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Dr. Jo
Dr. Jo, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 1096
Experience:  17 years of veterinary experience
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Heartworms and BLACK WALNUT HULL* What is this stuff? I have

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Heartworms and BLACK WALNUT HULL* What is this stuff? I have an elderly neighbor that is using this to rid her dog of Heartworms. I offered to pay her Vet bill so the treatment could be done properly. She states that the treatment is caustic and is similar to chemotherapy and the risk to her dog of dying is much higher then using BLACK WALNUT HULL. Also she can’t afford to pay the money the Vet is charging and doesn’t want charity. Sorry if this reads like *One life to live*.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Jo replied 2 years ago.

Dr. Jo :

Hello,

Dr. Jo :

My name isXXXXX and I would be happy to help you with your question about black walnut hull and heartworm treatment. Are you still there?

Customer:

Yes

Dr. Jo :

I would like to begin by telling you that, of course, I understand your neighbor's point of view on this matter. It's only human nature when faced with an unpleasant circumstance to try to rationalize some way around it. It's already bad news that her dog has heartworm. It's worse news that the treatment her dog needs is expensive, and has risk associated with it. Add in the guilt that comes from knowing she could have easily and cheaply prevented the problem ----- no wonder she is looking for other options.

Dr. Jo :

That being said, you are correct to be concerned for the dog on two fronts:

Dr. Jo :

1. This dog is being denied access to the safest and most effective form of heartworm treatment available.

Dr. Jo :

2. The dog could react poorly to this unproven treatment with black walnut hull.

Dr. Jo :

If she is willing to be educated on the subject, please encourage her to read what the experts have to say at www.heartwormsociety.org. Maybe she will trust them because they are not selling anything. They are only interested in protecting and treating dogs with heartworm disease.

Dr. Jo :

An additionally fact that might make sense to her is that the risky part of heartworm treatment is not the drug used for treatment itself, it's the fact that there are spaghetti-sized worms in the dogs heart and great vessels that are being killed and her dog's body will have to clean up that mess.

Dr. Jo :

If black walnut hull actually did kill adult heartworms (which it does not), she would still have that risk and the need for appropriate hospitalization, monitoring, exercise restriction and supportive care to go along with it. Ask her if she'll have access to that while treating her dog with black walnut hull.

Dr. Jo :

Perhaps that would be an effective argument with her...

Dr. Jo :

Addditionally, I want to say a huge THANK YOU to you for doing all you can to offer to pay for the treatment her dog needs. That is certainly above and beyond and the best help anyone could offer. I am simply sorry that she is unwilling to accept your help. It is truly unfortunate for the dog.

Dr. Jo :

I also hope it will be helpful to hear that this is not a new story for me, sadly. Believe me, just when I think I've heard it all, somebody comes up with something new. Cayenne pepper and garlic are also often touted as treatments for everything from heartworms to fleas. If they worked, veterinarians would recommend them. It's that simple.

Dr. Jo :

Black walnut hull has come in and out of fashion as a natural remedy, claiming to cure all kinds of ailments, from cancer to arthritis to worms to heartworms.

Dr. Jo :

It has never been proven to be of any therapeutic value whatsoever.

Dr. Jo :

The good news is that it is usually not harmful.

Customer:

She is really stubborn* old people can really be abstinent.

Dr. Jo :

The only harm that is done is when the dogs being given it are denied access to safe and effective treatments.

Dr. Jo :

Yes --- I understand. And her guilt really does play a big factor.

Dr. Jo :

I have some good news for you, though...

Dr. Jo :

Just because we know her dog is heartworm positive, it doesn't necessarily mean it will get sick and die.

Dr. Jo :

The likelihood of that depends upon how many adult worms are actually present.

Dr. Jo :

How big the dog is relative to the size of the worms matters too. 2 or 3 spaghetti-sized worms in the vessels of a great Dane isn't such a big deal; if it's a chihuahua, though, that's a different story.

Dr. Jo :

It's also important to understand that adult heartworms in the heart do NOT multiply there. The only way she can get more adult heartworms is through being reinfected by additional mosquitos.

Customer:

Its a Chow 87 lbs

Dr. Jo :

So, if we are talking about a big dog who is young and otherwise healthy who has a low number of worms and is at low risk for reinfection (geography, climate, put on heartworm prevention) it's reasonable to hope that this chow will do fine. Given time, the worms will die.

Dr. Jo :

Does that make sense the way I explained it?

Customer:

yes

Customer:

I don't know how long the dog has had the worms. Does that make a difference?

Dr. Jo :

So, whenever I've had a client with a heartworm positive dog who was not ill or suffering in any way and who could absolutely not afford the treatment, I carefully advised and educated them about the risks involved and the possibility for a good outcome even without treatment. Then, I send them home with monthly heartworm prevention (critical for preventing new exposure) and - if they can afford it - the inexpensive antibiotic that helps reduce the symptoms of heartworm disease. (Doxycycline)

Dr. Jo :

How long the dog has had the worms does make a difference, but it's impossible to know without multiple tests over time and knowing if and when the dog has been on preventive. It actually takes six months of infection before a dog will test positive.

Dr. Jo :

So, how long the dog has had the worms is generally irrelevant. How many worms is the really significant thing.

Dr. Jo :

I *will* agree with your neighbor on a couple of things: Yes, heartworm treatment is not nice. It makes the dogs sick. They run a fever and act like they hurt all over. Sometimes these symptoms are extreme.Yes. It is also expensive.

Customer:

Her sister states that by giving her dog the heartworm preventive in double doses may help. I told her I would buy the pills’ would that work?

Dr. Jo :

Nope. Double doses are no more effective than single doses. Heartworm prevention and heartworm treatment are two different things. Prevention kills the baby heartworms that the mosquito injections. It doesn't do anything to the adult heartworms, no matter how high the dose. Likewise, the treatment that kills the adults doesn't kill the babies. That's why staying on monthly heartworm prevention during treatment (or during NOT treating) is so important.

Dr. Jo :

Keep in mind that many non-symptomatic heartworm positive dogs in the USA right now are going without heartworm treatment because it is currently very hard to get.

Dr. Jo :

For example, if our shelter takes in a healthy young stray who happens to be heartworm positive, we won't treat it. We'll just put it on prevention and hope the worms die before they make the dog sick or kill the dog. Full disclosure to the adopting public, of course.

Dr. Jo :

So, I don't really have a solution to your problem, but I hope it helps to have an arsenal of accurate facts.

Customer:

Thanks for your information..I am going to try to Convince her to take my offer one more time. I don’t mind trying to help her’ but I didn’t take her to raise

Dr. Jo :

Again, for the dog's sake I am so glad she has you as a neighbor. You have removed what should be the only barrier between her dog and the safest, most effective form of heartworm treatment available. And good for you for getting the facts, too.

Dr. Jo :

The definitive resource on heartworm disease is everything published at www.heartwormsociety.org. Please remember that if you have more questions later, you can always post more to this thread, even after you've clicked ACCEPT. I'm happy to help.

Customer:

Thanks again....

Dr. Jo :

You're very welcome

Customer:

You have been very helpful....I copied our conversation for her to read.

Customer:

Bye

Dr. Jo, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 1096
Experience: 17 years of veterinary experience
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