Like with everything, there are good things and bad things about getting your pet a heartworm shot. Heartworm prevention is vital in keeping your pet safe, healthy and happy. However, there are many different preventatives available on the market. Learn more about the heartworm shot here in order to help you decide if it is the best option for you and your pet.
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 Plus, Heartgard for dogs, or Sentinel Spectrum and 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 to dogs. However, preventative measures are available for both dogs and cats, and according to the American Heartworm Society (AHS), heartworm prevention for dogs is much safer and much less costly than treatment.
While oral and topical heartworm meds for dogs 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 heartworm pills for dogs, 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 absorbable lipids. 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 reactions, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, weight loss, weakness, increased thirst/urination, and bleeding/bruising.
Prevents Dogs From Contracting Other Mosquito-Borne Diseases
Heartworm, a disease that can be transmitted by mosquitoes, doesn't present itself in dogs until it's already too late. While heartworm is bad enough on its own, other mosquito-borne diseases cause even more harm to your dog. These include fleas and intestinal parasites (roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms). The Zika virus has also been known to infect dogs as well.
All of these diseases are preventable with routine vaccines, which are given in conjunction with each other every year at the same time as heartworm medicine like Sentinel Spectrum and Sentinel for dogs. A single shot will protect your pet against all four threats—heartworm plus fleas and intestinal parasites—for up to 12 months!
Convenient and Effective but They Aren’t Right for Every Pet
If you're thinking about getting your pet vaccinated for heartworms, it's important to know that not all pets will respond well to the medication. In some cases, your pet may be allergic to the dog heartworm med or have an adverse reaction to it. Heartworm shots are also expensive and may not be covered by insurance.
If your dog exhibits any of these signs within a week of receiving a heartworm shot:
Then you should take him or her back to the vet immediately.
Heartworm Shots: Important Safety Information
ProHeart 6 should not be used on dogs who are sick, underweight, or 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.
Safe as Injecting a Vaccine to Protect Against Viral Diseases
Vaccines are administered in the form of an injection, but this does not mean that you should be concerned about side effects or pain. Vaccines are recommended by veterinarians and doctors because they work well on your pet's body and do not cause any harm.
Vaccines are highly effective when used correctly. The main goal of vaccination is to prevent an infection from happening in the first place rather than treating an existing infection with medication or other remedies after it has occurred.
In most cases, pets need only receive one dose of a vaccine before they will be protected from diseases such as distemper or parvovirus for life! However, some animals may require multiple doses over time if their immune systems aren't strong enough initially; these animals should still see their veterinarian annually for booster shots until they achieve sufficient immunity levels (meaning their bodies can fight off any potential infections).
We hope you found this article helpful. If you're considering heartworm shots for your pet, make sure to talk with your veterinarian about which type of shot is best for them. We also recommend asking about other options that may be available in your areas, such as oral medication or topical application of preventative medications like flea and tick products.
More on Heartworm Disease
Cat Heartworm Treatments Comparison Guide
Can People Get Heartworms?
How Testing For Heartworm Changes With Life Cycle