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Two common things I see in the raw community is (1) a person claiming that they know how to treat heartworm naturally and (2) raw fed dogs need to be tested regularly for parasites. I'm not convinced. So I decided to do a little research of my own.
What is Heartworm?
“Heartworm is a serious, potentially fatal disease that damages dogs’ hearts and lungs. The disease is spread when infected mosquitos bite pets. Monthly chewable tablets or topical medications can help prevent heartworm. […] The very best thing a pet owner can do to protect their pet and stay abreast of the latest findings in pet care is to visit their vet regularly. Veterinary experts recommend pet well-visits at least annually.” ~Dr. Melissa Beall, DVM and PhD
Can We Naturally Treat Heartworm for Dogs?
I don't think we can, but I'm not 100% sure. When I did some research on natural heartworm treatments, I found the following solutions.
- Black Walnut Hull works to cleanse a dog's system, including the digestive system and bloodstream. It kills the heartworm parasite before it has time to grow to maturity.
- HWF (formerly Heartworm Free) is a liquid supplement that helps to strengthen a dog's immune system to help them overcome heartworm naturally.
- Garlic (a minced bulb) added to a dog's meal works to prevent heartworm from maturing.
- Guinness Beer has been said to both prevent and treat heartworm. It has to be a specific beer.
Other Parasites that Infect Dogs
Raw Fed Dogs and Routine Parasite Screenings
This past year, I learned that many raw feeders take their dogs in for routine parasite screenings. I wondered if this is something I should do – we don't feed wild game, we feed premade and DIY raw and the meat is sourced from local farmers. But does that mean our dogs are safe from parasites?
“As any dog owner knows, all dogs can eat or drink all kinds of things! That’s why it’s critically important for all pet owners to have their pets screened for parasites regularly. According to a published study, about 34 percent of shelter dogs and 12 percent of pet dogs in the U.S. have some form of intestinal parasite, with hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms being some of the most frequent offenders.” ~Dr. Melissa Beall, DVM and PhD
Intestinal Parasites and Dogs
We live in a rural area with creeks, ponds, and lakes from which our dogs happily quench their thirst, which means our dogs are not safe from intestinal parasites.
“Intestinal parasites are prevalent. Shelter dogs that may not have received routine care from a veterinarian throughout their lives have a higher likelihood of intestinal parasite infections than dogs that are in a forever home, but even cared for pets are burdened with these infections far too frequently. Some, including roundworms, are zoonotic, meaning they can be passed between pets and humans. Complicating the issue, dogs with intestinal parasites may not show any signs of disease.” ~Dr. Melissa Beall, DVM and PhD
Dr. Beall isn't a proponent of raw feeding and the information she shared in no way singled out raw fed dogs as common victims of intestinal parasites.
Can We Naturally Treat Intestinal Parasites for Dogs?
In the raw feeding community, I've seen home remedies to treat parasites, however, I don't know how effective they are for our dogs. For instance, I read that diatomaceous earth is often used to treat intestinal parasites in dogs, but some believe that DE doesn't work internally. When my dogs killed and ate wild rabbit, I added DE to their meals just in case. I didn't know if the rabbit had worms, but to be certain, I followed a common dosage of diatomaceous earth for dogs, adding 1 tbsp of DE to their meals for two weeks
How long it takes for a dog's system to expel the worms depends on the health of the dog. Because the worms pass through a dog's stool, if a dog is constipated, then it'll take longer for the treatments to work. So I think it's important to also give my dogs a probiotic in their second meal (DE for breakfast, goats milk or kefir for dinner) to provide their gut and immune system the strength to kick out the worms.
Constipation Treatments for Dogs
- Fish oil or coconut oil – temporarily increase the daily dosage of fish oil or adding coconut oil to a dog's diet can help loosen things up.
- Green Tripe – works to loosen up my dogs' stool; a different amount works for each dog.
- 100% pure and natural, canned pumpkin – it helps with diarrhea and constipation.
- Extra and/or longer walks.
Intestinal Parasite Remedies for Dogs
Natural Flea, Tick, and Mosquito Repellents
It's not enough to treat our dogs for intestinal parasites; we also need to prevent them from re-occurring by removing the cause. We discourage our dogs from eating wildlife (mice, moles, birds, etc.) and we treat our dogs daily with a natural flea, tick and mosquito repellent.
- Wondercide Natural and Organic Flea, Tick and Mosquito repellents (spray, shampoo bar)
- Cedarcide Flea and Tick Spray
Diatomaceous Earth and Dogs
If you decide to give diatomaceous earth a try, be sure to buy food grade diatomaceous earth. I prefer GrandPa's Diatomaceous Earth, but there are many other good brands on the market.
How much diatomaceous earth can we give to our dogs?
- large dogs (dogs over 55 pounds) receive 1 tablespoon mixed into their food daily
- medium dogs receive 1 teaspoon daily
- smaller dogs and puppies receive 1/2 teaspoon daily.
Loop in Your Veterinarian
If you're not sure if your dog has parasites, take a stool sample to your vet to have it tested. This is a preferred step that I missed when my dogs ate the rabbit because I panicked. If I had taken a stool sample to their vet, I might have learned that all of them were perfectly fine.