Heartworm Medicine for Dogs

Those of you who know me also know that I have an unhealthy attachment to my Yorkie. Those of you who don’t know me should know that I have a Yorkie named Tobias and I love him more than most people. I also don’t have children so I’m one of “those people”. You know who I’m talking about. Those people who try to liken raising kids to raising their dog. They explain how consistent training and time outs are great ways to train both, and then ask you what kind of kennel you use for your toddler. Seriously, though, I love my dog.

How can you not love that face?

How can you not love that face?

I bring Tobias up because I recently got my little reminder in the mail that it was time for Tobias’ yearly heart worm test. Can I just throw it out there that every time that comes up, my chest hurts and all I can think about is “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, what if he has it? Then he’s going to die and I’ll be heartbroken and I will never love again!” Oh, yes, I am quite aware of how crazy I sound. Anyway, when the crazy stops and I calm down, I make the appointment, sit and feel sick the whole time we are waiting for the results and then Tobias is always fine and I can calm down, go home and cuddle with my Yorkie. Who has by then usually forgiven me for taking him somewhere where he got poked and prodded.

This year when the subject came up, I started thinking about the necessity of giving a dog heart worm prevention medicine every single month. Now I’m terrible about it, I’m the first to admit it. Part of it is because I don’t believe heart worm is actually a threat during the winter and also because I personally choose not to take medicine whenever I can help it. It makes me wonder if giving my dog medicine I know nothing about is really a good idea? So even though I’m told by everyone to give him the medicine every month on the day, for the last year I’ve been sort of lax about it. Am I really making the right decision for both my dogs health?

First off, let’s throw it out there that we have to always look at drug recommendations with a grain of salt. Who tells you that your dog has to take heartworm medicine every single month? The people who make a profit from the sale of heartworm medication. Take a look at the American Heartworm Society’s Sponsor page. It’s full of drug companies. Am I saying that we should then completely disregard AHS’s recommendations? Absolutely not. But we also need to be aware of where these helpful (and probably very profitable) hints come from.

Evil monster.

Evil monster.

The American Heartworm Society recommends giving dogs their heartworm medicine all year long in order to protect them from heartworm carrying mosquitoes. Now I live in Michigan. For those of you who do not live in Michigan, it’s important to point out that Michigan spends a good part of each year cold. Snow on the ground cold. As far as I’ve found, mosquitoes can live through winter, however usually in a protected place waiting for warmth so the little monsters can swarm you in the springtime.  So your chances of being bitten by a mosquito in January in Michigan are probably pretty slim. So that seriously minimizes your dog’s risk of getting heartworm. On top of that, there is a life cycle the heart worm has to go through in order to actually become adult heartworms and infect your dog. And during that life cycle (a rough estimate of 45 days), the temperature can never go below 57 degrees. So even though, dogs in Michigan have about 6 months out of the year that they would be naturally protected from heartworm and the mosquito hosts, vets are still recommending all year long. I tried to find why exactly they recommend this and came up with “Pet owners are too stupid and irresponsible to give their dogs medicine so we dumb it down for them so they don’t forget”. All right, that’s not exactly what they said but it’s kind of the tone. It was hard to find any example of a legitimate reason for heartworm prevention all year long. The only health risk reason I could find is that some of the preventative brands (Sentinel, Trifexis, Revolution) protect against other kinds of infections like roundworms and hookworms.

Getting infected with heartworm is not exactly easy. There is a number of factors that have to fall in  line in order for your dog to get infected. This article does a good job of explaining the life process as well as the natural ways to help prevent heartworm. Bear in mind, this article is definitely written from a biased point of view, the author definitely leans toward a more natural handling of dogs.

You might be asking yourself, “But, Primal Otter, if everyone recommends preventative medicine for dogs, why wouldn’t you?” Well, my first problem, of course, is those pesky side effects that are written in tiny little print on the packaging. Those side effects, which I had to find from the FDA website, are vomiting, loose stool or diarrhea with or without blood, anorexia, lethargy, salivation, tachypnea, and muscle tremors (for the topical brand) and vomiting, depression/lethargy, pruitus (itching), urticaria (hives), diarrhea, anorexia, skin congestion, ataxia, convulsions, hypersalivation and weakness (for the oral brand). The biggest side effect that I feared is the big C word. Cancer seems to take so many beloved pets, however, I was unable to find any legitimate studies or evidence of the linkage between preventative medicine and cancer. Although, I don’t think its impossible, the problem is who would pay for that study? Certainly not the drug companies. But there seems to be very little study and the best I could find was just anecdotal evidence.

I found this great article about the best ways to naturally prevent heartworm infection. And although, I realize that the information is more a matter of opinion than perfect science, I believe it’s really important to consider those “hippy dippy” ideas. As I firmly believe with humans, I also believe that a good diet is essential for a dog’s health and immune system. Lots of people recommend the raw diet. Let me tell you, I love this concept. However, my husband and I work full time and between our bills, our animals, and having to spend extra money on our own food sources, we have chosen to go with the more manageable grain free dog food. I personally like Taste of the Wild. My dogs seem to like it well enough, they don’t overeat, and they are both healthy and energetic dogs. Also, I believe that my German Shepard has an allergy or a sensitivity to wheat, and I’m pretty sure rice as well. Her skin tends to look the best when she eats totally grain free.

The dynamic duo

The dynamic duo


The all natural concept also mentions not over vaccinating as a way to help your dog’s immune system. I really wasn’t able to find a good source of what constitutes over vaccinating but it’s still some food for thought. Even though I am currently doing lots of research of human vaccination (I’m trying to learn all I can before kids so I can make an educated decision when that time comes), I have never really questioned the vaccination of dogs. Can you say “DOH”? When we vaccinated Tobias, our Yorkie, I never questioned all the stuff they wanted to give them. And guess what? He had a terrible and terrifying response. Yes, I know lots of dogs don’t feel great after shots but to have my one pound Yorkie throwing up, shaking, and sleeping twice as much as usual was incredibly upsetting. At his yearly check ups, they want to inject him with everything even though I explain to them that he has had bad reactions before and they usually just tell me to give him Benadryl and he’ll be fine. And I really have to ask myself, “Is injecting my dog on a yearly basis with something his body reacts badly to a good idea?”

So where do I come down? Well, call me a bad hippy but I think that I will continue to give my dogs heartworm preventative medicine. However, I will do it on my own terms. Even though, they recommend all year long, I will not be giving my dogs unnecessary medicine in January. In the summer, though, i will give them their medicine. There is a very large pond behind my property that was probably once used as an irrigation pond so the mosquitoes that live there are probably mutated from the pesticides. Ok, they’re probably not but we still have a pretty decent mosquito population. On top of that, my dogs are mostly house dogs but when we do go out, it’s for hikes in the middle of nowhere, or swimming in lakes and rivers, and for those times I don’t have them on a leash and they decide that drinking stagnant, mosquito infested water is a charming idea. So hopefully, I am making the right decision for my dogs. But either way at least, I am doing my best to make an informed decision.

What about you? Do you believe that the preventative medicine is necessary? Have you ever even heard of the negative side effects? And if you don’t use the heart worm medicine, do you use any other preventative methods?


Marriage Advice

I’m getting married in a few days. Yeah. I’m definitely starting to feel the pressure come on. Everyone keeps saying that I must be all set and ready to go and I’m sure this look of panic comes over my face, and I get that deer in the headlights look with the stammering answer of “Nope, not quite yet.” And then I think about the people who do have everything ready this early and realize that I am incredibly jealous of people that do not procrastinate.

But the wedding planning part isn’t really the important part. To be honest the wedding itself isn’t the most important part. In all reality no one remembers those little things anyway. Now don’t get me wrong, the wedding is a big deal. I have been very careful not to be exposed to the things I am allergic to, I have washed my face every night with all natural cleansing wash. I have gotten my hair colored back to its natural color. I have done the things that I wanted to do so that I can be beautiful on my wedding day. I think that although the wedding itself is important, the thing that really matters is that I am marrying my soul mate. All those cliché sayings sound so lame until you realize that you truly did not know you were missing a part of yourself until you found your other half. The way that I am choosing to look at this wedding is that although there are things that I care about, all that really matters is that when we end that day, we’ll be married. We could have the most beautiful wedding in the world but if you aren’t ready for the amount of work that marriage is, then it’s all for waste. Or you could get married in a courthouse with one witness and have that marriage last forever.

I’m hoping that I have the strength of character and honesty with myself to be going into this marriage with all the dedication and understanding that I believe that I have. I know that marriage is hard work and that it is a journey that sometimes seems like an uphill battle but because my fiance and I love each other so completely we know we are doing the right thing. Because we are getting married so soon, everyone is sharing their advice on how to make a good marriage. This is a list of the most recent advice and my thoughts on why I do think these things are incredibly important.


Always kiss me goodnight. I think one of the most tragic things that a couple can do is stop being affectionate. It’s so easy to do. When you’re together a long time, months, years, whatever, you start to get so used to them that you forgot how special they are. Love and affection need to be tended constantly.

Don’t go to bed angry. This one is sort of self explanatory. It’s a bit of a cliché statement as well but one of the worst feelings in the world is waking up angry. And a lot of times, it almost feels like unless you address the wounds while they are fresh, you can take the chance of letting them fester.

Be your spouse’s champion. This token is essential. We all get caught up in it. No one is going to annoy you more than your spouse. It’s just a fact. We are human and no matter how much you love each other, sometimes you are going to drive each other up the wall. But you should never bad mouth your spouse. You can laugh and joke about those little things they do that drive you crazy but in true fights, you never want to turn others against your spouse. No one else is going to love your spouse like you do and if all they hear are the bad things, they might not view your spouse in a good way. You should sing their praises from the roof tops as much as you can.

Put your spouse above everything and everyone else. This one sounds a little weird because the person who told me said that you should put them not only before the standard stuff like work and friends, but even in front of your children in some ways. Which for a woman is very hard. But the way she explained it is that someday your children will leave and look to someone else for their needs, when they are gone don’t you want that love and devotion to still be there. A well loved husband will help you through all those growing pains if you let him.

Remember that women actually have the power and that it only takes a few things to make a man happy and if you do, he’ll move mountains for you. I love this one. It was such a simple, honest statement. Not to over simplify it but it pretty much came down to make him hot meals, be available to give him attention, and do the things with him that make him happy and a man can’t help himself. He will try his best to make sure you feel as good as he does.

Always communicate. This is the one that everyone tells you but it also tends to be the one that most people ignore. No matter how in love you are, you are sometimes going to want different things and sometimes you will have different expectations. You are two different people. But I think it’s really important as a wife to always be honest about your expectations.  If you want the dishes done you can’t expect your husband to just guess and get it done for you. Especially if when he doesn’t, you get mad or resentful toward him because you feel like he doesn’t do enough to help. You should have the ability to ask. Just ask your husband to do the dishes. And when you don’t want something, don’t be afraid to say no, discuss it, and try to compromise.

Wait for kids, be a married couple first. A friend of mine brought this one up. He got married a little younger than me and if I remember correctly they got pregnant on the honeymoon, which was a little earlier than they were planning. And although, I’m sure they have no regrets, it was a good point. Even though we’ve been together a long time, there’s nothing like your first year of marriage. Being newlyweds is both incredibly fun and a lot of adjustment.

Always do the small things and never take him for granted because you don’t know how long he will be there. This one was powerful because of the person it came from. Never ever stop making your spouse feel like they are loved and special because there is absolutely no predicting the future. And love and life is so precious.

Get your finances in order before you take the plunge. Money is one of the biggest reasons for divorce in the United States. It sounds kind of cynical but you should go into marriage, a life long commitment, with your eyes completely open and that means being on the same page about money. That means having those tough discussions about priorities and spending. My fiancé is a planner and I’m more the optimistic “we’ll make it work” kind of person. Sometimes that opposition can be a disaster if you are not realistic about your needs and your goals. I can be the stay at home mom that I want to be if I can respect and follow my fiancé’s financial plans. We can compromise about what we want and need.

The perfect marriage is when two imperfect people learn to enjoy their differences. I think that says it all.

That’s the main advice that I have been given so far and I really think that they are not only important anecdotes but things that everyone should incorporate into their lives no matter how long they have been married. So you tell me, blog readers, what’s the best advice you can give or have been given? Let me know what I’m missing.

Mother’s Day

Today, I want to interrupt my Paleo Diet series and do a little tribute for my  mother on Mother’s Day. My dad and I bought her some gifts to show our appreciation of her and what she does but I thought it would be fitting to write a blog post to tell her, and those that read my blog, how much I love and cherish her. Maybe then she can begin to realize how amazing she is.

I am in awe of my mother. Truly. My mother came from a lot less and worked really hard to provide for her children. She married a man who wouBearld be her equal, and who would be the father that her children deserved. My mom is the strongest woman I know. She is the strength in our family and I am unbelievably blessed to have her not only as a mother but also as a best friend. She is completely selfless. No matter what her hurts were, she always put her husband and her children first. Throughout my life, she has always sacrificed to give us everything. I know that my biggest cheerleader will always be my mom. Never in my entire life has she ever made me feel like I couldn’t do something. She always told me how talented I was or how beautiful I was or how incredibly much she loved me. I have never been the perfect daughter and sometimes probably not deserving of her unconditional love but she always gave it. Always. Heck, everything she does, good and bad, she does for the love of her children. Her love is amazing and fierce. You know the old advice that says that you should never get between a mother bear and her cubs. That bear is my mom, only I think my mom might be even more protective and a little scarier when her children are threatened.

As I’ve become an adult, I’ve gotten to know my mom as a human being and a person instead of just as a mom. I see all her faults and all her strengths, and I still stand amazed. She has taught me to be the woman that I am today. Strong, confident, a little too stubborn, and someone who believes in right and wrong and will stand for it no matter what. I’m getting married in a few weeks and I hope to emulate my parent’s marriage in all their best ways. They have been happily married for 24 years, and they owe it to God and a lot of hard work. My mother loves my father unconditionally. She honors him daily. She laughs at his jokes and shares in his dreams. They still hold hands when they walk together. They need each other completely even after almost a quarter century. I want to love my soon to be husband as my mom loves my dad. With all the love, commitment, and admiration that they have for each other.

I am so proud of my mom. She has come so far in her life. I’ve seen her at her best and worst moments and only hope that I have the strength of character that she has to come through the trials and tribulations of motherhood and still be standing tall at the end of it. She held my hand on my first day of Kindergarten. She bought me flowers for every single play or performance I ever did. She tightened the belt and saved money to make sure that I could have voice lessons, and nice clothes, and a car in high school. She watched me graduate high school. And she did the bravest thing she could and stood back when I moved out on my own to try to prove to myself that I could do it. She helped me move into my first apartment. She fell in love with my fiancé and blessed our engagement. She took me to the bridal shop so we could pick out my wedding dress. She will be there on my wedding day when I am feeling just as nervous as I was on my first day of Kindergarten. She will tell me how much she loves me before my dad walks me down the aisle. And she will be there for me through everything, big or small. God has blessed me. Not only with amazing parents, but also amazing examples of the kind of wife and mother I want to be.

Thank you, Mom, so much for all that you have done and all that you will do. Thank you for helping me plan this wedding, and making me the princess and being supportive even when we disagree. And thank you so much for your unconditional love that no one but another mother could possibly understand. You will always be my friend and my anchor in any storm.

God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers. ~Rudyard Kipling