Gracie is now 13 years old!

For nine years she's eaten REAL, HOMEMADE FOOD, NOT commercial dog food. This blog shows how easy it is to be a DOGGIE CHEF and how healthy a home-fed dog can be.

June 21, 2011

No Heartworm Preventive This Year

After years of going along with "the program" and feeding my dog a monthly dose of insecticide each summer, I've decided to take what I believe is a small risk with her health for what I believe is a larger benefit to her health.

I AM NOT GIVING GRACIE HEARTWORM PREVENTIVE THIS YEAR. The decision was not made easily. For years I've given Gracie three or four doses of chewable Heartgard during mosquito season. Last year I gave her three doses of Heartgard Plus. She just tested negative for heartworm so three doses were apparently enough to protect her last year. Maybe none would have been fine too.

I suspect the heartworm preventive manufacturers push a little too hard in selling their product to veterinarians, and in encouraging veterinarians to sell it to pet owners. I also suspect some veterinarians blindly go along with the program, while others exaggerate the necessity of heartworm preventive in many parts of the country in order to sell heartworm blood tests and preventive.

The active ingredient in Heartgard is ivermectin, which is an anti-parasitic insecticide; used primarily against worms. Ivermectin is used around the world, by humans, to combat river blindness and other conditions caused by worm infestations. Ivermectin does not kill adult worms in humans or dogs. It works by killing the microfilariae --- the tiny larval form of the worm. Ivermectin has helped a lot of people. It's also helped a lot of dogs in areas where heartworm is a big problem. Yet I don't think it's a big problem in my area or in many areas of the United States where it's pushed on easily-panicked pet owners.

Researching the subject online led to conflicting data. According to, heartworms can only go through their development stage in a mosquito if outdoor temperatures remain at or above 80 degrees F (20 degrees C) for approximately two weeks. Wikipedia says if temperatures drop below 57 degrees F (14 degrees C), development will not occur. Yet claims outdoor temperatures have to only be over 57 degrees F (14 degrees C), day and night, for one to two weeks for heartworms to go through their development stage in a mosquito!

It supposedly takes about six months after a dog is infected with heartworms by a mosquito for the infection to show up in a blood test.

After doing some Internet research and re-reading chapters about heartworms in Dr. Richard Pitcairn's "Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats (2005)," and in Dr. Martin Goldstein's "The Nature of Animal Healing," I decided against Heartworm preventive for Gracie this year. She is 12 years old and at this stage in her life I think it's more likely her good health will be harmed by several doses of heartworm preventive than by a heartworm infection.

Both Pitcairn and Goldstein believe a heartworm infection is a serious matter and will not outright advise against administering heart worm preventive, especially in areas whee heartworm is prevalent. Yet both veterinarians seem to think a heartworm infection is not a guarantee in an unprotected dog, and not necessarily a death sentence for a healthy dog with a strong immune system. Especially if only a few heartworms are present, or if the disease is detected early.

Goldstein suggests  all dogs not on heartworm preventive be tested twice a year for the disease and that's what I intend to do for Gracie. Early detection could make treatment easier on the dog. I just had Gracie's blood tested this past week and the results were negative for heartworm. Still, mosquito activity in our area probably starts around  May and ends around October. So I probably should be testing Gracie for heartworm around November and April, to properly monitor against heartworm infection in our area. Eventually I will adjust her blood testing schedule accordingly.

Blood tests are no fun for Gracie, of course. Yet I think two blood tests a year will be easier on her health than three or four yearly doses of even a "beneficial" pesticide.

Of course I have doubts about deciding against heartworm preventive for Gracie this year. For the most part, I believe this decision is best at this point in her life. I realize this decision could turn out very badly for Gracie and for me. If it does, I might never forgive myself but I I know Gracie would forgive me. She knows I only have her best interests at heart.

1 comment:

  1. OK, I'm TOTALLY conflicted on this one myself.
    First, I work for a vet. We tell clients to start heartworm pills as soon as there are mosquitoes. So in our area (the Midwest) that is April until mostly likely November, or whenever there is a hard killing frost. We are not able to sell heartworm preventative unless the dog has been tested and we also do NO surgeries unless the dog is tested. Another thing, the whole term "preventative" is misleading. It doesn't PREVENT heartworms, instead it works backwards and takes care of the past month. At least that is what my vet has told me. I've also seen a heart infested with heartworms, woven through it and clogging it. If a dog has heartworms, the treatment is such that it "breaks" up the worms from the heart and during that time, you dont't want your dog to be overly-active or a CHUNK of worms could break lose and it could be fatal....or so I've been told. I am NOT a vet, I am only going by what I've been told. I am NOT a vet tech. I run the kennels and I also do reception work but I am not an authority.
    OK, that being said. I get alot of "free" product from reps, all the staff does and you know what? I don't use it regularly. I don't live in the woods or by the river, nor do I live in the South. Which reminds me, right after "Katrina" EVERY rescue that came from that area through our clinic had heartworms, so....
    ALso, I've been told that a dog can only be treated twice for positive heartworm. The worms weaken and damage the heart.
    BUT, I totally agree with you about the propaganda of ANY drug, for pets or humans. I believe that most drug companies are motivated by $$$$ and not about health. My vet doesn't believe in vaccinating yearly, yet so many do. and I think it's all about greed and paying the bills. I think both people and pets are over-vaccinated and drugged.
    I love my dogs dearly and I sit here with product and I hesitate myself. I even worry about applying Frontline and similar products. Sure it's an easy fix but just the thought of it being absorbed into the body.....
    I think you have to follow your heart and the info you trust. If you decide to test twice a year, I would think that something like June and November would make more sense.
    Anyway, like I said. I'm no expert.
    But of course now I'm second guessing myself and might go give them their pills.
    Sigh....GOOD LUCK!