What Is Heartworm Disease In Cats
Heartworm disease is caused by an infection with the parasite Dirofilaria immitis. Heartworm larvae enter the cat’s body when an infected mosquito bites the cat. Because cats are not ideal hosts for heartworms, the larvae may become weakened and succumb to the cat’s immune system before causing any problems in the cat. This is why it’s somewhat uncommon for cats to develop heartworm disease.
However, if the immature heartworms can survive long enough to travel to the arteries of the lungs, they create an inflammatory response generated by the cat’s immune system. This can cause serious complications like heartworm-associated respiratory disease . Cats may develop chronic lung problems. Others suffer acute distress and need emergency veterinary care. Though uncommon, some cats may collapse and die suddenly.
Can Heartworm Be Fatal
Heartworm in cats can be fatal if it is left untreated. Because cats are an atypical host for heartworms and the symptoms are usually respiratory, heartworm can often be misdiagnosed as asthma or other respiratory conditions. There is no treatment for heartworm in cats once the worms have reached the adult stage.
How Is Heartworm In Cats Diagnosed And Treated
“Unfortunately,” Kleypas says, “it’s much more difficult to diagnose heartworms in cats than in dogs, and many go undiagnosed.” She explains that the standard test done in dogs can be done in cats, but it doesn’t work as well since cats tend to have far fewer worms than dogs. Another type of test is often used and can detect the presence of both baby and adult worms. Chest X-rays and even ultrasound imaging can be helpful as well.
Treating heartworm disease is also more difficult in cats than in dogs. According to Kleypas, the drug used to kill adult heartworms in dogs is toxic to cats, and there is no safe, effective alternative. Instead, she explains that cats with heartworm disease receive supportive care in the form of steroids to minimize inflammation, and there are drugs available to treat the signs of HARD. Infected cats are also placed on heartworm preventative medications in hopes that the cat will outlive the worm, Kleypas says. Recovery is possible, but it is likely the cat will have permanent damage from the infection.
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A Risky Business: Heartworm Disease In Cats
Springtime is near, and in our neck of the woods, the steamy days and nights of summer arent far behind. This means swarms of mosquitoes will be arriving, too. Although mosquitos may be annoying to you, they may pose a deadly threat to your cat.
Heartworm disease has long been known to affect dogs, and owners should bring their dog in annually to have a heartworm test. However, did you know that were finding more and more cases of heartworm disease in cats?
How Significant Is My Cat’s Risk For Heartworm Infection
Many factors must be considered, even if heartworms do not seem to be a problem in your local area. Your community may have a greater incidence of heartworm disease than you realizeor you may unknowingly travel with your pet to an area where heartworms are more common. Heartworm disease is also spreading to new regions of the country each year. Stray and neglected dogs and certain wildlife such as coyotes, wolves, and foxes can be carriers of heartworms. Mosquitoes blown great distances by the wind and the relocation of infected pets to previously uninfected areas also contribute to the spread of heartworm disease .
The fact is that heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states, and risk factors are impossible to predict. Multiple variables, from climate variations to the presence of wildlife carriers, cause rates of infections to vary dramatically from year to yeareven within communities. And because infected mosquitoes can come inside, both outdoor and indoor pets are at risk.
For that reason, the American Heartworm Society recommends that you think 12: get your pet tested every 12 months for heartworm and give your pet heartworm preventive 12 months a year.
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How Do Cats Get Heartworms
Heartworm in cats can actually be traced back to infected dogs, foxes, wolves, and coyotes, but mosquitoes play a key role in transmission. Kleypas says the process looks like this:
The Companion Animal Parasite Council notes that humans can become infected with heartworms, but it’s very rare and the parasites can’t be directly transmitted from cats to humans.
What Are Tapeworms In Cats
Tapeworms in cats are parasites that settle in the small intestine. They reproduce by attaching themselves to the gut and breaking into a series of segments.
These segments contain eggs, which are then passed out with the feces.
Tapeworms are long, flat worms of various lengths. They have a segmented body and a head with suckers and hooks, which help them attach to the small intestine.
You probably wont see a tapeworm like that, however. Once they start growing, segments of their body separate from the rest. These segments resemble grains of rice. You may see them under your cats tail or in her feces.
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Dewormers Prescribed By The Veterinarian
Dewormers are given either in tablet or liquid form and are very effective and safe.
Its normal to see worms in your cat’s stool for a short period after giving the product, as the body purges and eliminates them in the stool.
The larvae of certain types of worms can, however, become embedded in the body’s tissues, making it impossible to get rid of them immediately. They can remain dormant for some time and multiply later.
This is why the treatment of worms usually requires several doses, to avoid recurrences.
What Can My Cats Blood Work Tell Me
Your cats blood work allows our veterinarians to evaluate the following: 1 This is a serum protein that helps evaluate hydration, hemorrhage and intestinal, 2 Elevations in this test may indicate liver damage, Cushings disease or active bone growth in 3 This test may determine active liver damage, but does not indicate the cause.
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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
Can I Catch Worms From My Cat
Several worms mentioned above are indeed contagious to humans. However, our immune system is often strong enough to purge them naturally.
That said, children and people who are immunocompromised are at higher risk of contracting it.
I suggest that you wash your hands after cleaning your cat’s litter box and clean it regularly to prevent contamination.
For pregnant women, it is important to wear gloves, or even let your spouse do the litter! Remember, your cat can have worms even if you don’t see them!
Also cover your child’s sandbox and wear gloves when gardening, as some stray cats may use them to do their business.
To conclude, many cats have had worms in their lifetime. Its important to be alert to the various symptoms mentioned above, in order to prevent parasitosis in your kitty cat.
Although very disturbing, there are different remedies for these different types of intestinal worms. Its important to act quickly to avoid contaminating yourself.
For me, the fear of catching worms is more than enough motivation to worm my animals!
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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.
When Should I Start Giving My Kitten Heartworm Medicine
The American Heartworm Society recommends that kittens be started on a heartworm preventive as early as the product label allows, and no later than 8 weeks of age. The dosage of a heartworm medication is based on body weight, not age. Kittens grow rapidly in their first months of life, and the rate of growth varies widely from one breed to another.
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Can A Mosquito Bite Spread Heartworm From One Dog To Another
And even if an uninfected mosquito bit your infected dog, and then bit your uninfected dog the same night, they wouldnt transmit the parasite from one dog to the other. Thats because when a mosquito bites an infected animal, the heartworm needs to undergo an incubation period in the mosquito before the mosquito can infect other animals.
So What Exactly Are Heartworms
Some types of mosquitoes carry a parasite that becomes heartworm once it enters your dog. There they begin to grow and can reach up to 14 inches in length. When the worms mature, they can eventually end up in the heart and pulmonary arteries, causing lung, heart and organ damage. This is what is referred to as heartworm disease.
Fact: Dogs cannot catch heartworms from other dogs. The only way they can get heartworms is to be bitten by an infected mosquito.
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Should You Be Concerned About Your Dog Getting Heartworms
Learning how to treat and prevent heartworms naturally requires an understanding of why domesticated dogs are susceptible in the first place. It really comes down to modern dog keeping methods. Poor quality dog food, over vaccination, and using topical pesticides to control fleas weakens their immune system. Its a healthy immune system thats necessary for your dog to be able to deal with heartworm and keep them from becoming a problem.
Fact: Wolves, Foxes and Coyotes dont get Heartworm Disease.
Canines living in the wild eat mostly raw meat, are un-vaccinated, and dont get exposed to toxic chemicals used to kill fleas and ticks. They are able to fight off heartworm infestation, or are able to host the parasite, but in small enough numbers so that their health is never threatened.
Our dogs truly have the cards stacked against them unless we start making better choices in our dog keeping practices.
Effective Home Remedies For Worms In Cats
If youve got a cat, youre going to have to deal with parasites. Im not saying its inevitable but if you dont believe me, just look at my two-month-old kittens who had worms. It was quite a shock for me when I saw those wiggly things under their tail.
I know that vets can offer deworming pills that are safe and effective- but there is always the concern about the toxicity of cat dewormers and how much your pet will like taking them each day. Luckily, I am here today to offer 6 homemade cat remedies for dealing with parasites!
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Feline Heartworm Disease: Fact Or Fiction
May 1, 2017 |
BIS, LVT, VTS
Ann is a 1983 graduate of Michigan State University and got her specialty certification in Emergency/ Critical Care in 2000, in Small Animal Internal Medicine in 2008 and in Nutrition in 2013. In 2017 she attained her Fear Free Level on certification, and has since moved into level 2.
She has worked in general, emergency, specialty practice, education and management. Ann is active in her state, national and specialty organizations, and served on the organizing committees for Internal Medicine and Nutrition. She has mentored over 20 fellow VTSs and has worked on a variety of committees and positions. She is currently an instructor and Academic Advisor for Ashworth Colleges Veterinary Technology Program, as well as an active speaker and writer.
Ann has over 50 published articles in various professional magazines as well as book chapters and a book, Nutrition and Disease Management for Veterinary Technicians and Nurses in its second edition in 2016 coauthored with Kara Burns. Ann received the 2009 Service Award for her state association , the 2010 Achievement Award for the Academy of Internal Medicine for Veterinary Technicians , and in 2012 received the Jack L. Mara Memorial Lecture Award presented at NAVC.
Her fur/feather/fin family consists of 4 cats, 2 domestic geese, 14 chickens and a pond full of goldfish.
How To Prevent Heartworms In Cats
Prevention is key when it comes to heartworm disease in cats. It’s more effective to stop the heartworms from infecting a cat than to try to treat a cat with heartworms. There are a number of effective feline heartworm prevention products available. Most are given topically or orally once per month. Ask your veterinarian for information about the best heartworm preventive products for your cat.
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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.
When Should I Start Heartworm Prevention For My Cat
You should start heartworm prevention in your cat as early as 6-8 weeks old. Because your kitten is still growing, the dosage will need to increase as it gets older. Kittens dont need to have a test first because it can take up to six months for a pet to test positive for heartworms after the initial infection.
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What To Expect At Home
The most important aspect of home care for dogs undergoing treatment for heartworms is exercise restriction. Dogs should be crated when a responsible adult is not able to prevent excess activity.
Dogs should only be allowed outside for short on-leash walks to urinate and defecate. Give your dog the full course of any prescription pet medications that have been prescribed, even if he or she appears to be healthy.
Side Effects Of Conventional Heartworm Treatment
Just google adverse reactions after taking heartworm meds and youll find plenty of reports of dogs suffering . Below is a list of popular heartworm prevention drugs and adverse reactions that have been reported after they were given to dogs:
- REVOLUTION® , Topical Parasiticide For Dogs and Cats: Loose stool or diarrhea with blood, vomiting, anorexia, lethargy, salivation, tachypnea, and muscle tremors, pruritis, urticaria, erythema, ataxia, fever, and rare reports of death and seizures in dogs.
- HEARTGARD and TriHeartPlus : Depression/lethargy, vomiting, anorexia, diarrhea, mydriasis, ataxia , convulsions and hypersalivation.
- INTERCEPTOR : Depression/lethargy, vomiting, anorexia, diarrhea, mydriasis, ataxia , convulsions and hypersalivation plus weakness.
- SENTINEL : Vomiting, depression/lethargy, pruritus, urticaria, diarrhea, anorexia, skin congestion, ataxia, convulsions, hypersalivation and weakness.
- Proheart 6 : Severe allergic reactions : facial swelling, itching, difficulty breathing, collapse lethargy,not eating or losing interest in food seizures vomiting and/or diarrhea, weight loss, increased thirst or urination, weakness, bleeding, bruising some instances of death.
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