What Are Cat Heartworms
Heartworms are a parasitic invertebrate that can find ways into a variety of animals and spread from there. They are foot-long invaders that can create a number of problems for the animal that they infect. These problems can include heart disease, lung disease, and damage to the other organs of the body.
The primary target of heartworms are dogs, and they can have hundreds of worms inside of them, creating problems even after the worms have been removed, assuming that the animal survives.
You may ask, do cats get heartworm?. The answer is a sad yes. Fortunately, cats are less of a target, and as such rarely have more than a few worms inside of them.
The worms usually gestate and grow in a wild animal, usually a canine of some sort such as a fox, a coyote, or a wolf. In rare cases, seals and humans may be the original hosts.
When the worms mature, they fertilize their eggs. When that happens, if they are lucky the host animal will be attacked by mosquitoes, who take the eggs to other animals. Once the eggs are delivered to those other animals, the cycle starts all over again.
In general, heartworms do not live long, only two to four years, and they take an additional month, at seven to eight months, to become adults.
Dogs can be treated, but the same medicines that work for dogs do not work for cats. Sadly, this means that the owner needs to enact preventative measures to protect their cat.
When Must My Cat Be Examined
Heartworm an an infection in cats is extra sturdy to detect than in canines, because of cats are so much a lot much less attainable than canines to have grownup heartworms. The favored methodology for screening cats consists of utilizing every an antigen and an antibody test . Your veterinarian may also use x-rays or ultrasound to seek for heartworm an an infection. Cats must be examined sooner than being positioned on prevention and re-tested as a result of the veterinarian deems acceptable to doc continued publicity and hazard. Because of there is not a authorised remedy for heartworm an an infection in cats, prevention is important.
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Again Prevention Is The Best Treatment
Several products are FDA-approved to prevent heartworms in cats. There are both topical and oral products for cats, and all are given monthly and require a veterinarians prescription. Some heartworm preventives contain other ingredients that are effective against certain intestinal worms and other parasites .
Again, year-round prevention is best! Talk to your cats veterinarian to decide which preventive is best for your cat.
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My Cat’s Recovery From Heartworm Disease
Years ago, I noticed Bubba, my 3-year-old domestic shorthair cat, wasnt acting like himself. Several months after we moved to Hawaii, he developed a weird, asthma-like cough, wasnt eating his food and seemed to be losing weight. This wasnt normal for Bubba, who previously had trouble keeping off the pounds.
I took him to the veterinarian where a checkup and blood test revealed a discouraging diagnosis: Bubba had signs of heartworms. An ultrasound confirmed heartworm disease.
Thankfully, it was a mild case. With restricted activity and a steroid called prednisolone that reduced the disease-caused inflammation, Bubba made a full recovery. Needless to say, I kept him on monthly spot-on heartworm prevention for cats for the rest of his life to reduce the chances of him getting heartworm disease ever again.
Heartworm Prevention For Cats
Luckily, there are plenty of heartworm prevention options for cats.
Most commonly, these are prescription medications, so youll need to talk to your vet before stocking up.
Heartworm prevention for cats is typically available as an oral medication or a topical solution and needs to be administered monthly.
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What Do I Have To Discover Out About Heartworm Testing
Heartworm sickness is a extreme, progressive sickness. The earlier it is detected, the upper the chances the pet will get higher. There are few, if any, early indicators of sickness when a canine or cat is contaminated with heartworms, so detecting their presence with a heartworm test administered by a veterinarian is important. The test requires solely a small blood sample out of your pet, and it actually works by detecting the presence of heartworm proteins. Some veterinarians course of heartworm checks correct of their hospitals whereas others ship the samples to a diagnostic laboratory. In each case, outcomes are obtained quickly. In case your pet checks optimistic, further checks is also ordered.
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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Heartworm Symptoms In Cats
Heartworm symptoms in cats are tricky to spot, mainly because most cats with heartworm are asymptomatic.
On top of that, cats with symptoms are often misdiagnosed because those signs are similar to ones youd see in cats with asthma.
Symptoms of asthma in cats include:
- Fast or labored breathing
Between the lack of visible signs and reliable testing, it can feel almost impossible to tell whether or not your cat even has heartworm disease at all .
How Often Should I Give My Dog Heartworm Medicine
The FDA and AHS recommend that your pet receives heartworm prevention once per month.
In fact, the AHS has come up with the clever lingo Think 12 to help you remember to give a heartworm test every 12 months, and 12 heartworm prevention doses per year.
Note that there are heartworm medicines that last longer, though some injections can last as long as a year before youll need to medicate again.
As we summarized above, whether you adhere to that guideline is entirely up to you and your vet. Monthly prevention is the only way to guarantee that your dog will remain heartworm-free.
Still, if you live in an area with a lower infection prevalence, you may decide that medicating your dog less frequently is an acceptable risk.
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Treatment Of Heartworm In Cats
Unfortunately, the go-to drug that destroys both mature and immature heartworm in dogsmelarsomine dihydrochlorideis not safe for cats, Dr. Zaffarano says.
Thats the hard part of heartworm in cats, she says, adding that theres no way to kill the adult heartworms, so cats have to live with any mature heartworms until the heartworms die.
Instead, youll work with your vet to alleviate symptoms of this disease.
You can try to diminish their inflammation, reduce their cough and, if they have liver problems, you can try and support liver function, Dr. Zaffarano says. Sometimes, you may have to go down the antibiotics or anti-inflammatory path to help with heart function.
Bruce Gordon Kornreich, DVM, a board-certified veterinary cardiologist and associate director of the Cornell Feline Health Center at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York, agrees.
With cats, its supportive maintenance and dealing with inflammation that occurs from these worms, and hopefully you dont have any aberrant migration, he says. If the cat is having trouble with heartworm-associated respiratory disease, your veterinarian can give oxygen and corticosteroids to help with inflammation.
The only thing you can really do, Dr. Zaffarano says, is nurse them through it, hospitalize them for supportive care and hope for a full recovery.
But prevention is key, she emphasizes.
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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Can I Give My Dog Heartworm Medicine Without Testing
Theres a reason why vets wont prescribe your dog more heartworm prevention medicine until theyve had a thorough exam.
Not only is heartworm medicine ineffective on heartworms that have grown past the larval stage, but giving heartworm prevention to a pet with an active infestation can cause serious side effects and health risks.
Once the adult heartworm matures and begins to reproduce within the body, it will release microfilaria into your pets bloodstream.
The heartworm prevention you administer each month will kill these baby worms, but this treatment can cause adverse effects in the process.
For example, dead microfilaria in your dog or cats bloodstream can become the under certain conditions, which can be deadly for your pet- especially those that are older or already unwell.
Do Cats Need Heartworm Medicine/prevention
The problem to keep in mind is that cats need prevention, not medicine.
If you are asking, what should I give my cat for heartworm medicine? then it is too late.
As such, you need to keep in mind that you need a good preventative. Administer it as indicated by the medicines instructions, or by your vet. As noted above, the preventative should be given at least once a month.
For cats, a heartworm preventative is usually a form of macrocyclic lactones, and can be given either topically or orally. Fortunately, they can also prevent other cat problems, such as fleas and ticks. However, you should watch for any allergic reactions from your cat.
Although you may be tempted to do so, keep in mind that only medicines from your veterinarian will prevent heartworms. This means that you should not use such things as essential oils they will not help prevent heartworms. The health of your cat depends on how you take care of them. Keep that in mind when you start debating which medicine to use.
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Feline Heartworm Disease: Separating Fact From Fiction
Elizabeth Clyde-Druin, DVM, received her veterinary degree from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 1991. She is the owner of Clydes Animal Clinic in Mattoon, Illinois, and the Animal Family Vet Care Center of Paris in Paris, Illinois. Her special interests are surgery, dentistry, oncology, and internal medicine. She has been on the board of directors of the American Heartworm Society since 2013.
Routine wellness visits present the ideal time to discuss the importance of feline heartworm prevention with clients. Although most veterinarians recognize that feline heartworm disease can be serious and even life-threatening, far too few clients invest in heartworm prevention for their cats.
The Heartworm Hotline column is presented in partnership between Todays Veterinary Practice and the American Heartworm Society . The goal of the column is to communicate practical and timely information on prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heartworm disease, as well as highlight current topics related to heartworm research and findings in veterinary medicine.
What Are The Signs
Signs of heartworm disease in cats vary from extremely subtle to outright dramatic. If infected, symptoms may include coughing, asthma-like attacks, periodic vomiting, lack of appetite, weight loss, difficulty walking, fainting, seizures, or fluid accumulation in the abdomen. With that being said, it is not uncommon for the first sign in some cases to be sudden collapse or death.
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Does Frontline Plus For Cats Prevent Heartworm
Frontline Plus® contains the insect growth regulator, S-methoprene, and so provides control of eggs and adult fleas. This product is topical and designed as a once-a-month heartworm preventative and flea preventative for dogs and cats as young as 6 weeks old. It also helps control roundworms and hookworms in cats.
Testing For Heartworm Disease Is Cats Is Also More Difficult Than In Dogs
While heartworm antigen tests are very reliable to diagnose a canine infection, a similar test in cats often yields a false negative result due to the sparse amount of mature worms present in feline infections. An antibody test indicates that exposure to heartworm larvae has occurred but does not always mean an infection is currently present. The American Heartworm Society currently recommends checking both an antigen and an antibody test in cats that are possible infected.
The silver lining to feline heartworm disease is that we have great options for heartworm prevention. There are several products available that when applied topically once a month not only protect against heartworm disease but also function as flea and intestinal parasite preventatives. These preventatives are dosed based on weight and should be started no later than 8 weeks of age as kittens are just as susceptible to infection as adult cats.
Heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states but is especially prevalent in the Mid South region. In cats it is difficult to diagnose, even harder to successfully treat, and often fatal. Prevention is the only option to ensure your feline friends are protected so if you have not yet, speak to your veterinarian to determine which preventative is best for your pet.
More information on feline heartworm disease can be found on the American Heartworm Society website.
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How Does Heartworm Prevention Medicine Work
Heartworm prevention medicine kills any heartworm larvae that have infected your cats body within the last 30 days. A monthly dose of heartworm preventative simply prevents the existing heartworms from reaching adulthood. Heartworm prevention only works on larval heartworms, however, and wont kill any existing adult heartworms.
Heartworm Disease What Is It And What Causes It
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 worm called Dirofilaria immitis.The worms are spread through the bite of a mosquito. The dog is the definitive host, meaning that the worms mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring while living inside a dog. The mosquito is the intermediate host, meaning that the worms live inside a mosquito for a short transition period in order to become infective . The worms are called heartworms because the adults live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of an infected animal.
In the United States, heartworm disease is most common along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from the Gulf of Mexico to New Jersey and along the Mississippi River and its major tributaries, but it has been reported in dogs in all 50 states.
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What Is Dirofilariasis Aka: Cat Heartworm
Dirofilaria immitis is a blood-borne parasitic nematode , commonly referred to as cat heartworm. Heartworms in cats are spread through mosquitos carrying cat heartworm larvae. The severity of heartworms in cats is directly dependent upon the number of worms present a cat’s body, the duration of the incubation, and the response of the infected cat.
Although heartworms in felines are less prevalent than in canines, feline heartworms are still a dangerous disease that has been on the rise in America. The risk of heartworm is about equal for both indoor and outdoor cats. If you do not use preventive medication, the risk of contracting cat heartworm disease exponentially increases. This is why preventive cat heartworm medication is so important.
What Are The Signs Of Heartworm Disease In Cats
Signs of heartworm disease in cats can be very subtle or very dramatic. Symptoms may include coughing, asthma-like attacks, periodic vomiting, lack of appetite, or weight loss. Occasionally an affected cat may have difficulty walking, experience fainting or seizures, or suffer from fluid accumulation in the abdomen. Unfortunately, the first sign in some cases is sudden collapse of the cat, or sudden death.
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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.
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