Heartworm Prevention

By Erica Stoton

It's fall, and many parts of North America are pleasantly crisp and decorated with autumn colours. The onset of cooler weather has caused all but the most adventurous mosquitoes to lay low. This is welcome news for anyone who owns a dog as the threat of heartworm has decreased in the northern tier States and Canada at this time of the year. You can relax knowing that it will be some time before those dog-loving mosquitoes return again. However, the onset of cooler weather does not mean it is time to let your guard down in your war against this deadly parasite. Heartworm infestation is prevalent throughout North America. By late fall most northern areas of North America are mosquito free. Southern areas may still have some mosquitoes lurking. Although cold weather brings relief from the possibility of parasite transmission, it is never too late or too early to practise prevention.

For the uninitiated, heartworm is a deadly internal parasite spread to dogs by mosquitoes. One bite by an infected mosquito can cause hundreds of heartworms to develop in the host animal's tissues. The worms incubate and travel through the blood stream and reach the heart where they settle down to reproduce. The parasite continues to multiply until the heart valves are blocked or the heart walls are weakened. Your dog could have them for well over five years before you notice their effect on your dog's health. Congestive heart failure then develops and death is the final result of the infection.

There are several pills, creams and shots that dog owners use on their dogs to prevent heartworm. However, these products can cause unwelcome side effects and over time are harmful to your dog's body.

For the enlightened dog owner, there are some natural alternatives that are safe and effective. One line of defense against heartworm is to repel mosquitoes. Penny Royal, Tea Tree and Eucalyptus oil are all excellent repellents. The oil can be lightly applied to your dog's collar, belly and other vulnerable areas daily. These essential oils will also repel other external parasites as well.

Internal prevention of heartworm is essential and this requires boosting and maintaining your dog's immune system. A healthy immune system goes a long way in warding off the parasite. Dogs that are very young, old or sick are most susceptible to infestation. Garlic is a powerful herb that can be fed to your dog several times a week throughout the year to boost the immune system. Echinacea is another common herb known for its immune strengthening action and is typically used in the form of a liquid tincture for a week to two weeks every month.

In conclusion, a healthy immune system is the greatest defense against heartworm or any other debilitating condition, as a matter of fact. A high quality dog food that is interlaced with additional vegetables and some fruit, clean water and living conditions, and adequate exercise are all essential ingredients for a strong immune system. The threat of heartworm may be over in your area at this time of the year but it is never a good time to allow this parasite to ruin your dog's health. By beginning prevention now, your dog will have the "upper paw" on heartworm next year.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace veterinary or other professional care.

©Erica Stoton

About the author:

Erica Stoton is a free-lance writer based in Winnipeg, Canada, a natural animal care consultant, and co-author of The Compleat Pet Herbal©, new software that educates pet owners on natural pet care. She also offers the pet industry a wide range of technical services and is a contributing editor for Animals Exotic and Small Magazine. She can be reached at estbizmail@aol.com.