The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine has announced the approval of ProHeart 12 (moxidectin) extended-release injectable suspension for dogs 12 months of age and older for the prevention of heartworm disease caused by Dirofilaria immitis for 12 months. ProHeart 12 is also approved for the treatment of existing larval and adult hookworm infections.
Heartworm disease is a serious disease that results in severe lung disease, heart failure, other organ damage, and death in pets, mainly dogs, cats, and ferrets. It is caused by a parasitic roundworm called Dirofilaria immitis. The worms are spread through the bite of a mosquito. While living inside a dog, the worms mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring. The worms are called “heartworms” because the adults live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of an infected animal.
In the early stages of the disease, many dogs show few symptoms or no symptoms at all. The longer the infection persists, the more likely symptoms will develop. Active dogs, dogs heavily infected with heartworms, or those with other health problems often show pronounced clinical signs.
Signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. Dogs with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockages of blood flow within the heart leading to a life-threatening form of cardiovascular collapse. This is called caval syndrome, and is marked by a sudden onset of labored breathing, pale gums, and dark bloody or coffee-colored urine. Without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage, few dogs survive.
Many factors must be considered when assessing your pet’s risk, even if heartworms do not seem to be a problem in your local area. Your community may have a greater incidence of heartworm disease than you realize—or you may unknowingly travel with your pet to an area where heartworms are more common. Heartworm disease is also spreading to new regions of the country each year. Stray and neglected dogs and certain wildlife such as coyotes, wolves, and foxes can be carriers of heartworms. Mosquitoes blown great distances by the wind and the relocation of infected pets to previously uninfected areas also contribute to the spread of heartworm disease (this happened following Hurricane Katrina when 250,000 pets, many of them infected with heartworms, were “adopted” and shipped throughout the country).
The fact is that heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states, and risk factors are impossible to predict. Multiple variables, from climate variations to the presence of wildlife carriers, cause rates of infections to vary dramatically from year to year—even within communities. And because infected mosquitoes can come inside, both outdoor and indoor pets are at risk.
For that reason, the American Heartworm Society recommends that you “think 12:” (1) get your pet tested every 12 months for heartworm and (2) give your pet heartworm preventive year-round (12 months).
ProHeart 12 injections will be available by appointment only beginning in September. Your pet must be up-to-date with their annual wellness exam with one of our veterinarians and have a negative heartworm test within the last 12 months. Call 603-332-3358, visit our make an appointment page here, or download our free mobile app “AHC Rochester” to request an appointment!