Heartworm Disease & Prevention

This is such a common question – so we needed to dedicate an entire page to the subject. Heartworm is certainly a concern to all, but natural remedies are fraught with problems. Here is what we currently know and recommend as of 2018.

First, there are concerns with chemical preventives and medications for heartworm currently on the market. These medications do not truly prevent heartworm, but kill it after the disease and microfilaria are within the blood system.

What happens is that a mosquito carrying heartworm, bites your dog, injecting the heartworm babies into the blood. If your dog has a wonderful diet, strong immune system, and is not compromised by immune-damaging over-vaccination, medications, or illness – it is thought that many dogs will actually clear an early exposure to heartworm on their own. This is much of the theory of why wolves and wild animals who are prone to heartworm infection (other species besides canines can actually get heartworm including cats, and even humans!) – seem to fight off this illness and do not have enormous issues with it.

So – one of the most important things I can recommend for anyone wanting to avoid traditional or chemical “preventives” is to make sure your dog has the best and strongest Foundation of Health – CLICK HERE to read more on that. A species appropriate diet, raw if possible, with wonderful supplements and no exposure to damaging medications, excessive vaccinations, or household toxins which stress and compromise the immune system is key.

Essential oils should be part of every health program I feel – and completing small layers such as topical applications and diffusion are amazing tools in our tool box. If it is deemed necessary for your dog to have a preventive medication – especially if your dog has a compromised system in any way, shape, or form, or if heartworm is common in your area – then I do feel that a monthly preventive can be worth while in those situations. A dog on steroids, having “allergies”, chronic stress, or disease – may be at further risk to get a heartworm infection that cannot be cleared by the body. So we may need some “traditional help” – and that is okay. But the type of traditional help is VERY important.

I suggest sticking with older, “tried and true” medications. Such as Heartgard and Interceptor (even Sentinel). These medications have been around for a very long time (even plain Ivermectin would be fine) – and have a much larger safety profile. While still not 100% benign, I certainly feel much better about the chronic use of these items, than with “new fangled” medications that are coming out on the market, designed to kill everything that could possibly affect your dog. I do not think we need to deworm for tapeworms every month etc… So if you ask me what to use – it will not include Revolution, Trifexis, Advantage Multi, and most certainly not injections such as ProHeart 6 etc… The same premise for flea and tick preparations…never use the “new” item for at least 1-2 years after it comes on the market, and if older items are available with a great track record, let’s use those.

Product Recommendations for Heartworm Negative Dogs

For these dogs, it should still be up to you and your veterinarian, whether you decide to use a “safer” heartworm preventive. For my clients, even if a heartworm preventive is selected, I would like to see the dog using essential oils to help support the immune system, as well as to support the body from medications we give.

Regular full body “boosts” are always on my to-do list. So if you have a tiny or fragile dog – this might be KittyBoost or even one of the “body system boosts” such as AdrenoBalance, CardioBoost, LiverBoost, NeuroBoost, SugarBalance, ThyroBalance, or UroBoost. For most other dogs, I will select Boost in a Bottle and/or AromaBoost RTU. The oils within these systems and blends will support the immune system to potentially clear heartworm all on their own, but also support inflammation that might come from the “kill” of the heartworm as well as any detriments to the medication itself. Many of the oils within are anti-parasitic in nature, so will be found in the blends I use to help clear heartworm infections. Weekly to monthly applications are likely, although spacing to a dogs particular needs is always advisable, even if that means daily applications. For my dogs, weekly AromaBoost RTU applications are common (although monthly would be fine) – and then I usually apply Boost in a Bottle between those applications. So for Babe, she currently gets an AromaBoost RTU application once a week, with Boost in a Bottle applied every 1-3 days in between those. However, she is a bit older, and used to be heartworm positive. For my younger dog, with no health concerns I might apply the AromaBoost RTU every other week, with Boost in a Bottle applied twice a week in between those applications. During the winter, my applications may change to AromaBoost RTU once a month, with Boost in a Bottle weekly in between.

Basically – there is not a true right or wrong, but we want regular support and boosting of the immune system. And we want more of it during the times of most risk. As the oils can also be mosquito repelling, we also gain an aspect of prevention in that way too. So when mosquito count is high – also use the boosts as well as Away to help with mosquito bite prevention in the first place.

On our PAST NEWSLETTERS page – you will find a few articles on prevention of bugs.

I still believe Water-Based Diffusion is a huge part of a healthier life for all dogs. So will always suggest that you be diffusing at least one or two blends within your home on a regular basis. Any animalEO blend you select will benefit health and emotion, which is always a benefit to the immune system.

In summary – if you have a “normal” heartworm negative dog – apply regular fully body boosting products, use essential oils to help keep mosquitoes at bay, and diffuse in your home for consistent and continual health and stress support. Decide with your veterinarian if you desire to give traditional preventives, and select only from the older and potentially safer products on the market (Heartgard, Ivermectin, Interceptor, Sentinel). At this time, I do not feel that any natural remedy, fully kills or prevents the microfilaria within the blood stream. Essential oils do not replace traditional preventives fully at this time.

Product Recommendations for Heartworm Positive Dogs Getting Traditional Treatment

Here is where things get a bit more interesting. When heartworm treatment is initiated we create a large amount of inflammation, potential infections (wolbachia bacteria can be released from dying worms), and a whole list of potential complications. Essential oils can support all aspects of the treatment, while potentially even supporting the killing of heartworm itself. The injection of heartworm killing agent, can be irritating and painful in itself, so essential oils can help with that inflammation. Then, dead microfilaria and worms in the blood stream are another source of inflammation and reactions – as they float through the blood stream, even releasing bacteria. Essential oils can also help with these aspects.

So when treatment is initiated – I for sure recommend AromaBoost RTU and Boost in a Bottle as described above – and it may even be a bit more frequently in application. So AromaBoost RTU at least weekly to twice a week, with Boost in a Bottle in between. Boost in a Bottle might even be a daily application if a dog was very sore, or having symptoms that improved with oil use. LiverBoost is another wonderful oil to consider, as it also supports the body from use of a toxic drug and the clearance of dead worms.

Then Any-Itis is also given twice a day, generally in foods, to help further combat inflammation. And ALWAYS water-based diffusion – but now it becomes a bit more important as dead worm particles can circulate through the blood stream and settle into the lungs causing severe problems. Diffusion of Open-Air is excellent, as well as rotations with oil blends such as Calm-a-Mile NEAT or Sunshine in a Bottle. All of these are highly anti-inflammatory, but also support the immune system. Feel free to diffuse basically 24-7, and rotate through any animalEO blend recommended for diffusion. Even G.I. Goe has an amazing spectrum of oils for inflammation and respiratory and immune support. Do not feel that just because you like the smell of Lemony Sniffet – that it does not also carry huge physical benefits!

In summary – support a heartworm positive dog more intensely, with more frequent applications and more products. AromaBoost RTU applied every 1-7 days depending on symptoms, with Boost in a Bottle and/or LiverBoost applied in between those applications is a good start. Then diffuse and give Any-Itis in food twice a day. An asymptomatic dog getting injections of heartworm treatments might get AromaBoost RTU applications once a week, with alternating applications of Boost in a Bottle and LiverBoost daily in between. Example: AromaBoost RTU Monday, Boost in a Bottle Tuesday, LiverBoost Wednesday, Boost in a Bottle Thursday, LiverBoost Friday, Boost in a Bottle Saturday, LiverBoost Sunday, AromaBoost RTU Monday… Water-based diffusion daily, rotating through blends. Any-Itis in food twice a day.

Most certainly, daily applications may not be necessary for all dogs. However, any dog that is sore or needs that much support should have it. LiverBoost can be optional, and in this situation is added for additional support of the liver while medications are being given, as well as while pretty toxic events are happening to the body. Applications will remain more frequent while injections are administered, and can start before the treatment. I typically will continue fairly frequent support for at least 3 months beyond the start of treatments.

There can be an additional benefit by adding small amounts of KittyBoost, UroBoost, or Boost in a Bottle to food twice a day for heartworm positive dogs as well. These blends have multiple factors in why oral use is beneficial to heartworm – including their antibacterial properties in regards to wolbachia and anti-parasitic properties that have been documented in research. While not the exact blends we used with Babe, they contain many of the oils we did use. I recommend starting with KittyBoost and adding one drop to food twice a day for one week. Then each week, increase by one drop – so the second week you are giving 2 drops of KittyBoost in food twice a day. The third week, three drops of KittyBoost in food twice a day. Then take a week off. For the second month, change to UroBoost and do the same – one drop in food twice a day for the first week, two drops twice a day in food for the second week, and three drops twice a day in food for the third week – then take a week off. For smaller dogs, or those more fragile, stay with the UroBoost for the third month. For larger dogs you may change to Boost in a Bottle for the third month in the same manner. You may need to dilute the oils further within foods for some dogs. In general, we will use these same amounts for all sized dogs. It is possible that for dogs over 50 pounds, we may increase oral ingestion, but not as a set rule. ALWAYS monitor your dog closely with your veterinarian to evaluate any changes occurring along the way. If your dog starts to cough or feel poorly at any point along the course of treatment, see your vet and stop oral administration of these blends. Any-Itis can generally still be given, however make sure to work with your veterinarian closely on all decisions.

Product Recommendations for Heartworm Positive Dogs NOT Getting Traditional Treatment

There are many reasons why a dog may not undergo traditional treatment when diagnosed with heartworm. Sometimes medications are not available (as in Babe’s case), a slow-kill protocol is preferred by the owner or vet, the heartworm load may be so severe that killing the heartworm is even more dangerous, or the dogs health status does not seem strong enough to withstand treatment. In these situations, it is important to classify the dog as symptomatic or not. Your veterinarian will need to help you determine if your dog is fairly healthy while heartworm positive, or more critical in nature.

We will be offering specialized blends that we used with Babe, which documented clear results with her microfilaria counts and even apparent heartworm “kill” – however this will only be available to veterinarians wishing to conduct clinical work and trials. If your veterinarian is interested in pursuing case work with animalEO – please have them email us directly at [email protected] with a large subject of VETERINARY HEARTWORM CASE STUDY. This will not be available to the general public at this time.

For an asymptomatic dog – we will basically proceed as recommended above. However, the AromaBoost RTU applications may be increased in frequency, with less focus on LiverBoost. Any-Itis will still be given in food twice a day. And water-based diffusion is still recommended with rotation through blends. Example: AromaBoost RTU Monday, Boost in a Bottle Tuesday, Boost in a Bottle Wednesday, AromaBoost RTU Thursday, Boost in a Bottle Friday, Boost in a Bottle Saturday, Boost in a Bottle Sunday (or even skip a day), AromaBoost RTU Monday…

Oral administration of KittyBoost, UroBoost and Boost in a Bottle becomes more important – however, you will need to work with your veterinarian even more closely to determine amounts and responses desired. Following the recommendations above is the likely starting point, however with some heartworm positive dogs, we may need to take a month off in between treatment cycles, or may need to use larger amounts orally based on medical responses and monitoring. If at any point you notice coughing or your dog feels poorly – stop the administration of these blends orally (you may generally still give Any-Itis) – and consult your veterinarian. An example of how this looks for an asymptomatic heartworm positive dog: add one drop KittyBoost to food twice a day for week one, then week two add two drops KittyBoost in food twice a day, then week three add three drops of KittyBoost to food twice a day. Depending on your vets evaluation – take 1-3 weeks off from this regimen before starting with the next cycle with UroBoost. Microfilaria counts, lung x-rays, echocardiograms, and physical examinations are excellent in helping determine the level of support we are providing to the body. If at any time your veterinarian feels things are moving too quickly, stay with a lesser regimen, or take time off from oral use of KittyBoost, UroBoost, or Boost in a Bottle.

For a symptomatic dog – we have to be much more careful. Some of our treatment regimens may also focus on addressing the symptoms and side effects of the heartworm disease. If heart failure is present, we may include blends like CardioBoost to more specifically support the cardiovascular system. I will generally always use AromaBoost RTU, Boost in a Bottle, and CardioBoost topically – spacing them with the frequency most effective for that individual dog. Basically, the “apply once, and monitor responses” rule will fall into place. And if one blend is more helpful than another, than we use that blend more. Any-Itis is always given in foods twice a day. And water-based diffusion is always used. Rotate through beneficial blends basically 24-7, however if a dog is experiencing lung compromise, tenting or small room diffusion (basically nebulizing therapy) can be used to further support the inflammation in the lungs. Open-Air is a common selection for any coughing or lung inflammation.

The oral use of KittyBoost, UroBoost, and Boost in a Bottle are more carefully monitored – and in general used a bit more conservatively with longer breaks in between. An example week one give one drop of KittyBoost in food twice a day. Monitor responses with your vet, and decide if week two will be an “off week” with no oils given, or you will increase to two drops twice a day. Based on responses, you and your vet should determine if you will move forward with a higher dose, or take time off. For some very large dogs, your vet may also determine that they would like to stay with more drops twice a day as well. This is where the art of medicine requires your vets input. Sometimes we determine we want to be more aggressive, and sometimes we determine we should allow the body to take a break. For Babe, I could distinctly notice a “kill” event within 5 days of starting her oral regimens at certain doses. And for her, continuing topical therapies, oral Any-Itis, and diffusion (along with supplements and great diet) – but taking a break from oral use of her heartworm active blends – was the most appropriate course of action for her. She often would take a month off in between more aggressive protocols. Oddly enough, our heartworm blends that were more diluted, were generally better absorbed, better tolerated, and more effective than when we administered capsules and “stronger” protocols.

The Story of Babe

Babe eventually converted to heartworm negative. We used many different heartworm protocols on her, some quite aggressive that resulted in vomiting and diarrhea, and some that I thought would be so mild as to do nothing at all. However, we did find that through proper use of oils, we could see huge effects in her microfilaria counts, and even in her lungs and symptoms as worms would start to die. Babe was definitely on a slow-kill regimen, however, her cycles were not always what I would call slow-kill. Monitoring is the most important part of any heartworm dog’s care. When we first started out, we saw significant drops in her microfilaria counts (by Knotts test) with each regimen we initiated. While never perfect, it was promising data. We’d take time off, then cycle through another regimen. When Babe started coughing, it was determined that she most likely had an aggressive die off of worms, and her lungs showed an allergic bronchitis pattern. It just so happened that I had also started a new oral regimen 5 days prior.

The hard part with heartworm is that as much as we want to kill the worms, dead worms are dangerous to the body. They break up and float in the blood stream, settling into places where worms are not meant to be. Slow-kill methods can be considered safer for most situations, as the dogs immune system now has the opportunity to deal with and eliminate small bits of worms, instead of a “whole bowl of spaghetti” at once. I have no doubt that Babe’s heartworm was greatly helped along through elimination by the holistic support we gave her. She was never administered a dewormer or heartworm pill while on her study – however eliminated both intestinal parasites and heartworm from her body over the course of 2 1/2 years, with confirmation of fully negative results 4 1/2 years later. Her health continued to improve along our journey, and today she is 100% happy, healthy, and active. In the veterinary community, I do not know of many vets who would expect a dog to be negative for heartworm in 4 years, without traditional treatments. Most would have only considered the fact that things would continue to get worse and worse, until Babe succumbed to massive numbers of adult heartworm. But that was not the truth of Babe’s story. And I hope she can continue her legacy to help others who need natural options and desire holistic support for heartworm infections.

*DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is not to replace proper medical care and guidance. The statements have not been evaluated by the FDA - and any recommendation is not intended to cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent a disease or condition. Please work with your veterinarian with any health concern.