› Garlic for Heartworm Treatment

Garlic & Ginger As a Heartworm Treatment 

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Could garlic, used by dog owners for many reasons, also be used for heartworm?  It’s considered by many to be an effective flea, tick and mosquito repellent if put in a dog’s food regularly.  It’s commonly included in commercial dog dietary supplements along with brewer’s yeast.

If for no other reason, less mosquito bites = less chance of heartworm.

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Garlic Has A Good Reputation For Human Use

It is anecdotally been used for eons to rid humans of intestinal worms, why not heartworm treatment for canines? In “Trends in Parasitology” the effectiveness of garlic as an intestinal parasite treatment was demonstrated. But that was for humans.

heart worm treatment with garlic bulbsgarlic bulbs

But Dogs Aren't Humans

I have purchased brewer’s yeast with garlic from time to time and the Shelties seem to really like it and have no ill effects from it.

But after a while and a bunch of reading I gave it the thumbs down as a heartworm treatment, and stopped giving it to my dogs for any reason. Here’s why:

Garlic is in the onion family. The onion is toxic to dogs and causes the hemoglobin in red blood cells to clump together.

Those clumps, called Heinz bodies, reduce the ability of the blood to carry oxygen. It also causes a shortened lifespan of the red blood cell.

That means that more red blood cells will die than will be replaced by the body at regular intervals. That causes anemia.

While this isn’t the only way to cause Heinz bodies, it is the commonest. You can see the damaged blood cells under a microscope if new methylene blue dye is used.

How Bad Could It Be For Dogs?

How fast and how damaging the anemia, depends on how much was consumed.  

The people who swear by garlic for their dogs will insist that it does them no harm. When I give the commercial supplements, I don’t see any adverse reactions in my dogs either.

However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t harming the dog’s health just because it isn’t clinically obvious yet.

One veterinary article states as little as 6 to 12 oz of onion can cause blood disorders in a dog the size of a typical sheltie (20 lbs). Garlic, being in the onion family could do the same.  The poisoning can happen with a single large ingestion or small doses over time. That's what originally put the last nail in the coffin for me.

Is Heartworm Treatment Worth The Risk.

On the flip side, recently I have found articles refuting problems using garlic

Historically, over 22 years and 900 million doses of garlic there have been only 2 adverse side effects reported.

Hmmmmm, much better track record than most human medications prescribed by MDs to their human patients.

A safe dose for a 20lb dog would be one average sized FRESH clove, crushed or minced, daily.

If you want to learn more about the uses for garlic click here.

Ginger for Heartworm Preventative

ginger rootginger root

I was able to dig up a small trial on ginger for heartworm that showed a ton of promise. Another trial done several years later also substantiated this effect of ginger on heartworm.

Now, granted it has not been replicated beyond these two studies far as I have found, but it is a start.

Considering the bias with regard to publishing trial results on drugs in general, I am going to remain cautiously optimistic. The video below is a bit off topic but explains quite well what I’m talking about and besides, the physician is an entertaining presenter.

With that being said, I am choosing to experiment with ginger for heartworm preventative.

So these two trials I mentioned were conducted using ginger as a heartworm preventative AS WELL AS a treatment for the actual disease for dogs. The first used alcoholic extracts of the herb which was injected subcutaneously (100 mg/kg) in dogs naturally infected with heartworm. There were 12 injections total.

This reduced microfilarial concentrations in the blood by 98%. WOW!

The second trial, in 1990 used aquaeous extracts and also found it to have microfilaricidal effects on heartworm. I didn’t see specific percentages of efficacy in the abstract however.

In 1990, it was also found to kill Anisakis larvae in the lab environment. Anisakiasis is a common parasitic infection in Japan largely from widespread consumption of raw seafood.

I did not find any studies done on humans however. 

Worth Trying Ginger for Heartworm Preventative

I find it pretty impressive.

Now, I don’t plan to use injections with my dogs. I am going to use oral administration of ginger for heartworm preventative since it would be easier for me and most people willing to give it a try.

It's considered pretty harmless when it comes to side effects when used in humans at reasonable doses. It has been used safely for thousands of years.

Very high doses however can affect normal blood clotting factors, causing abnormal bleeding and it also may affect blood pressure or fetal development, so I won’t be using it during my bitches’ pregnancies. 

One study shows an effect of ginger on rat fetuses where there was "increased embryonic loss" (smaller litter) and more advanced skeletal development with increased weight of female fetuses. 

So we will see how the number of puppies born per litter is effected.

Another study on humans showed no ill effects on the pregnancy with the use of ginger.


I have found ginger as a remedy for motion sickness in dogs to be:

For raw grated product give 3 times a day:

• ¼ teaspoon for toy breeds

• ½ teaspoon for dogs under 35 lbs

• ¾  teaspoon for dogs over 35 lbs Ideally it is to be given three times a day.

For capsules, give three times a day:

100 mg for every 25 lbs. (total 300 mg per day)

The dosage used in the 1987 trial for heartworm was 100 mg per kg of weight which would amount to about 1200 mg for an average 25 lb sheltie. Considerably higher.

But that was for treatment, not preventative. And I have no idea how they came up with that dosage.

I figure I would use a lower dose orally (maybe around 400-500 mg per dose) and monitor intestinal worm activity. I figure it would be a good starting place for using ginger for heartworm preventative.

You can obviously find raw ginger root at the grocery store, but if you are looking for powder, I offer 1lb bags of organic ginger root powder.

I avoid getting any herbs from the cooking isle in the grocery stores because I feel they are not as fresh as buying from an herb store. 

Frequency of Ginger Dosing

This is a total guess on my part. But if 12 injections can do the trick in the trials, I’m thinking either 2 weeks of oral supplement at the therapeutic dose, or a lower dose daily as a supplement.

So for me, maybe getting the powder and mixing it with applesauce and other mineral supplements I normally use would do the trick.

UPDATE 2016: Having done this for a while now, I've reduced the frequency of the 1/2 tsp of powdered ginger (mixed in my home made food supplement) to 3-5 times in a week year round. So far, lab results have been negative for heartworm, and fecals have been negative for intestinal worms. Only time will tell how this experiment will pan out in the long run.

UPDATE 2018: All heart worm tests for my dogs are still negative.

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