Here’s a recent question:

"We have a ‘new’ boxer age 2. The breeder believes in the raw food diet, and not many vaccinations or preventitive treatments. Recently the boxer has been shown to be heartworm positive, and she (the breeder) wants us to take a "holistic" approach to management. Are there any randomized trials to show any benefit to holistic treatment of heartworm?"

The quick answer is NO. There are no “holistic” treatments that have been shown to be effective in randomized trials, nor have any holistic treatments been shown to have any potential effect in in vitro studies. The only proven treatments are “conventional.” I consider it highly unethical to attempt other approaches because: 1) heartworm is a serious disease but one that can often be treated quite successfully and 2) untreated (or inadequately treated) dogs put other dogs at risk because they are sources of infection. Mosquitoes can transmit heartworm from infected dogs to other dogs in the area, and continue the cycle of infection. A serious and transmissible disease is not one for which unproven and likely ineffective treatments should be tried.

Heartworm is a potentially fatal disease that predominantly affects dogs, but can occasionally affect cats as well. It is most commonly caused by the parasite Dirofilaria immitis. It is spread by mosquitoes, which transmit the immature form of the parasite (microfilaria) which are found in the blood of infected animals. Upon being transmitted to a new host by a bite from an infected mosquito, the immature parasites eventually develop into adult worms. These worms lodge in the heart and the nearby blood vessels going to the lungs, and can cause a range of problems (e.g. lethargy, intolerance to exercise). Infection can be fatal – early (and effective) treatment is the key.