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Misconceptions about heartworm in house cats makes these pets prone to the disease, as owners fail to take preventative measures.
With mosquito season at its peak, pets are at greater risk of heartworm infection, especially unprotected pets.
Yet many cat owners still don't realize that they should protect their pets from this deadly disease, according to veterinary professionals at Purdue University (West Lafayette, Ind.).
A lot of people think their indoor cats can't get heartworms, but mosquitoes can get in the house. All it takes is one bite from one mosquito carrying heartworm larvae.
People also think thick fur will protect their pet from mosquito bites, but it doesn't.
Although indoor cats may be less likely to encounter mosquitoes, their immune systems may not be as well-equipped to fight heartworm infection.
One study suggests that the more mosquito bites a cat receives, the more heightened is the immune response to this worm.
Indoor cats with lower exposure may not eliminate the larval stage, allowing it to reach the arteries in the heart to become an adult.
Cats typically are infected with only one or two heartworms, whose larval migration to the pulmonary artery stimulateing a profound immune response.>
When one or two heartworms make it to the heart, they cause changes in the pulmonary arteries, but rarely heart failure.
While the worm is traveling to the heart, it can trigger an asthma-like condition that can be debilitating or even fatal. Even more critical, when the worm dies a year or two later in the bloodstream of a cat, it can block an artery, called pulmonary thrombosis, and can cause death very quickly.
Dogs infected with heartworms may develop heart failure, and symptoms may not be apparent for years after an infection.
While infected cats are more likely to die suddenly or develop chronic breathing problems, a minority will show digestive problems such as vomiting or other symptoms.
Heartworms evolved to live in the heart of a dog, so when they are inside of a cat, they tend to migrate to different parts of the cat's body, still seeking the dog's heart.
In infected cats, 10 to 15 percent have larvae that migrate to the eyes and brain, which can cause seizures.
Currently, about 25 percent of infected cats die from the disease, and it is difficult to confirm that a cat has heartworms with any single test.
Although research into the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of heartworm in cats is ongoing, monthly preventative medicines approved by a veterinarian are the best option to keep cats healthy.
Often a cat's own immune system kills the larvae, but it's like playing Russian roulette to not use a heartworm preventative for your cat.
Who knows whether their cat will be the one who can fight it?
New Heartworm Guidelines
The American Heartworm Society releases new guidelines to prevent heartworm in dogs and cats.
Under new guidelines issued by the American Heartworm Society (Batavia,
111.), dogs and cats should be tested annually for heartworm, should
receive heartworm preventives year round, and should be retested after
Each year, dogs and cats die needlessly from complications to this very preventable disease.
Previously, the organization recommended testing every two to three years for pets receiving routine preventives.
Because of the number of heartworm cases in pets that received preventives on aseasonal basis, the American Heartworm Society now recommends the more conservative annual testing to ensure that infections are caught in time for management.
Additionally, year round heartworm preventive care helps ensure that owners properly administer treatments.
Surveys show that owners give only about 75 percent of the treatment. However, pets benefit even when owners accidentally skip doses.
Over a 12 month period, treatments help keep worms from developing into adults and fight against intestinal parasites, which inadvertendy infect three to six million pets every year.
More About Heartworms
Has your pet recently been coughing, eating less, or being more lethargic than usual? If so, it is possible that your pet is infected with heartworms and may need immediate help and attention.
Heartworms may infect a host for up to 2 years before any signs or symptoms are visible, and often when they are diagnosed it may be too late for some pets.
Heartworms are an infectious parasitic transmitted by mosquitoes that invades major organs in dogs and cats like the lungs, pulmonary arteries and heart.
Heartworms grow and multiply within the pet body and can survive for up to 5 years. Heartworms cause damage and block smaller arterial vessels in your pets key organs leading to organ damage and a multitude of health complications.
The symptoms of a neartworm infestation are often difficult to recognize or may be overlooked or discounted as merely flu or cough like symptoms.
Coughing, weigh loss, lethargy, rapid heart beat, poor coat condition, diarrhea and loss of appetite are common symptoms.
Treatment to rid a pet of adult heartworms is a costly vet procedure and involves exposing your pet to arsnic poisoning treatments to kill the adult heatworms a procedure that can be fatal for aged pets or ones in deteriorating physical condition.
The best approach to dealing with the risk of heartworms is through and active prevention program. Prevention is the key to controlling and avoiding the health problems associated with these highly contagious and common parasites.
A simple oral medication administred once a month is all it takes to protect your pets from the damaging effects of heartworm infestation.