Image via iStock.com/Capuski
By JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM
Heartworm disease is a serious, potentially life-threatening disease that is caused by the parasite Dirofilaria immitis, which is carried by mosquitoes. Although both dogs and cats are affected by heartworms, dogs are most commonly affected.
Heartworm Life Cycle
Heartworm medication does not stop the infection from occurring, nor does it kill adult heartworms. They will kill larval heartworms that have infected your dog before they become adult heartworms. This is why it’s so important to stay current with heartworm prevention medicines.
It helps to understand the heartworm life cycle:
Adult female heartworms within an infected animal’s body release baby heartworms called microfilaria into the bloodstream.
A mosquito that bites the infected animal ingests the microfilaria.
Inside the mosquito, the microfilaria develop into infective larvae.
An infected mosquito bites an animal and injects heartworm larvae into the bloodstream.
Within about six months, larvae mature into adult heartworms and live for several years in an animal’s heart, lungs and major heart and lung blood vessels.
The cycle begins again when the adult females release microfilaria.
Heartworm Disease Is Serious
Pets with heartworm disease have a mild and persistent cough and decreased appetite. They also lose weight and are reluctant to exercise. Severe heartworm disease, which occurs when heartworms become so abundant that they block blood flow in the heart, is often fatal if left untreated.
The seriousness of heartworm disease makes its prevention extremely important. Several types of heartworm prevention medications are currently available. For example, Heartgard is a heartworm medication for dogs that is given by mouth; Revolution for cats is applied topically to the skin once month. These medications, when used year-round, provide effective heartworm prevention. You MUST have your dog tested for heartworms before you can order prescription heartworm medications.
But what if your dog doesn’t like taking Heartgard soft chews? Fortunately, there is another option: the ProHeart 6 heartworm prevention injection. ProHeart 6 is a heartworm medicine for dogs that provides a new way to protect dogs from heartworm disease.
Which Pets Can Take ProHeart 6?
ProHeart 6 is indicated for healthy dogs that are six months and older. Dogs that are sick, debilitated or underweight, or have a history of weight loss, cannot receive ProHeart 6.
What Makes ProHeart 6 Different?
What sets ProHeart 6 apart from other heartworm products is that it is injectable and lasts for six months. Dogs would need only two yearly injections of ProHeart 6 to remain fully protected from heartworms.
How Does ProHeart 6 Work?
ProHeart 6 contains a drug called moxidectin, which paralyzes and kills heartworm larvae. ProHeart 6 also kills hookworms, which live in the intestine.
The moxidectin is contained within tiny structures called microspheres. When ProHeart 6 is injected, these microspheres slowly dissolve and release moxidectin. The moxidectin then travels to fat tissue, which acts as a reservoir for the medication, providing six months of heartworm protection.
Is ProHeart 6 Safe?
ProHeart 6 is a very safe drug and can be given to special populations, such as pregnant and lactating female dogs. Allergic symptoms, including hives, itching and facial swelling, are the most common negative side effects.
Severe allergic symptoms, such as difficulty breathing and collapse, are less common and may occur within the first hour after ProHeart 6 is injected. An allergic reaction may occur if ProHeart 6 is given at the same time as other vaccines.
ProHeart 6 can also cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and changes in appetite or physical activity level. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog has an allergic reaction or any signs of illness after receiving a ProHeart 6 injection.
How Much Does ProHeart 6 Cost?
The cost of ProHeart 6 is about the same as six months’ worth of other pet prescription heartworm medicine. The cost varies according to a dog’s size. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you what the per-injection cost of ProHeart 6 would be for your dog.
Can I Administer ProHeart 6 at Home?
No. To ensure the proper dose is given, ProHeart 6 must be prepared very carefully before it is injected. Therefore, only a veterinarian who has been trained and certified to administer ProHeart 6 can give the injection. Visit the ProHeart 6 website to find a veterinarian in your area who is certified to administer ProHeart 6.
Heartworm prevention in dogs is an important part of responsible pet ownership. Discuss ProHeart 6 with your veterinarian to determine if it is a good choice for your dog.