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J'adore un Labrador, Retriever, Black Dog

Each of our dogs received one dosage of heartworm when they were puppies.  They haven’t been treated with heartworm medication since.  I spend a lot of time on websites dedicated to dogs and this time of year we see a lot of ads for flea and tick treatment (I choose non-toxic brands) and heartworm medication.

The other night we were outside with the dogs, doing our evening walk on the property, and my boyfriend says “there are too many mosquitoes out there,” and heads inside.  I look down at Rodrigo and he has 5 on his coat – I wave them away, take them  inside and spray them with the Bright Eyes Pet Wellness, which repels fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.

That’s when it hits me…

  • Heartworm is a danger for our dogs!
  • What the hell is my problem?
  • Why hasn’t my veterinarian brought it up?

It was late, the vet’s office was closed, so I went to my trusted friend, Google – this time I stayed away from the forums.

What is heartworm?

I was going to copy and paste from another site, but I hated the explanation.  I need simple and clear when it comes to the health of our dogs.  A heartworm is a parasite, a wormy-parasite that lives in the heart and pulmonary arteries of an infected dog.  They get it from a mosquito bite, the larvae travels through the blood stream to the heart.  It can be fatal, but a dog can live from 5 to 7 years after being infected.

How worried should dog parents be about heartworm?

It seems to depend on where you live.  I spoke with a few local veterinarians (I live in Washington state) and the only cases of heart worm that they’ve seen were in dogs that either moved from another state or traveled into another state.  They say that the reason our dogs are safer (not safe, just safer) is for many reasons (all suppositions)…

  • Our climate and cold winters that kill off the mosquitoes
  • Our proximity to the Sound and Pacific Ocean
  • The mosquitoes that cause heartworm haven’t migrated here yet – “yet” is the key here

“The disease has been seen in every state except Alaska, but is most common in or on the East Coast, southern United States and Mississippi River Valley.” ~ ASPCA

Check out THIS informative article over on Dr. Becker’s site.

What dog parents can do to prevent or treat heartworm?

If you live in a high risk area or are just concerned, don’t order and administer heartworm medication to your dog.  Doing this can cause a severe, negative reaction.  Instead, call your vet and schedule a test.  If your dog is heartworm free, you can then discuss prevention.  If your dog has heartworm, then you discuss treatment.

If you plan to move or make a trip with your dog to the East Coast, southern United States or Mississippi River Valley – talk to your veterinarian about treatment before you go.

Symptoms of heartworm…

“Labored breathing, coughing, vomiting, weight loss and listlessness, and fatigue after only moderate exercise. However, some dogs exhibit no symptoms at all until late stages of infection.” ~ ASPCA

Heartworm Medication Recall

With the recent news of heartworm medication recalls, it’s tough to know what to do.  ProHeart 6 was recalled in 2004 and when I started blogging, I read a heart breaking story of a dog who died after a dosage (and there’s also a comment of another dog parent’s experience – so sad).  And most recently Iverhart Max was recalled, which makes me wonder if there’s a holistic solution for dog families.

I found this article by Dr. Becker where she shares my discomfort with chemical flea/tick/mosquito repellents.  Like with Canine Parvovirus, there are tons of claims of a cure by many people and I have a feeling that many of them are frauds.  So I think it’s important to at least speak with a veterinarian about prevention and treatment, because we’re always coming up with something new and what may not work for one dog may work great for another.


Have you tried any alternative routes to prevent and/or treat heartworm?

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