Natural Heartworm Treatments and Preventives: Are These Safe?
One fine morning, I saw my sister in the kitchen mixing vinegar with water. "What are you cooking, Abby?" I asked.
"Heartworms!" she shouted.
"What? That's not food!" I asked, disturbed by her new-found culinary taste.
"Andre might get heartworms! The neighbor's dog already got it. I gotta keep those mosquitoes away from poor Andre," my sister replied as she poured the mixture in the dog's bowl.
Why get rid of mosquitoes?
Mosquitoes are the main culprits why dogs are infected with heartworms. When a mosquito carrying heartworm larvae bites a dog, the larvae are passed to the dog where it goes through the bloodstream. Since the bloodstream goes everywhere in the body, so do the larvae. When the larvae mature, the adult heartworms eventually end up in the heart and sometimes in other vital organs like the lung.
Common Natural Treatments or Preventives
Just like Abby, there are pet owners who, instead of relying on the advice of a veterinarian, choose to try alternative and natural treatments or preventives. Just a reminder. While these show promise in some tests, the results however, are not conclusive.
Certain oils are effective in repelling not only mosquitoes, but also ticks, fleas and other parasites. A few of the commonly used oils are geranium, neem, tea tree, and lavender oils.
To make a geranium spray, mix four drops of geranium oil with half a cup of water. Using a sprayer, spritz all over your dog's fur.
For the neem oil, you can add it to your pet's regular shampoo to keep mosquitoes and other insects away. It will also soothe the itchiness caused by these parasites.
Some breeders also use a mixture of four drops of tea tree oil and lavender oil in one cup of water and spray it on their pets.
You can also make an insect repellent spray using apple cider vinegar or white vinegar. Putting a few drops of vinegar on your dog's drinking water will also do the trick.
How is it supposed to work? Well, the vinegar will make the skin acidic and release a strong smell, both of which are terribly hated by mosquitoes.
Healthy heart and body
Some breeders claim that a dog with a healthy heart has better chances of fighting parasites like heartworms. They suggest to give your dog a diet of raw meat, fresh foods, and lots of clean drinking water, all of which they claim are essential natural ingredients for a perfectly functioning heart.
They also say that together with a healthy heart, it is also important to have a healthy body. These breeders argue that mosquitoes seldom bite healthy dogs, preferring to bite those that are either sick or just weak. Therefore, they say it is best to improve your pet's health most importantly his immune system if you want to keep mosquitoes away. They say that this is best achieved through adequate exercise and a healthy diet.
Is Natural the Right Way to Go?
Natural treatments or preventives are not the right choice simply because these are unreliable and unproven. There is yet to be a definitive study that can attest to their effectiveness. Therefore, taking such risks is dangerous. When it comes to your pet's health, you should only trust your vet.
"Go to the vet, Abby. The vet still knows what's best for Andre," I told my sister.
She picks up the bowl with vinegar and water, unsure if she'll leave it or take it away from the dog.
"But they say this works..." Abby insisted, her words and voice trailing off.
"They, who are 'they'? Abby, 'they' only matters if you're talking about vets. Consult a professional, someone who studied for years to take care of your dog," I said as I took away the bowl from her.
My sister gave up and whispered, "Yes. I think you're right. Will you come with me and Andre to the vet?"
We took the dog to the veterinarian who then prescribed the right preventives. Andre didn't get any heartworms and until now, he's still the healthiest dog in the neighborhood.