Heartworms are parasites transmitted by mosquitos who leave a larval form of the parasite behind when they bite. When the heartworms reach adulthood, they travel to the lungs, and if left untreated, can cause a whole host of health problems that threaten your pet’s survival. That is why most people choose to give their pets heartworm preventatives like Heartgard or Sentinel for dogs.
Dogs tend to be targeted by heartworms more often than cats, and because of this, treatment for heartworm disease is only available for dogs. However, preventative measures are available to both dogs and cats, and according to the American Heartworm Society (AHS), prevention is much safer and much less costly than treatment.
While oral and topical medications are the most traditional choices for heartworm prevention, some veterinarians endorse heartworm shots. Heartworm preventative shots are available only to dogs at this time, and as with any medication, there are pros and cons. Read on to decide if heartworm shots are right for your pet.
Heartworm Shots: What Are They?
Unlike oral or topical medications that require monthly dosing, heartworm shots are administered just twice a year. ProHeart 6 (Moxidectin) is the only FDA-approved heartworm shot and it provides six months of protection. It also treats hookworm infections.
ProHeart 6 is a unique preventative option because it uses microspheres to prolong the effects of the active ingredient moxidectin. Microspheres are small, solid spheres made of an absorbable lipid. The active ingredient, moxidectin, is dispersed throughout these spheres. When the medication is injected, these spheres begin to dissolve, slowly releasing moxidectin into the dog’s body. Moxidectin is a neurotoxin that paralyzes and kills parasites.
To ensure that dosing is accurate, ProHeart 6 can only be administered by a certified veterinarian. It is injected subcutaneously (under the skin) on either the left or right side of the base of a dog’s neck.
Heartworm Shots: Pros and Cons
It is important to do plenty of research before deciding on a heartworm preventative for your pet. Here we will present some pros and cons of heartworm shots.
Heartworm Shots Pros
- Because heartworm shots are administered only twice a year, you won’t have to worry about forgetting your pet’s monthly dosing. Forgetting your pet’s dosing puts them at risk for heartworm disease.
- The 6-month duration of the shot and the need for a veterinarian to administer it encourages twice-annual check-ups.
- In addition to preventing heartworms, ProHeart 6 also treats hookworm infections.
- ProHeart 6 is FDA-approved.
Heartworm Shot Cons
- ProHeart 6 is only available to dogs.
- ProHeart 6 can only be administered by a certified veterinarian.
- ProHeart 6 cannot be used in dogs under 6 months of age or be started in dogs over 7 years of age.
- Unlike most monthly chewable preventatives, ProHeart 6 does not protect against common intestinal parasites like whipworms, roundworms, and hookworms (though it does treat hookworm infections).
- Some adverse side effects have been reported, including allergic reaction, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, weight loss, weakness, increased thirst/urination, and bleeding/bruising.
Heartworm Shots: Important Safety Information
ProHeart 6 should not be used on dogs who are sick, underweight, or who have a history of weight loss. The product should be used with caution in dogs who have allergies or a history of adverse allergic reactions.
More on Heartworm Disease
Cat Heartworm Treatments Comparison Guide
Can People Get Heartworms?
How Testing For Heartworm Changes With Life Cycle