Saturday, September 20, 2008

How to Prevent Feline Heartworm Disease

Heartworms looks like a long threadlike worms that usually live in your dog's hearts . There are many people that do not know that heartworms can also affect the pet health of our feline friends as well. Heartworms can be transmitted by mosquitoes and once your pet is bitten the worms take around four months to reach the heart. Once there, the heartworms can grow up to a foot long. Your cats can have a very severe reaction to the heartworms which can usually cause coughing, trouble breathing, and lethargy. For some time now, vets have only thought that only dogs could get heartworms but a few years ago, a study was done on cats that died suddenly. Thet have found out that a large majority of them have heartworms. It usually takes about two years in dogs to show symptoms when they have heartworms but cats tend to die without ever having any symptoms at all. According to the study, one third of all cats under the study that has heartworms were found in indoor only cats. This just to show that indoor cats are not immune to the disease.

Another thing that makes heartworm disease in cats difficult is the difficulty in testing. There are a lot of pet owners are very frustrated by this disease because of it can be really hard to detect and also the lack of definitive testing. Currently there are two blood tests that doctors use to help in diagnosing the this kind of disease. Antibody tests look for antibodies for heartworms that their immune system produces when heartworms are present in your pet's body. The problem with this kind of test is that the heartworm infection does not have to be current to be positive, your pet could have had heartworms years in the past. Antigen tests are the main ones used to test dogs for heartworms. The antigen tests detect female worms in the body.

Since it only takes one or very few worms to cause problems cats can have infections with only male worms. That means if cats only have male worms it will test negative on an antigen test. The only effective test that can confirm heartworms if the antigen test is negative is an ultrasound.The final frustration with feline heartworm disease is that it is so difficult to treat. Currently there are no medications used to kill adult heartworms infestations. Medications that are currently available are designed to lessen the symptoms of the heartworm disease as well as medications that improve breathing. But it does nothing to rid the cat of heartworms and improve pet health. In dogs heartworms can live for over seven years, but since cats are not the primary hosts they only live about two years.

Since diagnosis is so hard, and the heartworm disease is so severe, prevention is the best key with feline heartworms. This is the ultimate answer with feline heartworms, if your pets do not get it, you do not have to worry about the disease. There are a lot of preventatives out there for heartworms. There are also products that can be found at your local store that can prevent heartworms and treat hookworms and roundworms. The disadvantage to these products is that it is a chewable, which can be very difficult to administer to our feline friends. There are also topical medications available which cab prevent heartworms, treat hookworms, roundworms, fleas, earmites, and the mange. This is a great product that really fully protects our kitties. So remember prevention is still very important even for your pets so they wont get heartworms.