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.;
How Is Congenital Heart Disease Treated
The specific treatment will depend on the cause of the heart disease. At this time, few congenital heart abnormalities in the cat other than patent ductus arteriosus can be surgically corrected. When a young kitten is diagnosed with heart disease, diagnostic testing will help determine what the prognosis is and whether medical treatment is necessary. In many situations, if a heart murmur has been detected on a routine examination, but the cat is not showing signs of problems, careful monitoring is the best option.
“The presence of a heart murmur does not necessarily mean that your cat’s quality of life or life expectancy will be affected.”
The presence of a heart murmur does not necessarily mean that your cat’s quality of life or life expectancy will be affected.
Introduction To Heart And Blood Vessel Disorders In Cats
The cardiovascular system includes the heart and the blood vessels . The function of the heart is to pump blood. The right side of the heart pumps blood to the lungs, where oxygen is added to the blood. The left side pumps blood to the rest of the body, where oxygen and nutrients are delivered to tissues, and waste products are removed. The heart is a hollow, muscular organ which, in mammals and birds, is divided into 4 chambers. The muscular tissue is called the myocardium. There are upper chambers on both the left and ride sides of the heart called the left and right atria . There are also 2 lower chambers called the left and right ventricles.
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What Is Heartworm Disease
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the United States and many other parts of the world. It is caused by foot-long worms that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. Heartworm disease affects dogs, cats and ferrets, but heartworms also live in other mammal species, including wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions andin rare instanceshumans. Because wild species such as foxes and coyotes live in proximity to many urban areas, they are considered important carriers of the disease.
The dog is a natural host for heartworms, which means that heartworms that live inside the dog mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. If untreated, their numbers can increase, and dogs have been known to harbor several hundred worms in their bodies. Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs and arteries, and can affect the dogs health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone. For this reason, prevention is by far the best option, and treatmentwhen neededshould be administered as early in the course of the disease as possible.
What Are The Signs
Because HCM can take several weeks, months, or years to progress and most cats will not display any clinical signs until the disease has reached an advanced stage, regular veterinary exams are critical for catching this condition early.
- Murmurs or other abnormal heart sounds
- Irregular breathing sounds
As the disease progresses, your cat may develop more noticeable signs of heart disease, including:
- Lethargy or weakness
- Rapid breathing during periods of rest
- Exercise intolerance
If you notice any of these signs, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately.
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Treatment Of Enlarged Heart In Cats
Treatment for cats with enlarged hearts involves reducing swelling of the heart as well as reducing the amount of fluid accumulating in the chest. This will improve breathing and allow the doctor more time to establish a cause. If it is determined that taurine deficiency is the underlying cause of the DCM, taurine will be administered, but even in these cases, the prognosis is not good. Once cats begin to exhibit symptoms of enlarged heart, it can be too late to treat effectively. Unless your cat is not eating prepared cat food, lack of taurine is not the primary cause, so identifying the culprit takes precious time. For the most part, treatment is focused on improving heart function while a cause can be established.
Diuretics work by helping your cat expel excess fluids that their body might be retaining. Diuretics are usually administered orally, but depending on the condition of your pet, may be given intravenously. There is little risk here but they do not offer a permanent solution.
AADs work by inhibiting the impulses that cause irregular heartbeats. They are not useful if the enlarged heart has progressed to congestive heart failure, though.
This is another stopgap, designed to give your cat’s doctor more time to find an underlying cause.;
When Should A Dog Be Tested For Heartworms
The timing and frequency of heartworm tests depend on many factors. ;Some of these factors include:
- The dogs age when heartworm prevention is started;
- If the owner forgot to give heartworm prevention and for how long;
- If the dog is switched from one type of heartworm prevention to another;
- If the dog recently traveled to an area where heartworm disease is more common; and
- The length of the heartworm season in the region where the dog lives.;
Dogs that are 7 months of age and older should be tested for heartworms before starting heartworm prevention.; A dog may appear healthy on the outside, but on the inside, heartworms may be living and thriving.;;If a heartworm-positive dog is not tested before starting a preventive, the dog will remain infected with adult heartworms until it gets sick enough to show symptoms.;Heartworm preventives do not kill adult heartworms. Also, giving a heartworm preventive to a dog infected with adult heartworms;may be harmful or deadly.; If microfilariae are in the dogs bloodstream, the preventive may cause the microfilariae to suddenly die, triggering a shock-like reaction and possibly death.;
Annual testing of all dogs on heartworm prevention is recommended.; Talk to your dogs veterinarian about the best time for your dogs annual heartworm test.; ;;
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Approaching Cases Of Congestive Heart Failure In Cats
Teamwork, client communication and a good understanding of available treatments are key for optimal management of the disease
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common cause of CHF in cats . Some cats with HCM may also have systolic anterior motion of the mitral valve , which should be considered when planning therapy. Other causes of CHF include dilated cardiomyopathy, restrictive cardiomyopathy and arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, congenital heart disease, minoxidil toxicity and systemic diseases such as hyperthyroidism and anaemia. Some therapeutics have also been associated with CHF.
Recently, a new cause of CHF has been described in cats. This disease, called transient myocardial thickening , mimics HCM on echocardiography but is thought to be due to myocardial swelling associated with cate-cholamine toxicity . Careful history taking may reveal a stressful event often within two weeks of development of CHF. Cats with TMT are usually critical on presentation and accompanied by cardiogenic shock, but following appropriate support are expected to have an excellent long-term outcome.
Why Does It Matter If My Cat Is Overweight
Feline obesity has been associated with many diseases including diabetes, skin disease, and arthritis/joint pain. While you might not see any problems, overweight pets have more risks if they need anesthesia and higher medical costs. Additionally, studies have shown that being overweight increases inflammation throughout the body and we are just learning about a large number of health problems that can be associated with chronic inflammation.
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Recovery Of Enlarged Heart In Cats
If caught quickly enough, the prognosis can be about 50% for survival in cats with enlarged hearts, assuming taurine deficiency is the cause. For examples without a readily apparent trigger, expected recovery rates are very low. Even for those with taurine problems, the chance at survival is not high. Long-term management of the condition depends on the initial trigger, but once a cat has survived and the condition causing the enlarged heart is identified, it can be addressed accordingly.
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Enlarged Heart Average Cost
Where Should Cat Owners Start
- Have your veterinarian assess your cats weight and body condition score and talk with them about any concerns you may have. You should start thinking about maintaining a healthy body weight from that first kitten visit!
- Tell your veterinarian about the exact diet youre feeding . Its also important to list any treats, table food, and foods used to administer medication. Your vet can then help you calculate exactly how many calories your cat is receiving.
- Reduce calories by 20-30% at the time of spay/neuter when energy requirements decrease .
- Try to prevent your cat from becoming overweight, but if he puts on a pound or two, be sure to address it quickly before your cat gets even heavier. Its much easier for your cat to lose a small amount of weight before it becomes overwhelming.
- If your initial effort at weight loss is not successful or your cat has other medical conditions, consider consulting with a veterinary nutritionist .
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How Is It Treated
Changes in the heart muscle are irreversibleand the longer they are left untreated, the more severe they become. While there is no cure for HCM, it can be managed with early detection and proper veterinary care. If HCM is determined to be secondary to a treatable condition such as hyperthyroidism, the condition may resolve when the underlying condition is treated.
In addition to regular monitoring, your veterinarian may prescribe medications to help manage your cats HCM and reduce the risk of further damage and complications.
While the risks and varied prognoses of HCM can be frighteningit can worsen quickly or progress slowly over many yearsits important to remember its not a death sentence. In fact, with your dedicated care and a veterinarians guidance, your cat can enjoy a normal life for many years.
Have we listened to your cats heart lately? If you suspect your cat may have a heart condition, or its just time for her annual exam, please contact your family veterinarian.
Heart Sounds And Murmurs
Heart sounds are produced by the rapid acceleration and deceleration of blood and the resulting vibrations in the heart due to the circulation of blood. They can be heard using a stethoscope. In cats, 2 heart sounds can normally be distinguished.
Heart murmurs are vibrations that can be heard coming from the heart or major blood vessels and generally are the result of turbulent blood flow or vibrations of heart structures such as part of a valve. Murmurs are typically described by their timing , their intensity , and their location. Not every murmur indicates a heart disorder; for example, innocent murmurs are sometimes detected in healthy kittens less than 3 months of age.
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What Are The Common Diseases Of The Feline Cardiovascular System
Adopting A Cat From Siamese Rescue Or A Shelter
A breeder is not your only option for acquiring a Siamese. Although Siamese kittens are almost never found in shelters and rescue, adult Siamese, both pedigreed and mixed, are not so fortunate. You may find the perfect Siamese for your family through the Siamese Cat Rescue Center, the NSCCs rescue page, or by checking your local shelters or the listings on Petfinder or Adopt-a-Pet.com.
Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with pet lemon laws, be sure you and the person you get the cat from both understand your rights and recourses.
Kitten or adult, take your Siamese to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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How Is Hcm Diagnosed
If your veterinarian observes a heart murmur or any other abnormalities during the physical exam, she will likely recommend diagnostic tests to first rule out any underlying causes, and then to determine a course of treatment. These may include:
- Blood testing: Lab tests are the first step in assessing your cats general health and ruling out any underlying causes of HCM, like hyperthyroidism.
- Radiographs: Chest X-rays allow your veterinarian to assess the general condition of your cats heart and lungs.
- Echocardiogram: Performed by a veterinary cardiologist, an ultrasound of the heart provides an opportunity to examine the hearts chambers, valves, muscles, and vessels while it is pumping.
- Blood pressure testing: Like the one performed in your doctors office, this test measures your cats blood pressure when the heart contracts and relaxes .
- Electrocardiogram : This test measures the electrical activity of your cats heart, which can be used to diagnose murmurs and other conditions.
Listening Reveals Only So Much
It can be difficult for a veterinarian to know just by listening whether a feline heart murmur is merely a physiologic finding or a pathologic finding .
Physiologic murmurs are benign and can be caused by things such as stress, excitement, pain, or fever.
The only way to tell if a murmur is benign vs. pathologic is to perform echocardiography .
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What Happens In Cardiomyopathy
In cardiomyopathy, the underlying abnormality of the cardiac muscle leads to a compromise in cardiac function. The alteration in heart function depends on the type of cardiomyopathy though:
- With HCM and RCM the disease mainly interferes with the ability of the heart muscle to relax properly between contractions. The relaxation phase between each cardiac contraction is called diastole, and if this does not occur properly, the heart cannot fill with blood so effectively. If severe, this will lead to heart failure, and a form known as diastolic heart failure.
- With DM the disease mainly affects the ability of the heart muscle to contract . This will compromise the ability of the heart to pump blood. In severe cases this too leads to heart failure a form known as systolic heart failure.
What Are The Risk Factors For Obesity In Cats
One study showed overweight cats were more likely to be neutered and male. Being overweight was also associated with diseases like diabetes, cancer, and skin problems. Indoor cats and those that are less active are also more likely to be overweight. While dry foods and diets that have more carbohydrates are often blamed for cats becoming overweight, several studies have shown that this is not true and that calorie intake is more important than the type of food.
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What Is The Prognosis For A Cat With Hcm
HCM is typically a slowly progressive disease over years; however, occasionally cats may show rapid progression over months. If no significant progression is noted several months after the initial diagnosis, cats with mild HCM are usually rechecked annually for progression or development of complications.; Although cats with mild disease will need to be monitored, not all cats will experience complications from their disease. The prognosis for cats with advanced disease that have experienced congestive heart failure or thromboembolism is highly variable, with some cats succumbing to their disease within days to weeks and some cats responding well to medications to live for more than a year or two.; The average survival time for a cat with congestive heart failure is 12-18 months and the average survival time for a cat with thromboembolism is about 6 months.; It is important to remember that these are average survival times based on large groups of cats.; While these times can provide information on what to reasonably expect, they do not necessarily suggest an individual cats survival time.