed store.
It would probably be irresponsible to suggest you use the paste off label but I know people who do. Just be VERY careful with the dosage. Heartgard is measured in MICRO grams, not MILLIgrams (mcg, not mg.) Do use it monthly and be sure the dogs stools are not put in the compost bin as the vermicide is passed out in the stools and will kill off your compost worms.
Having seen dogs die because of heartworms (not my dogs) and having seen people spend thousands to treat heartworms in a well loved pet and all the suffering the dog goes through with the treatments I personally do not screw around with anything less then medicines for prevention prescribed and sold by our vet. Now I also have an old country vet who does not do more than necessary and charges about cost for all meds and he only does the basics. In fact he is semi-retired and will refer you to another vet for serious illness requiring tests and long term care (especially since he gave up doing surgery due to his age). I believe I could get heartworm treatments from the local feed stores as well and I know they carry wormers for dogs/puppies, cats/kittens, and farm animals as well as some other basic non-prescription medicines needed for farms. Just for me the risk of having a companion (which is what my dog is) or a well trained worker (livestock guardian or other farm dog) fall ill die to something I could have prevented is not worth it.
Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
Peter K. wrote: I believe I could get heartworm treatments from the local feed stores as well and I know they carry wormers for dogs/puppies, cats/kittens, and farm animals as well as some other basic non-prescription medicines needed for farms. Just for me the risk of having a companion (which is what my dog is) or a well trained worker (livestock guardian or other farm dog) fall ill die to something I could have prevented is not worth it.
I don't think anyone is suggesting not treating heartworm, just not over-medicating because of a threat that doesn't exist. The article I linked to gives some concrete tips about how to use medication for other animals, available from the feedstore, to treat a dog.
Chip once again from my experience of living in the southeast USA (otherwise could be known as heartworm central) the risk of underdosing and having a dog that contracts heartworms (or overdosing and killing my dog) is not worth it when I have a vet where I can get something that is a properly measured dose every time I give it. Now regular worms, fleas, and other things I take care of with other means but heartworm preventative and rabies shots (as well as Lyme disease vaccinations) are simply a must have in my opinion. Now if I lived in areas where heartworms were only a summer threat or almost non-existent I may take a different approach. But I have heard too many dogs coughing and seen them sick and die because of heartworms to take any chances.
Unlike an earlier poster, I have never met a vet I could trust wasn't a racketeer. When I lived in GA my landlady had a dog shot by a hunter neighbor for trespassing and running off deer. The vet never gave a prognosis or any such, just went in and amputated the dog's leg and did whatever else......that poor woman ended up taking home a dead dog in a box and a $1,000 bill. She was paying for months on that bill. Another time, another vet tried to charge me $18 for a single tapeworm pill for a cat.....along with stool sample and whatever.....as if I couldn't read and learn to recognize a crawling tapeworm segment as easily as he! So I found the pills on line for $4 from AU. Sometimes the global economy can work for you! I've come to the conclusion that if I can't treat it myself, then a quick bullet is probably the best solution. I do the heartworm ivermectin for the dogs from the horse medicine, as quoted above, and it's worked just fine. I mailorder feline leukemia vaccine and syringes for our cats and give them this shot myself, also. Sometimes I've even boiled the "one dose" syringes and reused them. It's all about what you can afford and choose to spend. When I was homesteading in GA....(lived in a tent for four years, among other adventures)....I'd mailorder veterinary antibiotics for myself, feed my animals (and myself) out of dumpsters, and castrated male cats and dogs numerous times......
He got surgery to replace his foot with a pig. He said it was because of this tiny ad: