Saturday, April 3, 2010

Heartworm Treatments (Dirofilaria immitis)

Heartworm prevention and treatment is big business and a cash cow for veterinarians and pharmaceutical companies.

If you have read, heard or been told that you cannot give a preventative (such as Heartgard®), to an already infected dog, remember this: The American Heartworm Society (AHS), recommends giving Heartgard® (Ivermectin) monthly for the first several months as TREATMENT for a heartworm infected dog. This sterilizes the female worms which reduces them in size. This results in far less lung damage when the worm dies and deposits in the lungs. Then, the Heartworm Society wants you to take the dog back to your vet so he/she can treat the animal but the Society reluctantly admits that 12 more months of monthly Heartguard would probably CURE the infected canine. This would obviously be a huge savings to the pet owner and MUCH safer treatment for the pet compared to the standard veterinary approach (arsenic injections). Although most vets will disagree!! To review the AHS veterinary guidelines click here.


What if you can't afford the bloated veterinary cost of expensive name brand heartworm medications? You still have options! For many years kennel owners and dog breeders have used at home treatment programs that cost as little as .30 cents a month per dog! This gives people who want to protect their dogs but can't due to their present budget, the advantage to do so.

The good news is that heartworms can be prevented for less than one cent per day for a 20 pound dog (Beagle size). Yes, I said less than one cent per day (30 cents monthly). Many breeders and kennel owners along with myself have used the prevention described in this article since the early 1980's, with no heartworm infestation. However, I want to remind everyone that I am not prescribing, but rather, sharing information with you as to what I use and do. You can use your own judgment whether you want to follow in my footsteps. This article is presented only as a documentation of how I prevent heartworms in my dogs at a fraction of the cost that a Veterinarian will charge for the Merck Heartgard ™ (Ivermectin), chewable tablets. Also, the law restricts Heartgard to use by or on the order of a licensed Veterinarian; therefore, if you use the prescription tablets you will be paying $15 - $45 for a box of 6 tablets (six month supply) plus the cost of office visits.

I use the same chemical that is in the expensive (prescription only) pills at a fraction of the cost. The prevention that I use is given once every 30 days (monthly) the same as the pills.

Also, if you are giving your dog a year-round preventative in areas of the country with a harsh winter climate it would be a waste of money. If it’s too cold for mosquitoes, there can be no danger of your dog catching heartworm. You should be able to safely discontinue the preventative dosing during the freezing months.

If you suspect a dog may already have heartworms, before putting a dog on the following prevention it should be checked by a Vet to be sure it has no heartworms. The cost of this exam is generally between $5 - $15. It is a lot cheaper to have the exam to make sure your dog is not already infected, than it is to have a Vet save an infected dog during the advanced stages of heartworm infestation. This prevention (describe below) is only good to prevent an infection from ever occurring, once a dog is already infected then it must be seen by a veterinarian.

The exam consists of a vet drawing a small amount of blood, putting a smear of it on a slide and looking at it through a microscope. The microfilariae look like tiny wiggler fishing worms. This prevention is not to be given to collies or part collies. What I use is Ivermectin. It is a 1% injectible cattle wormer with the trade name of Ivomec ™ . You can purchase it (without a prescription) for $40 - $50 at your Veterinarian Supply Store or through a catalog from a Vaccine Wholesale Supplier. The bottle comes in a 50cc size. I give it orally which means by the mouth. I use 1/10th of 1cc for each 10 pounds of body weight. The syringes I use are 3cc and are marked off in tenths of 1cc.

The way I do it is to draw out 2cc of Ivomec. Then I inject what is needed into an empty syringe (without a needle) with the plunger pulled down on the 1cc mark. I dribble it into the empty one until I have the proper amount. I will have a few ounces of soft drink or orange juice in an open container. I will draw in 1½ - 2cc of the juice to mix with the Ivomec. I put my finger over the end of the syringe and shake up the mixture. The reason for this is to give me more volume to work with and to make it taste better for the dog. I put my hand across the dog's nose with my thumb on one side and my fingers on the other side. Then I put pressure on my thumb and fingers to force open the dog's mouth. I then tip its head up and squirt the contents of the syringe in the roof of its mouth. Finally, I close the mouth and hold it closed until the dog swallows. This is the only correct way to orally administer all types of liquid medications to dogs so that you do not accidentally squirt the liquid into the dog's windpipe and/or lungs.

I do this treatment to each dog once every 30 days. The Ivomec kills all the microfilariae (larva) in the bloodstream so they never have a chance to mature into heartworms. Microfilariae will circulate in the blood for more than 30 days before attaching to the heart, so if you give this prevention on schedule there is "NO POSSIBLE WAY" for your dog to get heartworms. Even if a drug is labeled as safe for pregnant and/or lactating bitches. Personally, I don't recommend you give any kind of medications to a pregnant bitch unless the life of the bitch is in grave danger.

The cost is minimal for each dog. If the 50cc bottle of Ivomec costs you $40.00, this comes to 80 cents per cc. Given 12 months in a row, a 20 lb. dog will take 2½cc per year. That is a cost of $2.00 for a one year prevention! The shelf life for the Ivomec is about 3 years if kept refrigerated. Therefore, this method is feasible to use even if you only have one dog, and it is by far the cheapest and most effective prevention against heartworms. If you have two or more dogs this can save you hundreds of dollars per year.


What if your dog has heartworm disease and you can't afford the expense of conventional veterinary treatment? There are options, there is a very effective and low cost treatment available using a combination of oral Ivermectin (about $40 for a one-year supply) and Doxycycline (an affordable antibiotic). This 'soft-kill' treatment option gradually kills the heartworms over a period of approximately one year, in which time the dog's physical activities must be kept to a minimum. For for young dogs who are hyperactive this treatment approach may even be a safer option compared to conventional protocol which calls for the use of, Melarsomine (Immiticide®), a drug containing arsenic and as you might expect from the ingredient name alone, it can cause problems. Preliminary observations suggest that administration of DOXY + IVM for several months prior to (or without) MEL, will eliminate adult HW with less potential for severe thromboembolism than MEL alone. MEL is the abbreviation for melarsomine, an arsenic-containing compound used to kill immature (4+ month old) and adult heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) in dogs. More detailed information from the scientific abstract can be found here: Ivermectin and Doxycycline Heartworm Treatment

Please be sure to visit your vet for warranted tests and treatment information to help ensure proper dosing of Ivermectin. Ivermectin can be purchased over the counter at most feed stores or online, but it can be very deadly if given in an improper dose, or to certain breeds of dogs (see collie reference at bottom of page). But it is considered extremely safe when it is given at the correct dose. Doxycycline is a pharmaceutical antibiotic and to obtain it you will need a prescription from your vet.

The dosages used by the Department of Infectious Diseases, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA are: Treatment with ivermectin (IVM; 6 μg/kg - by mouth, weekly) combined with doxycycline (DOXY; 10 mg/kg/day orally from Weeks 0–6, 10–12, 16–18, 22–26 and 28–34).

If your vet is not familiar with this economical form of treatment, consider printing the scientific abstract from the International Journal for Parasitology Volume 38, Issue 12 and giving it to your vet. If your veterinarian refuses to help you with this approach, try calling another vet in your area who may be more receptive.

Breed Toxicity to Ivermectin: Dr. Katrina Mealey at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine pinpointed the mechanism and its gene that cause Collies and potentially other breeds to react so erratically when administered ivermectin.

Her medical evidence validated the presence or absence of a single protein, Pglycoprotein (P-gp). When P-gp is present and functional, ivermectin cannot remain in the brain, and a dog can tolerate the heartworm preventive. When P-gp is absent, ivermectin penetrates the brain and stays there, thus setting in motion the circumstances for toxic reaction.

The breeds most affected are closely related herding breeds. Along with the Collie, anecdotal statistics claim Australian Shepherds, Bearded Collies, Border Collies, Old English Sheepdogs, and Shetland Sheepdogs as those breeds at high risk for ivermectin toxicity. Similar suspicious events have added a variety of other breeds to this list from Whippets to Irish Water Spaniels to Bullmastiffs. Many of these breeds were already documented in veterinary journals as either proven or suspected to be hypersensitive to or intolerant of an assortment of medications including particular anesthesia and wormers. Toxicosis appears to be dose-dependent in Collies with a demonstrated sensitivity to ivermectin. Dr. Mealey agrees that ivermectin is safe for Collies at the six mcg per kg heartworm preventive dose, administered once a month. Mealey adds, “Even a large number of sensitive Collies do not show signs of toxicity at that dosage.”

For more information on pet healthcare we invite you to visit Pet Remedy Charts.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Heart Disease in Dog and Cats

Your pet has been diagnosed with a heart murmur. He regularly coughs,
especially at night. He can only exercise for a short time and has labored
breathing after moving. He may collapse or faint. His tongue and gums appear blue (cyanotic).

The most common cause of congestive heart disease is from a heart valve
(mitral Valve), that doesn’t close properly. This is often diagnosed early in life, and progresses to heart failure later. This is common in small breeds. In some dogs the heart muscle fails and can get very thin, a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. This is more common in Spaniels, Dobermans and other large breeds. All dogs, and occasionally cats, can get heartworm. This is an infectious disease spread by mosquitoes, but shows up as heart disease.

Cats also get heart disease, but it is primarily from the heart muscle enlarging (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy). Heart problems are often genetic, so they can’t always be prevented, but they are more likely to occur with poor diets, dental, obesity, lack of exercise, and by not being on a heartworm prevention medication.

SOLUTIONS - SEE YOUR VETERINARIAN. If your pet is displaying signs of heart disease (the coughing and exercise intolerance), then you must have an examination and work up to determine the root of the problem. If your pet is in obvious distress (heavy breathing, blue gums), then go right away. I always begin by treating pets with conventional medication, and add in holistic treatment. If your pet is diagnosed with heartworm then he/she can be treated with medication (Immiticide) to kill the adults immediately.

PREVENTIVE MEDICATION. If you live in a heartworm area then ensure that your pet is on heartworm prevention. The monthly tablets are very safe and effective.

FATTY ACIDS. The omega 3 fatty acids are effective in strengthening a failing heart. They make it easier for the heart to beat and decrease the severity of arrhythmias. They lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of blood clots. The best canine source is found in ground flax, at a dose of 1 tsp/cup of dog food. For cats use fish oil available in pet supply stores; give one 250mg capsule daily.

TEETH AND GUMS. Keep your pet’s teeth clean. Bacteria in the mouth will circulate in the blood stream and land on the heart valves. This alone can lead to heart failure. Clean your pet’s teeth by brushing and by being on an appropriate diet. Consider a dental cleaning if there is dental disease. This is most important for small breeds.

FIT AND TRIM. Inactive overweight pets are more likely to have heart problems. Exercise your pet twice daily and ensure that she is on a high-quality diet. The exercise will help the heart beat more efficiently, and tone the blood vessels.

ANTIOXIDANTS. These will prevent further damage to the heart muscle. The most recommended often include Vitamin E (100IU per 10 lbs), Vitamin C (100mg per 10 lbs) and Selenium (20ug per 10 lbs).

COENZYME Q. This supplement has been effective in people as an antioxidant and in decreasing damage to the heart muscle. The dose is 5mg per 10 lbs of body weight.

MAGNESIUM. It helps prevent arrhythmias and improves the ability of the heart to contract. The dose is 25mg per 10 lbs daily of body weight.

TAURINE. A supplement that can dramatically reverse cardiomyopathy in Cocker Spaniels is Taurine. The dose is 500mg three times daily.

CARNITINE. Effective in Cocker Spaniels and Boxers with dilated cardiomyopathy. The dose is 1000mg twice daily.

HERBAL HELP. Hawthorn has been shown to increase the ability of the heart to contract, as well as causing the outside blood vessels to dilate, making heart contraction easier. The dose is 2 drops per lb of body weight twice daily of the tincture.

DIRURETICS. In heart disease, fluid will accumulate in the lungs and abdomen. DANDELION is a very safe diuretic herb; give 2 drops per lb of body weight twice daily. APIS is a homeopathic treatment for excess fluid; give 30C twice daily.

ACCUPRESSURE. This can help restore the energy imbalances in the body. There are 3 major points: BL13, BL14 and BL15, located on the third, fourth and fifth rib spaces. Press each spot for 1 minute twice daily. After 2 weeks continue to use if you see improvement in your pet. The other points listed on the cart can be worked also and will aid in fluid retention and balancing the kidneys and the liver.

To learn more about holistic treatments and natural healing strategies for pets, be sure to visit Pet Remedy Charts the ultimate guide to using herbs, homeopathy, flower remedies and acupressure in home pet health care.

Impacted Anal Glands (Sacs) - Natural Treatments

You see your pet scooting across the floor rubbing his/her rear end. Rover or kitty is licking their bottom more than usual. The area around the anus is swollen and inflamed.

Anal glands are part of your pet’s anatomy. They lay just under the anus at 5 and 8 o’clock (see image). The glands are designed to excrete a smelly fluid when your pet defecates. They give a particular scent to the stool. The glands can become blocked if your pet isn’t having regular bowel movements, or there is only a small stool volume. The problem may be more common in small dogs.


HOW TO EXPRESS ANAL GLANDS YOURSELF. It may not be the most enjoyable job, but it is the best way to relieve the problem. First, take your pet to the bathtub and apply lukewarm water to clean his bottom. Slip into some latex exam gloves and lift your pet’s tail. The glands lay at 4 and 8 o’clock. Squeeze your thumb and forefinger together on the right side of the anus (4 o’clock) and the left side (8 o’clock). Apply moderate pressure. If nothing comes out, adjust your angle and repeat. A brownish foul-smelling fluid should come out. If this is very painful for your pet, call your veterinarian.

SOME HEAT. Soak a washcloth in Epsom salts and warm water, and hold it to your pet’s bottom for 5 minutes twice daily. If your pet will allow it, you can also put some pressure on the glands while using the compress - this may help them drain.


BULK UP. Additional dietary fiber will increase stool volume, naturally putting pressure on the anal glands, helping them empty. Good sources of fiber include Metamucil (1 tsp per 10 lbs of body weight daily), oat bran (1 tsp per 10 lbs of body weight daily), carrots (1/8 cup per 10 lbs of body weight daily) or canned pumpkin (great for cats, 1 tbsp daily).

MOVE IT. Regular exercise helps in the expression of the glands. Your pet should get at least 15 minutes of exercise twice daily.

HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES. Silica is a homeopathic medicine used for obstructed anal glands. The dose is 3 pellets of Silica 6C twice daily for 3-5 days.

Hepar sulph 6c can be used first if the glands are infected and prone to abscess. It will ripen the infection and help bring it to a head. The dose is 3 pellets of Hepar sulph, given twice daily for 3-5 days. Then follow the treatment with Silica (dose as recommended above). Silica will make it easier to expel the sacs contents. NOTE: Don't use both remedies together at the same time. They should be given separately as different treatments (one following the other).

CALL THE VET. If the glands remain obstructed after you have tried the above remedy suggestions call your vet. If the glands appear abscessed, see your veterinarian immediately.

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