Do Natural Cures for Canine Heartworms Work?

Lisa K. Campbell, DVM
dog covered in mosquitos

Heartworm treatment is expensive and can cause serious side effects. Many owners have concerns about using this type of medicine. Other times, cost is an issue. There are natural treatments that you can administer at home to help rid your dog of this deadly disease. They are less expensive than conventional treatment and typically require fewer veterinary visits, though caution is needed as heartworm itself can quickly turn deadly for a dog.

Home Remedies for Heartworm Treatment Options

Do not attempt any of these heartworm treatment options without enlisting the help of a veterinarian trained in holistic or complementary therapies. You can find a holistic veterinarian at ahvma.org.

HWF (Formerly Heartworm Free)

HWF is an herbal remedy which contains multiple ingredients aimed at supporting heart health. HWF is not licensed as a heartworm treatment or preventive. The formulation contains the following ingredients designed to detox your dog and support cardiovascular heath:

  • Black seed
  • Hops flowers
  • Apricot kernel extract
  • Hawthorn berries
  • Garlic
  • Sheep sorrel
  • Grapefruit seed extract

When using this remedy it is important to restrict your dog's activity. No long walks, running, or playing with other dogs. If a heartworm-positive dog's heart rate becomes elevated, it can cause worms to detach and lodge somewhere in the dog's body, causing a deadly blood clot.

Treatment with HWF can take four to nine months to be effective. The recovery after heartworm treatment is also a long process. The makers of HWF advise to work with a holistic veterinarian to determine the appropriate dose for your dog. Dosage is based on the dog's weight, and instructions can be found in the product's packaging.

Wormwood and Black Walnut

Both of these herbs are powerful dewormers. They appear to be more effective when used together. However, they can have serious side effects. Tannins in these herbs can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and kidney or liver disease. The dosages can vary greatly depending on your dog's size and general health.

As with all herbal formulas, the guidance of a holistic vet should be included when using these two herbs.

Homeopathy for Heartworm Disease

A holistic veterinarian may use homeopathy to boost your dogs immune system. Custom remedies to help support a dog with heartworm are prescribed based on your dog's unique history, physical exam and lifestyle.

There is not one remedy that fits every dog. After a consultation, your veterinarian will prescribe a remedy specific to your pup. You will be asked to observe your dog for several weeks and then follow up with your vet. Depending on how the dog is doing, the remedy may be changed. Homeopathy takes three to six months to be effective and is most effective when combined with a healthy diet and supplements such as Vitamin C, E and the anti-oxidant CoQ10.

Homeopathic remedies are generally very safe and often without side effects. Your veterinarian will want to follow your dog's progress to make sure he is improving.

Coconut and Essential Oils for Heartworm Treatment

There is no evidence that the of the use of essential oils for heartworm treatment is effective. You should never feed your dog essential oils as some can be toxic. Coconut oil is not recognized as a treatment or prevention for heartworm, but it can be used as an addition to a healthy diet.

How to Get Rid of Heartworms Without Going to the Vet

The truth is that you can't. If a dog is diagnosed with heartworm, a veterinarian needs to be consulted. There are many holistic veterinarians that will work with dog owners to come up with a plan to treat heartworm disease with diet, immunotherapy, homeopathy, herbs and supplements. Even natural treatments can be toxic if not used correctly. After the physical exam and consultation, your veterinarian may be able to monitor your dog's progress via email and phone.

Prevention of Heartworm

Heartworm disease is deadly. The heartworm has a complex life cycle. As the American Heartworm Society explains, a dog becomes infected when bitten by a mosquito containing heartworm larvae. It is these larvae that licensed preventive medicines kill and natural cures target.

Left untreated, larvae mature into adult heartworms which are particularly resistant and can only be killed by a drug called melarsomine (Immiticide). The dying adult worms can also cause blood poisoning (septicemia) and/or block major blood vessels causing shock and death. Even if a natural product was available, that was proven to kill adult worms, to do so might risk the life of your dog.

Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to heartworms. Choosing to use a conventional monthly preventative, or natural therapies to help your dog fight off heartworm infection is an individual choice. Holistic veterinarians focus on keeping your dog's immune system strong to help him mount a defense against heartworm.

Discuss Concerns With Your Vet

If you have concerns about licensed treatments, discuss these concerns with your vet. The current heartworm preventatives have a very wide safety margin and the average dog would need 166 times the prescribed amount against heartworm before showing symptoms of toxicity. If you are considering a natural remedy against heartworm, discuss these with your vet, including side effects and potential toxicity. Heartworm is serious and your dog's life is worth the protection.

Do Natural Cures for Canine Heartworms Work?