This is first in a two-part series focused on keeping your pet's heart safe. We'll discuss misconceptions about heartworm, and clarify what heartworm really is. Then, the second post in this series will talk about how to prevent heartworm naturally.
Misconceptions About Heartworm
As a group of pet lovers and providers of natural pet products, the Wondercide team never advocates for unnecessary or unsafe medications. Holistic veterinarians believe conventional heartworm medications are unhealthy for pets, but most media outlets and veterinarians will tell you that heartworm medication is necessary year-round. How do we know whom to trust? Dr. Becker explained the contradictions between advocates of traditional medicine and holistic vets:
"The American Heartworm Society (AHS), an organization that studies the disease, its treatment and prevention, recommends yearly heartworm testing for all dogs. The AHS also recommends year-round chemical preventives for every dog over the age of eight weeks, regardless of where the dog lives.
The American Heartworm Society has three "platinum" sponsors and five "bronze" sponsors. All eight are major pharmaceutical manufacturers.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the AHS recommends year-round, birth-to-death heartworm prevention drugs – no matter where you live, the time of year, the age of your dog, his size or health status."Because year-round heartworm medications bring in a lot of money for the giant pharmaceutical companies that sell the medications, there is clearly a conflict of interest at the AHS. Contrary to what these pharmaceutical companies and their marketing campaigns would like you to believe, the parasites are fairly difficult to acquire. Heartworm is carried by mosquitoes, but the circumstances must be just right in order for your pet (cats are susceptible to the disease also—not just dogs!) to become infected.
What is Heartworm?
Heartworms are just that—tiny worms that can infect your pet's heart and bloodstream. Once the worms are inside your pet, they make their way to your pet's heart, where they can grow up to a foot in length.
Pets can become infected if...
1) A mosquito bites a dog that already has microfilaria (the technical name for heartworm) in its blood.
2) The temperature where the microfilaria-carrying mosquito stays above 57 degrees for 8 to 30 days.
3) The infected mosquito bites your dog or cat 8 to 30 days after the mosquito became infected.
This precise sequencing of events means that actual heartworm infection rates are much lower than the pharmaceutical companies would have us believe. However, because heartworms and the treatment to get rid of them can be deadly once the worms are in your pet, prevention is key.