Concerns over a heartworm medicine for dogs

Thursday, September 9th 2004, 1:18 pm
By: News On 6

A popular heartworm medicine for dogs may be unsafe. The drug ProHeart 6 was recalled at the request of the FDA after the agency received reports of animals suffering adverse reactions and even death.

The company that produces the drug voluntarily pulled it, but stands by the safety of its product. As the News on 6's Heather Lewin explains, many local veterinarians and pet owners agree and say they want to keep using the medicine.

Meet Jigger, a 12-year old Yorkshire terrier. She's been on ProHeart 6- a now recalled heartworm medicine-for three years without any problems.

"None whatsoever, she never acted any different than when she was taking it orally before they started these shots, none whatsoever." This yorkie's doctor says she's not alone. Dr. Dan Danner a member of the Oklahoma State Veterinary Board says 85% of his dog clients are on ProHeart 6.

The recall has him very concerned, but not for the reasons you might think. “It's pretty frustrating when you've got a quality product. I've used it for well over three years with hundreds and hundreds of dogs and we've never had a reaction." More than 5,000 dogs nationwide reportedly have had adverse reactions to the drug, but when you put that into perspective with the millions of doses sold over the past three years, the odds are less than 1 in 31,000 that an animal will have a problem.

Dr. Danner says he doesn't understand why those numbers would keep an item off the shelf. “You're gonna have at least one dog in 31,000 come up with something bizarre no matter what it's on." Danner also says he believes his clients are safer on the drug, because the alternative to the twice a year shots is a monthly pill administered by the owner. And if you forget a month or two, that's all it takes for the deadly parasite to get started.

That's why despite the reported risks, Liz Newman wants to keep her dog on the drug. "She's just never had any problems, that didn't concern me. As we age we're all gonna get some things and I want her to have the best protection." Dr. Danner says his clinic will comply with the FDA ruling, but he personally would continue to use ProHeart Six on his own pets.

Some of the reported side effects include: sudden lethargy, uncontrolled bleeding, vomiting, diarrhea and seizures.

In addition to Dr. Danner, the News on 6 spoke with several local clinics and none had heard of any problems with the drug. It's maker, Fort Dodge Animal Health is cooperating with the FDA, but also asking for an independent investigation.

If your dog is on this medicine, call your vet about an alternative.