Affordable DIY Heartworm Treatment

If your dog is not on Heartworm preventative medicine then your dog may have Heartworm. Heartworm infests your dog when it is bitten by a Heartworm infested mosquito. The infective larvae enter through the bite wound. There is no other way for your dog to contract Heartworm. Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 states.

It takes about seven months for a Heartworm larva to develop into an adult. Female Heartworms are much bigger in size and do the most damage to your dogs heart and lungs. If untreated, the Heartworms can live 5-7 years. A dog can have as many as 250 worms.

For more information about Heartworms Click HERE

I used to have all sorts of animals including horses, cows, pigs and dogs. I noticed that the same ingredient to rid horses, cows and pigs of worms was the same ingredient to rid dogs of the immature Heartworms. Since horse, cow and pig meds were far cheaper and could be obtained without a prescription this got me thinking and researching to find a more affordable way of deworming my dogs of Heartworms. Below is what I’ve come up with. Please note: I am NOT a veterinarian. Should you follow the steps below, you are doing so at your own risk and that of the risk to your pet. The information provided below is only for your information. What you do with that information is up to you. If you have any questions or concerns, please check with your vet. It is also suggested that you have your dog tested for Heartworms prior to treating your pet with Ivermectin. Heartgard, a commonly used Heartworm medicine, is formulated at a very weak dose to rid Heartworms from dogs. The dose is very safe for almost all dogs, including Collies at a very low dose as per in a Heartgard pill.

 

How Can You Treat Your Pet for Heartworm Cheaply:

Heartworms have two stages in their lives that require two different types of treatments. The first stage is the immature Heartworm stage. The second is the Adult Heartworm stage.

Immature Stage Heartworm Treatment:

The ingredient used to rid immature Heartworms is Ivermectin which is found in Heartgard and other Heartworm medications that treat the immature Heartworms. Ivermectin is not intended to treat adult heart worms. For drug facts on Heartgard, Click HERE: After much research, I came across a site that taught me how to cheaply purchase and use Ivermectin to treat my four dogs for Heartworm. The Ivermectin is mixed with propylene glycol then administered to the dog orally. (not by needle) Although Ivermectin is not intended to treat adult Heartworms, use of this product shows a reduction of adult Heartworms, shortens the Heartworms life span and if Doxycycline is used at the same time the amount of adult worms is greatly reduced in a much shorter period of time.

Shopping list:

  1. Purchase Ivermectin 1% injectable Ivomec for cattle from Tractor Supply Co, or any other store (feed stores) that sell medications for large animals (horses, pigs, cows). It is IMPORTANT that you buy Ivermectin but NOT Ivermectin plus. The cost for a 50 ml bottle is about $40.
  2. While at Tractor Supply Co, also purchase a 3cc syringe (3ml is the same as 3cc. 1 cc = 1ml). A 1 cc syringe can also be purchased if you wish to make it easier to administer the dosage, but the 3 cc can also be used for dosage.
  3. Also purchase a needle for the syringe. This will only be used to draw the Ivermectin from the bottle.
  4. Purchase propylene glycol. I purchased mine from Costco for $11.85 plus tax
  5. Small bottle such as an amber 1 oz bottle. I purchased mine from “Good Stuff” store for 99 cents. You can also find them on eBay for about $2.75. Any bottle will do as long as it is very small and seals well.

Please note: Some breeds of dogs are more susceptible to Ivermectin. This is because they have a mutation in the MDR1 gene. A blood test can determine if your dog is at risk for Ivermectin sensitivity. While the sensitivity to Ivermectin is not always guaranteed, the following breeds are most likely to be affected:

  • Old English Sheepdog
  • English Sheepdog
  • Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie)
  • Australian Shepherd
  • German Shepherd
  • Long-haired Whippet
  • Silken Windhound
  • Skye Terrier
  • Collie *** Very sensitive

Symptoms

Symptoms for the dog may be acute or mild. Acute signs will become apparent within 4 to 12 hours of the drug’s administration. In mild cases, symptoms will occur between 48 to 96 hours after your dog has been treated. Such symptoms include:

  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Dilation of the pupil
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Difficulty controlling voluntary movement
  • Disorientation
  • Tremors/Seizures
  • Inability to stand
  • Blindness
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Respiratory distress
  • Coma

Heartgard demonstrated no signs of toxicity at 10 times the recommended dose (60 mcg/kg) in sensitive Collies. Results of these trials support the safety of Heartgard products in dogs, including Collies, when used as recommended.

Directions for Mixture:

  1. Draw 1 cc from the Ivermectin bottle and put it into your bottle.. The easiest way to draw a liquid from a medicine bottle is to inject air into the bottle before trying to draw the liquid out.
  2. Add nine CC’s of the propylene glycol solution.
  3. Mix well.

Directions for Dosage for Heartworms:

This is a much stronger strength than the commercial strength of Heartgard for Heartworms. Ivermectin can also rid other worms, but not at the lower strength that Heartgard sells for Heartworms prevention only.

Weigh your dog. For each 10 lbs of dog weight you will give 1/10 of a CC of the well mixed Ivermectin / propylene glycol solution.

Example Dosage:

  • Dog weighs 20 lbs. Dosage: 2/10 of a cc of solution (small dog )
  • Dog weighs 50 lbs. Dosage: 5/10 of a cc of solution (Med – large dog)
  • Dog weighs 100 lbs. Dosage: 1 cc of solution (Large dog)
  • Dog weighs 150 lbs. Dosage: 1.5 cc of solution (St. Bernard size)

Picture below is of a 3 CC / 3 ML syringe

The above instructions are NOT the commercial product strength for Heartworm treatment. This is a strength commonly used by many people for decades.

Directions for Commercial Product Strength Mixture:

Mixing The commercial product Ivomec® 1% Injection contains 10 mg Ivermectin / 1 ml or 10,000 mcg / 1 ml

  1. Mix the same as above. This gives you a concentration of 10 mg in 10ml solution which is the same as 10,000 micrograms / 10ml or 1,000 micrograms per 1 milliliter since 1 milligram = 1,000 micrograms.
  2. The commercial dosage range of Ivermectin for dogs (Heartgard) is 0.003-0.006 milligrams/kg body weight (1kg=2.2 lb) or 3-6 micrograms/kg of body weight. All calculations below use the higher dose of 6 micrograms / kg of body weight or 2.72 micrograms / pound of body weight. Therefore a 100 lb dog (45.45 kg) needs a 272 mcg dose: 45.45 kg x 6 mcg/kg = 272 mcg dose
  3. Using the following formula, a proper dose can be calculated for any dog whose body weight is known:

Weight of dog in pounds X dose of 2.72 micrograms per pound of body weight ÷ 1000 mcg per ml Ivermectin solution prepared in step 1 = dose in milliliters of solution from step 1.

Examples:

  • A dog weighs 12 lbs: 12 x 2.72 ÷ 1000 = 0.03 ml of the solution
  • A dog weighs 20 lbs: 20 x 2.72 ÷ 1000 = 0.05 ml of the solution
  • A dog weighs 50 lbs: 50 x 2.72 ÷ 1000= 0.13 ml of the solution
  • A dog weighs 100 lbs: 100 x 2.72 ÷ 1000 = 0.27 ml of the solution
  • A dog weighs 150 lbs: 150 x 2.72 ÷ 1000 = 0.4 ml of the solution

As you can see, it takes a very small amount for Heartworm prevention in dogs.

The picture below is a 1 cc or 1 ml syringe (tb or insulin syringe)

Directions for Administering:

  1. Squirt the proper dosage of solution over the dogs food in the bowl, into a special treat for your dog, or in the corner of the dogs mouth. The needle is not on the syringe for this part.
  2. Repeat the dosage once per month.

How is this Affordable?

The Ivermectin (Ivomec) will cost about $40 at Tractor Supply Co. The propylene glycol will cost about $12 for a container. Ivomec will last for up to 3 years in the refrigerator. The mixed solution will equal 500 ml. You will also refrigerate the mixed solution so it will also not go to waste. (only mix 1 cc Ivomec /9 cc propylene glycol solution at a time) Since the total mixed volume will equal 500 ml and you would only use 5/10th of a ml (0.5 cc) for a 50 lb dog (higher than commercial strength), each dose for a 50 lb dog would cost you about 5 cents per dose if you use ALL the Ivomec solution in 3 years. (smaller dogs use less, cost less per month). For one 50 lb dog, you would have an EXCESS of Ivomec so one 50 lb dog would cost you $52 per 3 years of use plus you’d have an excess of 320 ml of Ivomec /propylene glycol solution. 50 ml of Ivomec is enough to do three 50 lb dogs for 3 years minus 8 doses at the higher rate of 1/10th cc per pound of dog. If you only have one dog, this is still cheaper than the Heartgard for 3 years. You’d still have some Ivomec to share with friends and family!

 

Adult Stage Heartworm Treatment:

If your dog has Adult Heartworms then Ivermectin will not kill the worms quickly. Instead it will do a “slow kill”. Depending on the amount of worms and the dogs health, vets sometimes opt to treat dogs with this method instead of using Immiticide which is an adulticide used for killing adult Heartworms. In August 2011 the makers of this drug announced that Immiticide will no longer be manufactured until further notice. Since this drug is no longer an option there are other things you can do to kill the worms.

Note: Dogs undergoing Heartworm treatment for adult worms- Restrict ALL activity of the dog! Limit ALL exercise!

Treatments:

Note: The study used Heartgard so I suggest you use the “commercial strength” directions for this step

  1. Use Ivermectin giving the dosage weekly instead of monthly. In the study, dogs given Ivermectin weekly for 36 weeks reduced the amount of Heartworms by approximately 20.3% and most of the worms were abnormal in appearance. This suggests that live worms were dying and could possibly die in the near future.
  2. Use Ivermectin weekly plus Doxycycline on a schedule of: use Doxycycline each day on weeks 1,2,3,4,5,6,10,11,16,17,22,23,24,25,28,29,30,31,23,33. This method reduces the worm load by approximately 78.3%. Most of the remaining worms were abnormal in appearance, with intermittent translucent areas in the body and dark anterior ends. Again, this suggests that the worms were dying at the time. Doxycycline is an antibiotic. I was able to purchase this online very easily without a prescription. Doxycycline is given at a rate of 10 mg/kg BID. 10 mg/kg means giving 10 milligrams of drug for each kilogram of the patient’s body weight. At 10 mg/kg a 20 kg (44 pound) animal would get 200 mg of drug. A 30 kg (66 pound) animal would get 300 mg; and so on. Dose may be reduced to 5 mg/kg BID if tolerance issues exist. By using the Doxycycline the effects of the Wolbachia bacteria was better controlled as worms died. Using the Doxycycline at the same time as Ivermectin seems to have a synergistic effect.

 

The following study on Heartworm treatment was as follows:

The following 6 methods were used to study the effect of various combinations of medicines for Heartworm:

  • Ivermectin only
  • Doxycycline only
  • Ivermectin and Doxycycline together
  • Melarsomine only
  • Melarsomine, Ivermectin and Doxycycline together
  • Control group – no intervention

Each Heartworm negative dog was infected with 9 female and 7 male Heartworms . The dogs then started the study (put into the groups) after 6 weeks post Heartworm infestation.

Click on picture to enlarge.

The results were as follows:

  • Weekly Ivermectin 20.3% reduction in worm load after 36 weeks
  • Doxycycline only – 8.7% reduction in worm load after 36 weeks
  • Ivermectin, Doxycycline and Melarsomine – 92.8 reduction in worm load after 36 weeks
  • Melarsomine only – 100% reduction in worm load after 36 weeks
  • Ivermectin and Doxycycline – 78.3% – reduction in worm load after 36 weeks

For more information on the study for the above two methods, Click Here

The advice of the American Heartworm Society about using Ivermectin and Doxycycline can be found here. This page also references the shortage of the Adulticide for Heartworm.

Some of the information in this post was deducted from Dr. Hines. His page on Heartworms can be found here.

I hope you find some of the information here useful. If you have a dog, please consider treating your pet for Heartworms. If you are not comfortable in a DIY method, then please visit your vet and get your dog tested and then put on a preventative medicine. I also encourage you to do your own research on Heartworms and treatments / preventions. If you have something to share, feel free to contact me. I would love to hear what you have to say. If you have information to share, I’d be happy to post it on my site and give credit to you if I feel that it may be valuable to my readers.