Category Archives: Health

A Modified Heartworm Preventative Approach

Cooler weather is starting to set in which has me thinking about heartworm. Heartworm is a disease spread through mosquitoes, making transmission impossible during the winter months. We generally like to limit our dog’s exposure to chemicals and medication, so this topic has been on my mind for a while. I will admit that even I had tried to research what would be the best practice for our region/lifestyle and quickly found myself in over my head. Dejected, we decided to stop administering heartworm medication around November and start up again when the weather warmed. I knew however that there had to be a better, more scientific solution. 

I finally found that solution in an amazing handout, written by Smith Ridge Veterinary Center. We decided to use what is referred to as “Approach Two” below. For us, the level of chemical exposure was acceptable considering the amount of protection and convenience. Below is an excerpt that includes the two approaches that Smith Ridge recommends.

“Heartworm disease is a serious parasitic disease that can cause damage to your pet’s heart, as well as other organs. It is even potentially fatal. It is also a disease with very complex transmission and life cycle requirements. Because of that, there are options in how to approach the prevention and transmission of this disease. As you will often hear at Smith Ridge, there is no “one size fits all” method for health. 

Our basic recommendations are listed here in Part 1, along with some answers to the most frequently asked questions. Then, for those who are interested, there is a Part 2 with an in-depth, comprehensive explanation of every phase of heartworm disease, prevention and treatment. 

Smith Ridge currently recommends one of the following two methods of monitoring and/or preventing heartworm disease in dogs who live in our geographic area, or in similar northern climates. Dogs who live in, or who visit (for even a day), areas where there are higher temperatures than those in the northern half of the U.S. must follow a different protocol than the ones discussed here.

APPROACH ONE – Monitoring only

In late April or May of each year: run TWO heartworm screening tests at the same time 

Test 1: a SNAP test – this is an in-office blood test that can detect the presence of adult, female worms 

Test 2: a microfilaria test – this is a laboratory blood test that detects the presence of “baby” heartworms 

With this monitoring-only approach, you will not be administering preventative medication. Because of that, you MUST run both of the tests mentioned above AGAIN in November or December. 

Running both of these tests, *twice* a year, will ensure that any possible heartworm infection will be detected early so that the more mild, “slow kill” method of treatment can be used. 

Note: there is a chance that any dog could have a male-only infection which would not show on either of the 2 noted tests. This would be a fairly rare occurrence. There are no inexpensive or truly accurate screening tests for male-only heartworm infections. But single sex infections, whether all male or all female, are self-limiting as no reproduction can take place. Infection would end when the worm(s) died. 

Since you aren’t using preventatives with this monitoring-only approach, you may want to administer homeopathic or herbal preparations that are believed to prevent/treat heartworm. Discuss this with your veterinarian.

APPROACH TWO –  Conventional screening and modified preventative program

In May of each year: run a SNAP test 

If the test is clear, begin administering a heartworm preventative such as Heartgard or Interceptor. 

Despite the label instructions for administration every 30 days, these preventatives are proven by research to be 100% effective when given every 45 days. So, you can minimize the amount of chemicals being administered by using a 45 day schedule. The schedule we recommend in this area is: 

June 1 – dose 1 

July 15 – dose 2 

August 31 – dose 3 

October 15 – dose 4 2

You do not need to run another SNAP test in the fall for heartworm if you’ve been using the preventatives as scheduled above. However, remember that the SNAP panel tests for 3 tick-borne diseases (Lyme, Ehrlichia, Anaplasmosis) in addition to heartworm. Due to the very high incidence of tick-borne diseases in our area, we do recommend two screenings per year.”

If you want a more detailed explanation, the full version of the handout will be available in my Google drive folder.

How to feed your dog a raw homemade diet in a Brooklyn Apartment

I think we can all agree that a diet consisting entirely of Chef Boyardee or Cheerios is not optimal for health. Although they take drastically different approaches, Vegans and Paleo eaters will also agree that it’s best to stick to fresh, minimally processed foods. Common sense tells us that the same should apply to our pets. Except there is no debate about dogs and especially cats being carnivores.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 10.38.53 PMSince our dog was 6 months old, Nahla has been fed raw homemade meals. Puppies younger than that certainly can be fed this way, we just had some hurdles that we needed to overcome first. Convenience, freezer space, cost, and cleanliness are all valid concerns, especially for Brooklyn dog owners. Through trial and error we have devised an optimal diet that works for our dog with very little hassle for us.

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First lets talk about meat. Finding Armelino’s K9 in Huntington Station, NY has been a life saver. A former local butcher shop, they now exclusively sell human grade dog food. With four different protein options (beef, chicken, duck, and turkey), it’s all ground up with the meat and bone in either a 5 or 2 pound log. Bones are an important source of calcium and trace minerals for your pet. A diet consisting of ground beef for instance would be lacking these keyphoto (1) nutrients. While I do believe that raw meaty bones would be best (because of the teeth cleaning and recreational benefits) without any outdoor space this would be a messy option. The ground meat and bone is a great compromise for apartment dwellers. It’s also more space efficient for the small freezers many Brooklynites have. We are able to fit 50 lbs on the top shelf of our freezer measuring 20”x7”.


The second key piece for us is Honest Kitchen’s “Preference” formula. The Honest Kitchen is a phenomenal company that makes human grade freeze dried dog food. When we travel and don’t have access to coolers or refrigerators, Nahla eats their complete meals. For anyone who can’t make the commitment to raw feeding, this is the next best thing. “Preference” is Honest Kitchen’s base mix intended to have meat added to it. Preference ensures that she receives all the vitamins and minerals she needs. The Fiber content of Preference’s vegetables is just as important, considering city dog owners have an intimate relationship with their pet’s bowel movements. Over the past 4 years Nahla hasn’t had a single bout of diarrhea, and with all the poop we pick up, we feel confident declaring her the most regular dog in Brooklyn.

There are a few supplements that round out her meals. Animal Essential’s Plant Enzymes and suplementsProbiotics helps support that world class digestion we just mentioned. The benefits of salmon oil are almost never ending. Supporting the joints, heart, coat, eyes, and brain it’s an easy decision. If your salmon oil doesn’t include vitamin E you should add that in as well. Finally, on top of living a long life, we hope that she is mobile and pain free for all the years she’s with us. We use Glycoflex which is a joint supplement consisting of glucosamine and chondroitin which helps build and repair cartilage.

All of this surprisingly costs less than feeding premium kibble. A 50 lbs case of food from Armelinos lasts for a month and a half, and fits easily into our small freezer. We cut the 5 lbs logs into halves which fit perfectly into the 8 cup Glad containers. At meal times the Honest Kitchen food gets rehydrated with hot tap water, we add the meat and supplements. Prep time takes 2 minutes max and when she is done we wash her bowl, and washing the bowl after each meal should be done even if you’re feeding kibble.

Fortunately Nahla was a relatively healthy puppy when we made the switch. Even so we have seen some major improvements. We love to go hiking and ticks are an inevitability in the North East. She had already tested positive for Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis, two tick borne diseases that although manageable are normally carried for life. Since switching, her immune system has strengthened to the point that both the Lyme and Anaplasmosis are undetectable, even with laboratory blood tests. She can now also go crashing through the most tick infested woods and never pick any up without the use of chemical products such as frontline. Also; her ears no longer need to be cleaned and she has had none of the skin issues that seem to plague many dogs today.

If you have a dog who is constantly dealing with ear infections, itchy skin, or gunky eyes give raw feeding a try. If you don’t, it’s still worth it and you will soon take pride in making your dog’s food with love. 

If you are interested we deliver Armelino’s food to Brooklyn for a nominal fee, and are willing to help anyone with additional questions.