FELINE  HEARTWORM  AND  PARASITES


HEARTWORM

 

Cats get heartworms too! When a mosquito bites an infected dog, it ingests the young worms (microfilariae) from the blood stream. Inside the mosquito, the young worms develop into Heartworm larvae. When the mosquito then bites another dog or a cat, it deposits the larvae into the their skin where they migrate into the bloodstream. The larvae move through the bloodstream to the heart and the arteries of the lungs where they live and grow to be 10-12 inches!

Cats are not the heartworms’ primary host, but they can still become infected when bitten by a mosquito carrying heartworms.  Cats typically have fewer numbers of heartworms than dogs that are infected, but the worms can be just as devastating.  In fact, cats are prone to developing acondition called Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease (HARD), which is very similar to asthma.  Signs of heartworm or HARD can include lethargy, weight loss, coughing, panting, open-mouth breathing, gagging, wheezing, rapid breathing and vomiting.  

It is possible to test cats for heartworms, but we do not perform testing as routinely in cats.  Testing is much less reliable than it is for dogs.  Also, there is NO EFFECTIVE TREATMENT for heartworm infections in cats. Consistently giving heartworm prevention is the best way to protect your cat from heartworm disease.

Cats that live strictly indoors are also at risk for heartworms!  Though it its tempting to believe that mosquitoes will never get into the house, approximately 1/3 of all cats with heartworm infections are strictly indoors.  

At All Creatures Animal Clinic we carry two products for heartworm prevention in cats.  Feline Heartgard is a chew that is given once every 30 days and is recommended for cats that remain indoors.  Revolution is a topical product that is applied every 30 days that protects against Heartworm and fleas (as well as mites and intestinal parasites).  We recommend Revolution for any cats who routinely go outside or have had problems with fleas.


 
 

INTESTINAL PARASITES

 

There are many types of intestinal parasites.  

Infection can occur through the ingestion of feces, dead animals and exposure to contaminated environments. Many of these parasites are zoonotic, which means they can be transmitted from your pet to humans! Symptoms in cats can include diarrhea, weight loss and the visible presence of adult worms in the feces.

Some Heartworm preventives include a de-wormer, but there is no preventive available to protect your cat against all intestinal parasites. The best way to keep your pet and your family safe is to have a fecal test for your pet done every 6-12 months. A fecal test is a microscopic examination of your pet's stool to check for the presence of intestinal parasites and eggs. Because of the life cycle of parasites, evidence may not appear in every stool sample. For this reason, we want to see 2 negative fecal tests performed a few weeks apart whenever you bring a new pet into your home.  

Remember, if one pet tests positive for intestinal worms, more than likely all the pets in the household need to be treated as well. Keeping the environment clean and washing your hands after handling will help minimize contamination. And when you are out for a walk, make sure to clean up after your dog!

 

EXTERNAL PARASITES

 

FLEAS

Fleas are blood-sucking parasites that live on the skin’s surface and are the most common external parasite seen in pets. There are four stages of the flea life cycle; eggs, larvae, pupae and adults. Adult fleas, what you see hopping around your pet, only make up 5% of the population present! After ingesting blood from an animal, fleas lay eggs on the pet, inside the house in cracks and crevices or outside on damp ground. Larvae live in your pets' environment and feed on organic material. Under warm, moist conditions the entire life cycle may occur in as little as 16 days, but they can lay dormant for up to a year!

The presence of fleas is characterized by scratching, flea dirt on the skin and fur (looks like black pepper), flea bites on pets and people, and often the sight of adult fleas themselves. Flea infestations are best controlled by simultaneously treating fleas on the animal, in the house and in the pet’s outdoor environment.

Frequent vacuuming can help remove flea eggs and larvae from carpets and furniture. The pet’s bedding should be washed and thoroughly dried. Insecticides selected for use in the home should combine instant and residual flea-killing power. Insecticide sprays are better than foggers and can be used through the entire house, especially underneath furniture, behind baseboards and in closets.

Flea control outside the home should be aimed at areas where your pet spends most of its time. Areas such as underneath porches and in the yard near the home should be sprayed or dusted with insecticides designed to kill fleas.An oral or topical medication to begin instantly killing fleas will need to be administered.  It is impossible to control fleas effectively without putting all dogs, cats and rabbits in your house on a high quality flea preventive.  Year round preventive for all pets is the best way to avoid a costly and time-consuming infestation.

At All Creatures Animal Clinic we carry Revolution for cats.  This is a topical flea, heartworms and mite preventative that is administered once every 30 days.  Many flea preventatives for dogs (including over the counter brands) are highly toxic to cats.

 Never apply a dog flea preventative to cats.

MITES

There are several types of mites that can infect cats.  The presence of mites is often characterized by persistent scratching, head shaking, skin lesions and patchy hair loss. If you suspect mites in your cat, you should limit their exposure to other pets and bring them in promptly for diagnosis and treatment.

TICKS

Ticks feed by attaching to a host with their mouth-parts and taking a large blood meal. They do not move around on your pet, in fact, they spend most of their lives OFF the host and in the environment. They wait around in bushes, grass and brush for an animal or person to brush against them so they can hitch a ride and latch on. Ticks themselves usually only cause mild irritation, but occasionally they can consume enough blood to cause anemia (low red blood cell count).  They are also responsible for the transmission of serious illnesses.

There are no safe and effective tick repellants for cats. If a tick is spotted, it should only be removed at home if you have experience in properly detaching one from the skin. If any parts of the head and mouth of the tick remain in the skin, it can cause serious irritation. Many tick repellants are available for dogs, but these products are usually toxic to cats and should never be applied to them.