My Dog’s Experience with Heartworms

Here is our Blackbear barking at a Bull Snake.  He looks viscous here, but everyone knows he is just a teddy bear!

My daughter, Kaila, wrote today’s post.  She has trained Blackbear and shown him in 4-H for seven years! What she shares here is an attempt to shed light on an alternate heartworm treatment without spending $600-$800 and without administering the harsh chemicals that can sometimes kill the dog.  This is Blackbear’s story.
In 2009, my dog, Blackbear, was diagnosed with heartworm. It was devastating! I didn’t know what to do.  We had always heard about how deadly heartworms can be.  Being an aspiring Veterinary Technician, I wanted to find a way to cure this horrible worm cycle from my dog, without having to pay $800 to give him chemicals that would shorten his life span! 

Now, you might be wondering, “if you cared so much about your dog, why didn’t you give him heartworm pills so he WOULDN’T have acquired it in the first place?”  Well, my family and I used to live in southern Indiana, and mosquitos (who transmit the heartworm eggs from infected animals to clean animals via their saliva) were pretty much nonexistent. So heartworm pills were rarely used by any dog owners in that area.

After moving to northwest Indiana, we were greeted by hundreds of thousands of those little devil insects!   Being busy with the move and my Dad’s new job, we did not put him on the heartworm preventative until it was too late, or so we thought.

After Blackbear was diagnosed, my mom and I started to look for holistic remedies for heartworm. First of all, $800 is a lot of money, and there are also a few side effects that come with the chemical treatment.  It could also be fatal if he is too active after having the treatment.  After hours of researching, we finally found the website PawHealer.Com.  This website isn’t owned by a veterinarian either! Her name is Holly Mead, and she has her doctorate in Oriental Medicine. She uses Chinese herbs to heal different ailments, including heartworm!

We were excited to find a natural way to heal heartworm even though we were still not 100% sure that it would work.   We ordered 3 months’ worth of the herbs.  We were excited when the package came in the mail, and immediately gave Blackbear the prescribed dose.

After giving this treatment to Blackbear for 3 months, we did see a change in the way he acted, but, when we got him retested, he was still positive.  So we decided to take him to another vet and get him retested again. And, of course, he was still positive, but the veterinarian told us some vital information that played an important role in curing him of heartworms.

He told us, that if we gave him the heartworm pills, the heartworms would eventually go away. The reason being, the heartworm pills kill the microfilaria (baby heartworms). After a certain period of time, the older heartworms would die out, and there would be no more microfilaria to take their place, making him heartworm free in 2-5 years! There was a risk that he would go into shock by giving him the pills, but it was only a 1% chance, so we went ahead and bought pills for him.

During this time, Blackbear had already lost 15 pounds (weight loss being another side effect of heartworms) and we were getting worried.  But, he seemed to be acting fine and never had a cough or other visible symptoms. Following the vet’s advice, we started to give him the pills. The progress was minimal, but that didn’t stop us!

It wasn’t until the beginning of 2012 that we started to see a huge difference.  We had stopped giving him the pills for a couple of months, because we had problems buying them. He lost 10 pounds in a two month period, and his stomach was inflated (he looked like he was pregnant), and he was acting a little sad and drowsy. But after getting him back on heartworm pills, he started acting better! And his stomach deflated, and my sweet, happy boy was back!!

We took him to the vet in March of this year and he tested negative with heartworm!  I know for a fact, that treating his heartworm without deadly chemicals and keeping him on heartworm preventative, saved my sweet Blackbear’s life!

We encourage you to talk to your veterinarian and ask for this option.  Where as before, it was a no-no to give a heartworm positive dog heartworm preventative pills, now it is an option that could make it more doable for you!

33 comments on “My Dog’s Experience with Heartworms

  1. Very interesting! I've always been torn about that. Although, with the human members of my family I try to be as holistic as possible – I have always had our four-legged family on a heartworm prevention pill. I didn't really realize that there was a holistic option and didn't want to risk losing our dogs to hearworm. What kind of heartworm pill do you use and is it holistic as well?

    • The holistic approach we took was the heartworm herbal medicine at, but it did not work. They do have some great products though. So, we just keep him on the Heartguard prevention. Although it is not holistic, it is much better than having to put him through "chemo" for the other alternative.

  2. That is wonderful that he is heartworm free again!

    We just went through treating my 12 year old German Shepherd for heartworms. I also live in Southern Indiana, and I have to disagree, there are plenty of mosquitoes down here! I know many people who have lost their dogs from heartworms. My in-laws actually had their dogs on preventative and there was a slight lapse in the dosage. The dog now has heartworms.

    For those who have dogs with heartworms, I would suggest shopping around for prices at different vet offices. We only paid $300 to have ours treated, and that was opting for the longer, more drawn out process that involved 3 shots instead of only 2. (Because of her age)

    I believe our vet also told us of the possibility of using the preventative as somewhat of a treatment, but at 12 years old we didn't want to risk it.

    • We lived in Bloomfield and had 100s of bats come out at night. Thanks to them, we never saw one mosquito! Some vets will draw blood to test the liver and kidneys and make sure they are functioning properly before administering the heartworm preventative. I do know of a lady here who spent $800 to treat her dog. It would have cost us $500 to treat Blackbear at our local vet.

    • My dog is positive & the price to cure is 3000.$ I might ask the vet for an alternative like just the heartguard & cross our fingers. It's just impossible to pay. 🙁

  3. Bless your soul, my story's almost identical and I was searchg for an answer. I've been so upset since my dog was diagnosed yesterday and I'm afraid of the 'chemo ' & you're the only other person I've seen call it chemo.

    Please tell me, did you have to keep your dog still, calm, confined? My vet says even w heartguard she'll have to be, to keep worms from breakg loose & clog arteries, but everythg w the vet ($300 exam n heartguard, $1600 for 2 chemo injects) seems exaggerated. She's a 5-7 yo Great Pyrenees, farm dog, sleeps in garage or barn, and I think putting her in tiny cage or pen like he suggests would be worse than chemo or death. She would suffer & be so miserable. she is happy and displays no symptoms and was hw negative 2 yr ago. I would appreciate your thoughts on whether you confined yours and how long, when etc.
    Thank you and bless you

    • I also have a Great Pyrenees with heart worms. I will try starting nov. 1st to treat her my self. Meds from tractor supply and antibiotics from an online source. look for the treatment. Try dime store

  4. Ps Sorry my earlier post shows up as anonymous above bc I can't fig out how to do the google sign in acct thing here, and that's the only way I could fig out how to get it to post. sorry about that Im not tech savy but I would appreciate your thoughts

  5. I think the holistic approach you took was a one in a million longshot n u got lucky.No vet i know would agree with a herbal remedy unless the dog was old n couldnt handle the injections.I do agree injections are risky but thats like an orthopedic telling u to see a chiropractor.I am happy for your success though.

    • Taking heartworm pills to treat heartworm is actually very effective. In fact, another vet that we see occasionally ran out of heartworm treatments and instead told the owners to put them on heartworm pills as an alternative treatment. As far as the herbal remedy, I'm not entirely sure about it's effectiveness. But, I'm not sure if you are talking about that or treating with heartworm pills:)

    • Susie, our dog's foster parent suggested what you did, to simply do the monthly regular heart worm pills as a preventive treatment. The idea is to kill the babies as the adult ones die off on their own within time. I don't want to return the dogs, but I can't afford the expensive procedures the veterinarians are recommending. But putting them on regular heart worm pills is not expensive and is something we all can easily do. I just adopted the HW + shih tzu and don't want to return them because I cannot afford expensive procedures. Glad to think that just regular monthly pills worked for you. Any Updates; new suggestions? November 16, 2016

  6. Help? My butter but is sick with heartworms! I have a Great Pyrenees named Polar and I don't want to put him on the immiticide. It it arsenic and would be horrible to use on my baby. Should I try Heartguard? He is stage 2 or early 3. He is 9 yrs old.

    • Its not recommended, by most conventional vets but the Heartgard / "slow-kill method" became an option accorsting to drug producers & the American Heartworm Society, when there was a nation-wide shortage of Imiticide, the instant-kill method using cyanide injections. The normal dose of Heartgard preventative, along with a dose of doxycycilne antibiotic, will kill not only the microfilaria, but weakens adult worms, kills wolbachia bacteria (which compounds the toxic load), & helps prevent thrombosis or embolism / blood clot as the worms die. The 1st dose of preventative on a HW+ dog is risky because the massive attack on microfilaria can cause toxic shock or anaphylaxis, which is why they prescribe prednisone & healthy dose of prednisone as a precaution when you administer the very fisrt dose of Hartgard to a HW+ dog. There are many different protocols using preventatives, antibiotics or a combination which is standard now. All protocols require reatricted activity to some extent, to prevent blockage by dislodged worms in the arteries or lungs.

  7. Hi there…
    This is Holly from PawHealer….our instructions say that it takes about 90 to 120 days to kill of the microfilria….its the same concept as the pills you got from the doc, it's called the slow kill…I would of been interested to see the starting values to the 90 day values….Also, a dog can test positive for the adults for a very long time. if there is a dead worm in the heart…there will still be a positive…Anyway…thanks for your story…I believe stories like this, help people to seek alternatives…not everything we do has to be a toxic drug…right?

  8. Our dog Alex was just diagnosed with heart worms. She is 5 yo. Vet said she's a class 3. She has most of the symptoms: lost weight, anemic, coughing, she showed me the babies in her blood under a microscope. I about had a fit!! She said her plan of treatment will be $1010. Then I really about had a fit!! We love her and want to get her well, should I get second opinions for prices and what should I expect for an outcome. The more I read about this stuff, the more I worry!

  9. I would like to say in may this year we came across a pit bull who we named vega, she had been beaten , used as "baby maker". some one stabbed her and hit her on the top of the head and she was 15 pounds under weight! So we brought her into out house and took her straight to the vet through a rescue program, well we did the all her test and she had round worms and heart worms, the rescue advised us to put her to sleep! I could not do that to her , she had been through so much and was still here, she was a fighter! And we were gonna fight for her, so i withdrew her from the rescue program and brought her home not knowing what her future would be. As I was walking through the vet office the DR stopped me and gave me her meds for the hook worms and some heartguard. And explained the slow kill process . So here we are 3 months later and vega has gained 15 pounds plus. and is looking better everyday. She still test positive but we are just gonna keep giving her the meds once a month and keep her healthy and happy! She is our walking angel

  10. Hi First of all I want to thank every one for sharing all the information and Advices.
    My dog Spike was just diagnosed with Heart Worms and I had no idea what was the best treatment for him. Know thank to you all I know where to start. He has class 3 so first I'm going to start him with heart guard and I did some research their are great heartworm herbal remedy that work they are: rosemary, thyme, mint, sage, clove, garlic, Hawthorne berry (heart healthy herb), milk thistle extract, dried cranberry fruit, wormwood or wormwood complex, and dried black walnut hull (extremely potent.)Many of these herbs have been used for thousands of years to kill parasites in humans (which is where wormwood gets its name.) I'm hopping this works so he can be healthy again and can play as always with a lot of energy. My Last option is the 'Chemo' lets hope for the best.

  11. heart guard has so little meds it only kills new worms Double the heart guard or give every 2 wks. if you can afford or find a vet who will give it !

    • No vet will give you that amount. Black Bear was heartworm negative in less than a year using Heartguard. They are pretty strict about only giving you what you need. That being said, it might be beneficial to double but I have not heard of this being done.

    • The usual dose, every 2 weeks is what my vet gave me yesterday for slow kill method. Plus doxycycline & prenisone (as well as benadryl for the initial dose of Heartgard. There are several different protocols & combinations of dosing vs. scheduling. I just read that Chinese people in Hong Kong use just one annual injection…& that must be an extremely high dose.

  12. I have read that when you treat a dog with preventative heart worm medicine which takes 2 – 5 years to cure the dog, that in those 2 – 5 years the adult worms continue to feed on and thus damage the dogs heart!

    • With heartworm, there is a chance of heart damage no matter the treatment you give. If you treat with the chemical treatment, you are looking at more heart damage caused by the chemicals on top of the possible worm damage. The vet told me if I used heartworm preventative, Black Bear would be negative in 3-5 years. It took less than a year.

    • I recently came across this very informative website in regards to HW that I would like to share with you

      As well I also came across this very in expensive way to treat as a preventitive and cure for HW…this product (Ivermectin) is the active ingredient in heartgard, etc. at a very reasonable cost.
      I use it on my dogs
      Just a small bottle $25 lasts for a long time. Treated with doxycycline easily obtained at a feed store will sterilize and kill adult male and female HW in as littler as 18 months.
      As per this well established article

      It turns out that even if your dog has adult heartworms, if the dog otherwise appears healthy (i.e. it is active, not lethargic, and does not have a chronic cough), a monthly dosing of Ivermectin at a dosage normally used to kill roundworms (a dosage that is 3 times higher than that used to simply prevent heartworm), plus a once-a-month 5-day dosing of Doxycycline (sold as Bird Biotic, and the same antibiotic used to treat Lyme disease) will kill all the adult heartworms if it is sustained for a period of 18 months. This treatment works better than previous Ivermectin-only treatments because the Doxycline wipes out the Wolbachia microbe that grow in the gut of the adult heartworm, essentially sterilizing all of the female heartworms.

      So please spread the word to all your friends and contacts and save yourselves a ton in vet fee`s

    • I just lost my 10 year old precious black dapple dachshund just two hours ago to heartworms. Had no idea she had them until she started breathing hard and not eating this past Saturday. I got her to an emergency vet's office who ran many tests. My Lacey was dehydrated and had heartworms. She was hooked up to an IV for fluids and kept for two nights. I prayed to God that she would not pass away there at the hospital by herself. I got her from the clinic this afternoon and set her up to sleep in my room as a treat while I also listened out for her. I took her out a final time before calling it a night. She passed away in front of me after only taking a few steps on the grass. I am very sad that I lost here. But thankful she is not hurting anymore. God let me have a few more hours with her to let her know how much I loved her.

  13. Hi! My dog is heartworm positive. He's got cough and not very energetic as he used to. I also can't afford the traditional treatment. I just want to ask if how often did you give the heartworm prevention pills to your dog? Is it once a month only? Thank you!

  14. I am opting to treat my dog myself using the 'slow kill' method of ivermectin and doxycycline; however, I am having a very hard time finding doxycycline online at a reasonable price. According to instructions, the dosage is 10mg/kg of bodyweight. My dog weighs 47 pounds or 21.32 kg so the dose would be 213.2 mg. The capsules I find are 100 mg, so I'd need a minimum of 2 per day at a cost of .74 cents. I've calculated it and for the full treatment I'd need 126 days worth so 252 does at .74 cents = $186.48. Am I doing something wrong? Anyone have any luck finding this cheaper?

  15. Great article! And just one question, what kind of heartworm medicine did you use and for how long? And sorry ahead of time if I missed this already in the article or posts!

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