What Heartworm Preventative Is Best For My Pet
There are a number of different heartworm preventatives available. One that we often recommend is a chewable tablet flavored to taste appealing to pets, known as Heartgard.
Certain preventatives may suit your pet best, depending on their breed, health conditions and lifestyle. Its also extremely important to administer the correct dosage for your pets weight, to ensure your pet receives a strong enough dose to kill all heartworm larvae, or conversely that your pet receives too strong a dose.
You should talk to your vet about which preventative is best for you. They can also answer any other questions or concerns you may have about heartworm preventatives.
Its best to avoid herbal and homeopathic heartworm preventatives and treatments, because there are no scientific studies to prove their effectiveness. Some, including wormwood and black walnut, may even be toxic in large doses.
How Heartworm Is Transmitted
In an infected dog or cat, female heartworms release babies into the animals bloodstream, which are picked up by mosquitoes when they suck the animals blood. It then takes between 10 and 14 days for the microfilaria to become larvae, at which point theyre infectious. When a mosquito carrying heartworm larvae bites their next victim, the larvae enter the bloodstream through the new bite wound. It then takes about six months for the larvae to become adult heartworms. Female worms that reach the adult stage can range in size from six to 14 inches long and are about one-eighth inch wide male worms are about half that size.
Because the parasite is transmitted via mosquitoes, heartworm disease is more prevalent in certain geographic regions and climates where mosquitoes remain active year-round. However, other factors such as the country-wide relocation of tens of thousands of infected cats and dogs after Hurricane Katrina, or the migration of heartworm carriers such as coyotes can also affect heartworm disease risk in other areas.
Does Heartworm Medicine Have Side Effects
Not all heartworm medications use the same ingredients, so different breeds can react to them differently. Speak to your vet about which medicine is best for your dog based on their breed, age, and health.
Our Orlando veterinarian Dr. Qasim understands all of these potential threats and can prescribe the best medication for your pet.
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Can Cats Get Heartworm
While heartworm most commonly affects dogs, cats can get heartworm, too. Theyre considered atypical hosts and when cats do get heartworm, there are usually fewer worms at once, but there is still a risk to the cats health if they get heartworms.
Unlike in dogs, there is no treatment that can kill adult heartworms in cats. Heartworm prevention is therefore essential for the life and health of cats.
Cost Will Also Be Relevant For Your Cats Heartworm Prevention Meds
Because you have to give this medication to your cat consistently for the rest of their life, it needs to fit into your budget. While we never like to make decisions based on money alone, cost will be an important factor when choosing a good heartworm medication for your cat. Fortunately, you dont have to sacrifice efficacy less expensive medications are often just slightly more inconvenient to give to your cat or require more consistent application.
Pro tip: Once you have your prescription, you can purchase your cats heartworm medication as a subscription or autoship from popular online pet sites. You can even fill the prescription at large warehouse stores like Costco or Sams Club at a discounted price.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Heartworm Disease In Cats
Not all cats with heartworm disease show symptoms. Some cats are able to spontaneously rid themselves of heartworms without having any symptoms. However, some infected cats die suddenly from heartworm disease without ever showing signs of being sick. Cats with heartworm disease may have very nonspecific symptoms that mimic many other cat diseases. These nonspecific symptoms include vomiting, decreased activity and appetite, and weight loss. Cats with heartworm disease rarely show signs of heart failure.
In cats that show symptoms of heartworm disease, respiratory signs are the most obvious due to the lung damage caused by the heartworms. Cats typically show symptoms of heartworm disease at two time points when the immature heartworms arrive in the arteries of the heart and lungs and when the adult heartworms die.
The immature heartworms arrive in the heart and lung arteries about 3 to 4 months after a cat is bitten by an infected mosquito. Many of these immature heartworms die, causing a strong inflammatory response in the cats lungs. This response is called heartworm associated respiratory disease because respiratory signs, such as trouble breathing, increased respiratory rate, and cough, are the most obvious. It may be difficult to distinguish HARD from feline asthma or feline bronchitis.
Do Cats Need Heartworm Preventatives
If you live in an area where heartworm is prevalent its likely that you give your dogs heartworm preventatives. But does your cat need this as well?
First lets talk about what heartworm is. Unlike other worms our kitties can get that live in the intestines, heartworms live in the heart. A lot of people think that if they do a regular deworming on their pooches or kitties, they will be taking care of any heartworm too but this isnt the case.
Heartworms are contracted one way and that is through the bite of an infected mosquito. So lets think about that for both our canine and felines. When are mosquitoes out? During the warmer weather. Have you ever seen a mosquito during a cold winter? Nope! So just a side note for our canine owners. We dont want our pooches to get heartworm but we do NOT need to give them a preventative year round, just sayin! When I lived in the Midwest, I would give heartworm preventatives until the second hard frost and then would stop for the winter months. I would then start back up in May after getting all my pooches tested first.
Cats & Heartworms
For me personally that answer would be no. However, we dont want to just ignore that heartworm is out there. Before running to the vet and putting Fluffy on heartworm preventatives, lets think about a few things. Since our kitties are mostly indoor and are not the ideal host for heartworm, what can we do to protect our cats when we opt out of giving the preventatives?
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What Does That Mean For My Cat
Cats usually have a much smaller heartworm load since they are not the definite host, so instead of hundreds of heartworms, they may only be infected by a few. That doesnt sound so bad. What harm can two or three heartworms do?
Unfortunately for cats it is not the heartworm that causes issues but their immune systems response. The presence of adult heartworms in a cat can trigger the cats body to undergo an intense resistance effort, which can then lead to Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease , which shows symptoms in the form of coughing and difficult breathing. Unfortunately, these symptoms are often only shown several months after the cat is infected, and are occasionally misdiagnosed as feline asthma or allergic bronchitis.
Myth #: Heartworm Is A Dog’s Disease
Cats are getting heartworm far more often than previously thought. I was a skeptic about the frequency of feline heartworm infection, so I conducted a yearlong study examining shelter cats in the Gulf Coast area. The results certainly got my attention. I found that 26 percent of the cats had been infected with heartworm larvae at some point in their lives, and I found adult heartworms in 10 percent of the cats. Compare this to the feline leukemia infection rate of 5 percent and feline immunodeficiency virus rate of 6 percent, and you can see that feline heartworm is much more widespread.
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What Should I Know About Heartworm Preventatives
Preventatives are regular medications that you should give your pet to protect them from heartworm. There are a number of different brands and types of preventatives, including pills/chewables, topical medications and injections. Whichever type you choose, they need to be applied year-round in order to keep your pet safe.
Heartworm preventatives work by eliminating the early stages of the heartworm parasite, before they can mature into worms.
As heartworms can mature from larvae to worms quickly , and then can no longer be eliminated by preventatives, its extremely important to administer preventatives on a strict schedule.
What Are Heartworm Symptoms In Cats
Symptoms of heartworm in cats include respiratory issues such as coughing and rapid breathing, and weight loss and vomiting. As these are often symptoms of other diseases, it can be hard to identify a heartworm infection in cats, and sometimes the first sign that somethings wrong is a sudden respiratory failure or even death.
Unlike dogs, cats are not typical hosts for heartworm and most worms in cats do not survive to the adult stage. This means that there are often less adult heartworms in infected cats compared to infected dogs, making it harder to identify and treat the disease before its too late. This is why preventing your cat from contracting heartworm in the first place with regular heartworm control is so important.
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Is There A Cure For Heartworm
There is no treatment for heartworm disease in cats, only supportive care, which makes heartworm prevention even more important. Treatment manages any clinical signs that develop, such as breathing difficulties or a cough. This treatment may include steroids to decrease inflammation in the lungs. Occasionally, cats may be able to clear the infection themselves further testing can determine if this is the case. Unfortunately, some cats can pass away suddenly from heartworm disease, although this is not that common.
There is a treatment for dogs, which takes an average of about 6 months to complete, during which time your dog must stay on bed rest. The treatment itself is also not without risk, because the process of killing heartworms can cause a severe, life-threatening anaphylactic reaction. Heartworm treatment is also expensive and the injections can be painful for the dog. For these reasons, heartworm prevention for dogs is by far the best option, and treatment if needed should be administered as early as possible.
Testing And Diagnosis Of Feline Heartworm Disease
Regular testing is good practice because the signs and symptoms of heartworm disease in cats can be hard to spot. Using a small blood sample from your cat, a veterinarian can do an antigen test and/or an antibody test, which will show if your cat has been exposed to heartworm larvae. The antigen test will only be effective about five months after your cat has been bitten by an infected mosquito, so even a clear antigen test isnt a guarantee that your cat doesnt have heartworms.
Your veterinarian can also do an ultrasound or x-ray to see if there are heartworms in the cats body. Diagnosing heartworm disease in cats is a complex and involved process that can be expensive.
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How Are Cat Heartworms Transmitted
Upwards of 30 species of mosquitoes can act as cat heartworm transmitters. Mosquitoes ingest immature heartworm larvae, called microfilariae, by feeding on either an infected cat or dog. The microfilariae develop further for 10 to 30 days in the mosquito’s gut and then enter parts of its mouth.
When an infected mosquito bites a cat, it injects the heartworm larvae into the cat. The larvae then migrate and mature over a period of several months, eventually ending up in the right side of the heart and the pulmonary arteries. Once this occurs, they mature into adult cat heartworms, and can reproduce about six months from the time of invasion. Approximately eight months after the invasion, cat heartworm begins to produce a new crop of microfilariae that will live in the cat’s blood for about one month. By the time this occurs, most cats begin showing symptoms of cat heartworm and the disease can become fatal very rapidly.
Five Things You Need To Know About Heartworm Disease And Your Cat
If you think dogs are the only ones who get heartwormdisease, I invite you to reconsider. Although dogs are the more natural host for this disease, cats are also susceptible to heartworm infection. It is estimated by the American Heartworm Society that, in any given community, the incidence of heartworm infection in cats is approximately 5% to 15% percent that of dogs who are not on preventive medication.While the canine and feline versions of heartworm disease share some similarities, there are some striking differences. I discuss these differences below, within the five feline facts pertaining to heartworm disease.1. The disease targets the lungsMost dogs with heartworm disease involve many worms and the heart and lungs are the prime targets for damage. In contrast, only one or two worms are typically present in an affected cat1,and the disease takes its primary toll on the lungs. The cats immune system goes into overdrive in response to immature heartworms located within the lungs and/or fragments of dying, adult heartworms that flow through blood vessels feeding into the lungs. The result of this immune system activity is a whole lot of inflammation that can wreak havoc within the lungs. The acronym HARD is used to describe feline lung disease caused by heartworms1. 2. Common symptoms of heartworm diseaseCommon symptoms of heartworm disease include:
Questions for your veterinarian
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Is Heartworm Medicine Really Necessary The Truth Exposed
Heartworm medicine can add up to quite an expense each month- especially if you have multiple pets who need it.
As such, many owners wonder if its absolutely necessary to medicate their pets on such a strict schedule in order to prevent heartworm disease.
The crux of the matter is: Is heartworm medicine really necessary?
While some dissenting voices in the vet world believe holistic approaches or multi-month approaches are OK, the overall consensus is that its far safer to medicate your dog all year long.
That being said, its possible to medicate your dog or cat less than 12 times per year. For example, do so every three months or every other month and your pet may never succumb to full-on heartworm infestation.
In fact, while it is present in all 50 states, heartworm disease in the USA is still somewhat rare in certain areas. However keep in mind that, even with perfect blood testing, its impossible to know just how common heartworm is among wild dogs and other infected animals.
Additionally, we cant overstate that outside contributors, such as weather, are largely beyond our control. As such, its possible and even expected to see heartworm disease cases spike during mosquito booms and low numbers during mosquito busts.
So, is heartworm medicine really necessary? Science says yes, but in reality no one is forcing you to treat your dogs- so its up to you to draw your own conclusions from the facts that are available.
Cats Can Get Heartworms Too
April is National Heartworm Awareness Month, so heres something you need to be aware of: Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not the only pets that can get heartworms. Cats get heartworms, too.
How do cats become infected with heartworms?
Cats become infected just like dogs do. A hungry mosquito lands on a cat and takes a blood meal by inserting its sharp mouthpart into the cat. The mosquito deposits immature heartworm larvae on the surface of the cats skin. These wiggly larvae enter through the mosquitos feeding channel and migrate around the cats body. As they travel in the cat, the larvae molt and mature, eventually making their home in the blood vessels of the heart and lungs.
What happens when a cat is infected with heartworms?
In the early stages of Feline Heartworm Disease, the cat may experience respiratory problems related to the inflammation caused by the presence of the heartworm larvae in the pulmonary blood vessels. Special stem cells called pulmonary intravascular macrophages try to ward off the heartworms. These cells live in the tiny blood vessels in the cats lungs and fight to get rid of intruders, but the cat becomes ill as these cells try to kill off the larvae. The name for this stage of feline heartworm infection is Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease , and the cat can die from it.
What are the signs of feline heartworms?
What can be done for a cat with heartworms?
What cats need heartworm prevention?
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Should Dogs And Cats Take Heartworm Preventatives
Written bySmall Door’s medical experts
Heartworm disease is a serious, progressive and potentially fatal infection in pets, with few early signs of infection. For dogs, prevention is far superior to heartworm treatment and for cats, there is no treatment for heartworm. Preventing your pet from becoming infected is better for their health, less expensive, and much less time-consuming than treating heartworm itself.
Causes Of Heartworm In Cats
Heartworms are spread through mosquito bites.
Mosquitos can carry infective heartworm larvae that enter a cats body when a mosquito feeds. The larvae migrate from the bite wound through the body and mature until they reach the heart and blood vessels of the lungs as adults.
Here, the larvae reproduce, releasing immature heartworms, known as microfilaria, into the cats blood. These microfilariae can then infect the next animal through a mosquito bite.
It is important to note that the presence of microfilaria in the blood is in fact uncommon in cats and has been seen in less than 20 percent of infected cats.
Cats have a very robust immune response to heartworm infection, so more than 90 percent of the infective larvae do NOT make it to adulthood.
For those that do, they tend to be single-sex, which means they cannot reproduce. This can make the detection of heartworms in cats very difficult.
One important thing to know about heartworms in cats is that the worms do not need to reach adulthood to start affecting a cats health.
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