Heartworm Prevention Pills vs. Injections - What’s The Difference?

April 16, 2023
Amber LaRock - LVT & Vetted Vet Pro
pets, heartworms

April is National Heartworm Awareness Month, so we are focusing on critical heartworm education that all pet parents should be aware of! Though heartworm disease exists in every state across the country, so many pet parents are still unaware of this common condition.

Heartworm disease is a dangerous blood parasite transmitted by mosquitoes, and it can put major stress on a dog’s heart and lungs. Heartworm preventatives are the only way to fully protect your little one, so it’s important to know the best preventative options available!

When it comes to heartworm preventatives for dogs, you will likely see two main options - injectable heartworm prevention and pill heartworm prevention for dogs. We want you to have the tools needed to make the best decision for your pup, so let’s discuss everything you need to know below!

Before we get started, we suggest downloading the Vetted app so you can access our pet care reminders feature! Just enter the dates of your pet’s heartworm prevention dose each month, and we will make sure that you stay on top of their heartworm protection moving forward!

What Are Heartworms In Dogs?

Heartworms in dogs are a microscopic worm that can be transmitted from infected mosquitoes to dogs. Heartworms can enter the dog’s bloodstream through the infected mosquito’s bite, allowing these worms full access to the pet’s cardiovascular system. 

They may be tiny, immature worms when they first infect the dog, but they will soon mature into adult heartworms that cause fatal health complications. If heartworms are able to mature to their adult size and multiply within a dog’s body, they can eventually cause a blockage of blood flow within the heart. This situation is life threatening, and many dogs lose their lives to this complication each year. 

If you are a proud cat parent, you may wonder if your cat can get heartworms as well. Heartworm disease is very rare in cats, as dogs are the natural host of the heartworm. Cats are not an ideal host for the heartworm, so the worms cannot thrive as well in a cat’s body. Most pet cats also live indoors and do not have as much exposure to infected mosquitoes, so this decreases their risk as well. 

How Do Heartworm Preventatives For Dogs Work?

Many believe that heartworm prevention works in the same way that flea and tick preventatives do, but this is actually not the case. While flea and tick prevention works to kill the fleas and ticks once they bite the dog’s skin, heartworm prevention kills the baby heartworms that your dog has already been infected with. 

Heartworm prevention often contains ingredients such as ivermectin or milbemycin, and these ingredients are known to kill immature heartworms within the bloodstream. Your dog’s heartworm prevention releases small amounts of these chemicals when they get their dose, allowing the ingredients to kill the immature heartworms before they can mature and multiply. 

These medications prevent the worms from growing into adult heartworms that can cause serious damage. This is why heartworm prevention must be given consistently and without any gaps.

Heartworm Pills vs. Heartworm Injections

Now that you understand how heartworm preventatives for dogs work, it’s time to break down the differences between pill and injectable prevention. Once you have a better understanding of each option, you can determine what is best for your little one moving forward. 

Pill heartworm prevention: Heartworm preventative pills work by releasing ingredients that kill immature heartworms in the bloodstream each time the pill or chew is given. When given consistently each month, pill prevention prevents these baby heartworms from growing into adult heartworms that cause serious damage. However, you must give their HW pills at the same time each month for it to work properly. Any months missed can lead to heartworm disease. 

Injectable heartworm prevention: Proheart offers an injectable heartworm prevention that only needs to be given once a year at your vet’s office. It contains the active ingredient known as moxidectin, and this agent hides out in your pet’s connective tissue once it is given. The medication is designed to be slow-dissolving, so it is then released evenly over a 1 year period into your dog’s body. This allows the ingredient to kill the heartworms on a regular basis, without the need for a monthly pill. 

Each option has the same effectiveness, so no option is better than the other. 

What Is The Best Heartworm Preventative For My Dog?

At the end of the day, it is up to you to decide which option is best for your pet. Both pills and injectable heartworm preventatives have the same ability to kill immature heartworms, so the benefits will come down to your lifestyle and your current budget. 

For example, if you are known to forget about your pet’s heartworm prevention pill on occasion, then maybe injectable prevention is a more realistic way to keep your pet protected. However, if you are good about remembering their doses, yet you are currently on a budget, then purchasing a few months of heartworm prevention pills at a time can be easier on your wallet. 

If you are struggling to determine which is the best option for your pet, then you can always reach out to our skilled Vet Pros on the Vetted app. Our 24/7 pet parent guidance center is staffed with veterinary professionals that are ready to answer any of your questions!