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Heart Worm Dilemma

Linda M.
June 18th, 2007, 12:27 AM
I am hoping a vet will answer this question for me: I have an 11-month-old purebred Boxer. His vet has recommend that he be given heart worm prevention medication. But his breeder is totally against it, as are many Boxer breeders who believe the less medication in the dog the better. Several dognowners I have spoken to, who take a semi-holistic approach to their dogs' health, also do not recommend the pills, claiming there are risks involved. I really don't know what to do. Any informed opinions out there? Thanks.

June 18th, 2007, 02:04 AM
I would only give it if heartworm is a concern in your area.

June 18th, 2007, 05:22 AM
i would completely disagree with your breeder.
Heartworm is a must for prevention not only for heartworm but also for intestinnal worm.
I would recommand Advantage multi or Revolution.
Heartworm medication is also requirred if you go to dog park and into the woods.
But after all its your choice!
if u want u can choose the cheaper medication its better then nothing so i would recommand Heartguard. No need to do a blood test if its a puppy

June 18th, 2007, 08:15 AM
I agree with rainbow. My overriding decision-maker would be whether or not heartworm is a cause of concern in your area. Here, the dogs couldn't go without it because heartworm infection is common in unprotected dogs.

I'm not sure how prevalent heartworm is in Montreal, though. What does your vet say?

Linda M.
June 18th, 2007, 09:54 AM
Thank you all for your replies. I am certainly considering everything you said. It's ironic because my husband and I have been going back and forth on this for a month.. when I am convinced Chef should have the pills, he isn't and when I think he shouldn't have them, hubby thinks he should. We have been listening to a lot of people give us differing opinions. Today I will call Chef's breeder and his vet and compare their explanations. Aren't forums like this great?:)

June 18th, 2007, 11:17 AM
Linda M., I adopted a rescue 4 yr ago, my Bailey, when I got him tested , he was positive for heatworms.thanks to his last owners who never got the prevention for him :mad: if I hadn't tested him, he would be dead today. He has been on meds to get rid of it since he's witm me. Believe me , it's not a chance you want to take!

June 18th, 2007, 11:18 AM
I would give your Boxer the heartworm. I live in Toronto but to best of my knowledge, mosquito problem is bad in Montreal (used to live in Ottawa). I have a friend with Boxers in Toronto and she gives them the treatment. There is a risk either way, but treatment for heartworm is likely to be far worse than effects from the pills. But I would go with vet's advice if you have faith in him/her rather than the breeder.

June 18th, 2007, 12:02 PM
Lots of mosquitos where I am. I have a flood plain not too far from my house. I too have thought about the toxicity of heartworm medication, but the heartworms themselves are a much greater risk where I am, so both my pups will be taking the medication.


June 18th, 2007, 12:51 PM
When I first got Duke he was heartworm positive and believe me you don't want your dog to go through that. You can protect your dog and not end up with a large vet bill later. We spent approximately $1000 because of the heartworm. It's better and cheaper to use prevention.

June 18th, 2007, 01:06 PM
It's pretty much the same meds in higher doses if you dog gets heartworm.. Personally I'd prefer smaller doses for the mosquito season, than the panic of a dog getting sick with them. Since they are preventable, there really isn't an excuse not to, though I understand not wanting to be giving extra things. I'd suggest just hw meds, and forgoing flea, and tick and such unless they become an issue. Less stuff to put on your dog..

June 18th, 2007, 04:34 PM
Well I am going against the crowd again on this topic.
I do NOT give heart worm preventitives to my dogs , and I never have. Mine get tested regularly instead.
There have been quite a few confirmed cases of heart worm in my area as well ( Northern Ontario) what we do instead. Make sure the dogs are in the house during "peak" skeeter times, use pet friendly insect repelent while out camping and like I said earlier, test them regularly.

I just cant grasp my head around them ingesting pesticides and it not causing problems later on in life.:shrug:
There is a treatment for heartworms, and I choose to play "russian roulette" if you will by taking this chance.

In the end the descision is yours, not your dogs breeder (unless co owned I guess) if you dont feel comfortable NOT giving preventive meds, then give it.
I dont see why the breeder would not want you to?
Heck, I dont want to do it personally but those are my dogs not yours.
Go with your gut.

June 18th, 2007, 08:32 PM

I have also made the decision not to use heart worm medication. I used too... but that was more because I always had and less because I had actually thought about it.

The heart worm medication is poison to the worms... so if your dog is bitten by an infected mosquito the heart worm meds kill them before they grow to adults.

What you can do is to give your dog black walnut oil if you want a preventative. Martin Goldstein, D.V.M. recommends one capsule 3 times a week in places where heart worm cases have been reported, for a 30 pound dog. He also recommends testing twice a year.

If you happen upon the book The Nature of Animal Healing by Martin Goldstein, he has a 3 page explanation of heart worm that is quite interesting... The short of it is that there is a very slim chance of a dog contracting heart worm and if he does it is extremely rare these days for a dog to die from it, especially with regular testing...

Perhaps you would want to consult a holistic vet in your area, if you have one, and see what she recommends. Or perhaps your vet is knowledgeable in some holistic practices...

Just know that if you feel more comfortable giving your dog something, there are alternatives out there...

Take care.

June 18th, 2007, 09:20 PM
I am not one to over medicate my dogs but I have decided to give preventative medication for heartworm. All it takes is one infected mosquito to transmit it to your dog.
I don't bother giving meds for fleas or ticks. While they can be annoying they are not life threatening whereas heartworm can be.
Ask yourself how you would feel if you decided not to give the medication and he became ill.
I will agree with the others about making the decision yourself. No matter what your breeder says, it is your dog and you get to make all the decisions about his health whatever you decide.

June 18th, 2007, 09:31 PM
I don't like giving heartworm pills to my dog, but I do because the incidence of infection in my area is pretty high. We've gotten quite a few dogs into the shelter that were hw positive and had to go through the treatment. The vet used to tell us to only administer the pills May-October, but now they recommend year round treatment. Actually there was a lovely golden at the vet's last month whose owners had given the pills religiously during the spring through fall, and he still ended up with a full-blown hw infection.

I'm just too worried that my dog could get heartworm, which can be deadly if untreated, and the treatment whether fast-kill or slow-kill is not something you want a dog to have to go through...I researched natural methods, but none of them are proven. Wormwood and black walnut are touted as alternative hw preventatives, but have no proven efficacy, and can be toxic when administered at levels high enough to control parasites such as heartworm.

I use Interceptor (Milbemycin oxime) which is effective at controlling heartworms at 1/5 of the recommended dose (it is approved by the FDA to kill heartworms at this lower dose.) So if you want to administer the least amount of medication safely, this is probably your best choice. However it will not kill roundworms, hookworms, or whipworms at this lower dose so if these are a concern you should stick with normal dosage. It's important that you do not split pills to get a lower dose as you can't be sure the active ingredients are evenly distributed through the pill. If you want to give the 1/5 dosage, you need to buy lower dosage pills than the ones usually given for your dog's weight. Please note that only Milbemycin oxime has been found to work effectively against heartworms at 1/5 the normal dose. "The minimum target dose of milbemycin oxime 0.5 mg/kg body weight is established in NADA 140-915 for the currently approved label indications." FDA NADA (For intestinal parasites, the minimum dosage is 0.23 mg/kg)

June 19th, 2007, 09:00 AM
I would give your Boxer the heartworm. I live in Toronto but to best of my knowledge, mosquito problem is bad in Montreal (used to live in Ottawa).

Actually, I've discussed this with my vet pretty extensively, as I do not give heartworm prevention anymore (after one of my dogs suffered focal seizures as a result on one such medication).

Apparently there has never been a reported case of heartworm in the city of montreal. Surrounding areas have seen some reports, but my vet's advice was that unless my dogs start spending alot of time out of the city, the risk is extremely minimal.

My suggestion would be to find out the frequency of heartworm, look at what kind of lifestyle your dog has, see what other measures you can take (such as natural bug repellants, etc.) and then consider the risks and see what you feel comfortable with.

June 19th, 2007, 11:54 AM
Does anyone know if the oral medication is as hard on them as the stuff you put on their skin? Yogi had a hard time with the oral medication so I've gone with the skin type for Baxter.


June 19th, 2007, 12:00 PM
I give Heartguard (tablets) to my dogs and never had any problems , it's only for heartworms.

Linda M.
June 19th, 2007, 12:02 PM
Thank you all for your interesting replies. To keep you updated, I spoke at length yesterday to Chef's breeder. I respect his advice because he is very informed about Boxers, a breed that has very specific health concerns. He has bred Boxers for many years and has an excellent reputation. My concern is not only the toxicity of the heartworm medication. I have also been worried because Boxers are genetically predisposed to cancer, heart problems, etc. So his objection was not only how harmful the pills might be in general, but that they could be more harmful to Boxers than to other breeds. He has bred dozens and dozens of Boxers. None has ever had the medication and none has ever gotten heartworm, even though they spend their lives mostly outdoors in the country. No Boxer breeder he knows dares to give their dogs the medication either, except those in Florida where heartworm is a big problem. He also said that heartworm medication was only developed about l0 years ago and the jury is still out on its long-term safety. Apparently, Boxer breeders are cutting back on ALL vaccinations.
What we have decided to do is not give Chef the meds, keep him indoors at dusk as much as possible, and get his blood tested for heartworm two or three times a year. We are hoping we're making the right decision... :fingerscr

June 19th, 2007, 12:21 PM
Theoretically, testing every few months would catch any infestation early, when it's still pretty easy to treat. It sounds like a good plan as long as you don't forget to do the tests. :p I have such an awful memory that if we need to retest for something, I have the vet keep track of it for me and call when it's time. Maybe yours will be able to do the same? Makes it a lot easier to remember :thumbs up

June 19th, 2007, 01:11 PM
No Boxer breeder he knows dares to give their dogs the medication either, except those in Florida where heartworm is a big problem.
I am in new england, where hw is not as huge a problem as in florida, and all the boxers I know are on heartworm meds. There is a boxer breeder/rescue person in my town (she breeds and rescues) and we've had many boxers come through our shelter, all were put on the pills with no issues. I do agree it is important to learn about specific breed sensitivities. Collies can be sensitive to ivermectin, which is why my dog is on Interceptor and not Heartgard.

heartworm medication was only developed about l0 years ago
I don't know where he is getting his information, but this is not true. The original hw preventative was diethlycarbamazinfe (brand name Filaribits), which had to be administered daily. In the 1980's the monthly pills were released to the market, first Heargard, and then Interceptor. Interceptor has research studies dating back to 1987. So the monthly pills have been in use for 20+ years now, heartworm prevention in general (the daily tablets) was in use for even longer.

June 19th, 2007, 08:54 PM
Your breeder may very well be right but I would do some research on my own. Check with other boxer breeders, go online and do a search and see what others are doing.
Then you can make an informed decision.
True that there may be no cases yet in the city but there are in the country. Some of those dogs have been to the city and probably infected by a mosquito and it is only a matter of time before we see it arrive there.
Last year the Whole Dog Journal recommended heartworm prevention. If you go to their web site you can purchase a copy of the article for a few dollars.

Linda M.
June 20th, 2007, 12:45 AM
Deciding not to give Cheffie the hw pills is based on hours of reading on the internet and conversations with dog owners and Boxer owners, so I am confident I know all I can, even if I've been misinformed about certain irrelevant details.
The bottom line is that no one knows whose dog is going to have an adverse reaction to the pills, but the risk is real. The risk that Cheffie will get hw is also real. But I prefer not to give him a toxic substance which I feel will sooner or later tax his immune system and organs. Hw medication is an insecticide meant to kill larvae. Even if the doses are small, I am concerned about the cumulative effects after ingesting the pills month after month, year after year. I'd just as soon take precautions, spray him with citronella when he goes outside, and have him tested a few times a year. Of course, that may not work for lots of people, but it works for me and my family. I am sure I have all your best wishes that I have made the right choice in not giving Cheffie the pills, just as I wish all of you who do give your pets the medication, the best of luck. :pray:

June 20th, 2007, 03:12 AM
Hi Linda,
It sounds like you and your husband have really gone the extra mile in researching about HW meds for your Cheffie. I applaud your efforts to be informed and responsible pet owners - something we all need to be with our pets.
I also had alot of questions for my Westie because we reside in the Netherlands where HW medicine is not used (tho we have plenty of mosquitoes) and am visiting in the USA (Minnesota, where mozzies thrive) until Christmas.
Because of a number of issues early on for my Westie, we decided on homeopathic treatment and a holistic route of care. We have not had any vaccinations beyond the beginning and booster puppy shots (it was the boosters that set off a chain reaction in my dog of allergic-like symptoms for which the allopathic vet could only prescribe steroids). Since then we get a simple blood test each year instead of vaccinations. An official document allows my dog to travel with me (8 countries so far).

From my research here and in an attempt to function as holistically and responsibly as possible for my dog, I am monitoring local temperatures ... once they are consecutively 57F for 1-2 weeks, heartworm can be a problem IF he is bitten by a HW carrying mozzie. These are proven facts that we should all learn.
I use a natural repellant for my dog - either flutterbye or rose geranium essential oil. Very easy to use and a nice smell. These are not chemicals. We just returned from tick country in northern Minnesota and these products effectively repelled the ticks (of which there are many), except for just a couple - which we found and removed within 24-48 hours. I recommend both products, and especially against mosquitoes.

If I should have to treat for HW, I would give Interceptor (or SafeHeart from Novartis, if available). The doses listed on the product are really high and are effective at much smaller amounts. For my Westie I would only give 1mg. or less of Interceptor, for example. The first dose should be 6 wks after day/night consecutively 57F for 1-2 wks. Then 1 mg every 45 days.
Also, apparently ivermectin can have very serious effects!

Some of you may find this information helpful, others not. Each dog owner, like Linda, should research and explore and make a responsible decision.


June 20th, 2007, 01:18 PM
spray him with citronella when he goes outside,
I would try to use something other than citronella, the smell is very aversive to most dogs, which is why there are anti-bark collars that spray citronella. My mother who is an animal control officer actually has citronella spray that is used to stop aggressive dogs from approaching (Direct Stop (, fortunately she hasn't had to use it yet!). And of course dog's sense of smell is so strong, having to smell such a strong scent I think would drive them crazy! I'm sure there are other natural mosquito repellents that are effective.

Linda M.
June 20th, 2007, 02:31 PM
Thanks for the info about citronella... I never knew that. I have heard of the rose geranium oil, though, and will try to find some. Thank you both for informing me. :love:

June 20th, 2007, 03:48 PM
I'm sure rose geranium smells much better too! :)

Linda M.
June 20th, 2007, 09:56 PM