While cats are not natural hosts for heartworms, they are still at risk for contracting them. Just like with dogs, heartworms are contracted through mosquito bites. As we’ve mentioned before, we’re in prime mosquito territory. In areas that have mosquitoes, an incidence of 2-14% exist in cats.
Feline Heartworm Disease causes severe lung disease, heart failure, along with damage to other organs. Adult heartworms can grow to be 12 inches long. Cats will typically only have 1-3 adult worms, but they can have up to 6. It only takes 1-3 adult heartworms to cause the cat to collapse and die.
Cats are not natural hosts for heartworms. Their immune system is very reactive against heartworms and this makes it next to impossible to detect microfilaria in an infected cat. Microfilaria is the off-spring of adult heartworms born in the host body and found in the blood stream. If a mosquito bites a dog that has microfilaria in their blood stream, they become infected. The mosquito can then transfer the microfilaria to any cats or dogs that they bite next.
The tests currently available detect an antigen that is given off by mature female heartworms. It takes heartworms 6 months to mature. This is why with dogs, we recommend doing a heartworm test once they’re at least 6 months of age and repeating test in 6 months if there was a lapse in prevention. However with cats, due to the limited number of heartworms that grow to maturity, they can be difficult to detect with these tests.
While heartworms can be treated in dogs, the medication used (Immiticide) is toxic to cats. Unfortunately at this time, there are no treatments available for heartworm positive cats.
However, there is good news! The disease is 100% preventable. Our recommendation is Revolution. Revolution prevents fleas, roundworms, hookworms and ear mites as well as heartworms. Revolution is a topical preventative instead of an oral, making it easier to administer. If you apply once every 30 days, your cat will not only be flea-free, but they’ll also be protected against heartworms!
Twelve common symptoms of Feline Heartworm Disease are:
Lack of Appetite
Abnormal Rapid Breathing (Tachypnea)
Remember – Mosquitos are everywhere! Just because your cat is strictly indoors only doesn’t mean that they aren’t at risk. Every pet should be on both flea and heartworm preventatives year round.
By: Candace Ivey
Concerned about your canine companion? Read about Double Defense here to learn more about heartworms in dogs & the best way to prevent your pup from them.
Having a pet is amazing. The love, understanding, companionship… You love your pet so much that you don’t even think twice about picking up after them. They’re our fuzzy four-legged children and they’re just the greatest.
Fleas think that your pet is just the greatest too. They also think that your carpet, furniture and yard are pretty sweet and they all want to live there. Fleas thrive in humid environments and, unfortunately, we’re in Houston, Texas which is humid most of the year.
It only takes one flea to cause a huge problem. A single flea can lay up to 5,000 eggs in its lifetime, which is about 40-50 eggs per day. Eggs can take anywhere from two days to two weeks to hatch, depending on weather. Once the egg hatches, the larvae will seek out dark places to grow. The larvae then develop into a cocoon-like pupae stage. These are the hardest to kill as they are incredibly tough – most pesticides will not kill them. Pupae can remain dormant for weeks, months, even years before hatching. Once they hatch, the adult flea emerges and then goes to feast on your pet and make more fleas. This life cycle takes only about 90 days.
Along with environmental factors, there are plenty of things that you can do to help ensure that a flea infestation is not in your future. The first place to start would be to make sure that all of your pets are on some kind of flea prevention. Every pet in the house hold needs to be on something, regardless as to whether they go outside or not. Fleas are crafty and will sneak in on clothes or shoes. Their eggs are very stick as well and can be easily transported by sticking to things.
There are many types of flea preventatives on the market. With so many options, how do you know which one is right for your pet and their lifestyle? Here are some of the basics that you need to know to help you decide.
Topical Preventatives – Canine
An important thing to remember with all topical preventatives is to not apply them when your pet is wet. They should be applied either 48 hours before or 24 hours after a bath. Make sure that you are bathing your pet with a pet shampoo that is soap or detergent free. Human shampoos are designed to cut oil and grease and will wash the product off of your pet. Most medicated shampoos can strip the preventative from your pet as well. If your pet is being treated with a medicated shampoo, ask your veterinarian if you need to change to an oral preventative during treatment. Be sure to remove all collars or harnesses until the product is completely dry.
While there are numerous types of topicals available, our doctors recommend using Vectra 3D for dogs. Vectra 3D is waterproof once dry and it does not break down in sunlight. It both kills and repels fleas, ticks, mosquitoes. It also prevents against some flies, mites, and lice as well. Vectra 3D will also kill whatever stage of the flea your dog comes into contact with – eggs, larvae, pupae, everything!
Vectra 3D is easy to apply as well. Simply part the hair at the base of the tail and using the applicator tip, squeeze the tube gently while working up the back towards the neck – “From rear to ear.” Once applied, it will begin to absorb into the sebaceous sweat glands of their body and translocate.
When this is happening, your dog may feel a tingling sensation. This may cause them to want to roll around on the floor, furniture, grass, etc. Do your best to keep your dog distracted so that they don’t roll around. This could cause them to rub off the product and cause it to not be as effective. Take them for a walk, play with a toy, do something to keep them busy for at least 15 minutes while the product is absorbed. Vectra 3D is toxic to cats, so if you have both in the house, be sure to keep them away from each other while it dries.
Topical Preventatives – Felines
All cats should be on some kind of flea prevention, regardless as to whether they go outside or not. Our doctors also recommend all cats to be on a heart worm preventative as well. While cats are not a natural host for heart worms like dogs, they can still contract them. There is currently no heart worm treatment available for cats, so we want everyone to be fully protected.
Because of this, our doctors recommend using Revolution for cats. Revolution is a topical that is applied once every 30 days. It kills fleas, prevents heart worms, deworms for some intestinal parasites, and can be used to treat ear mites as well. It works through your cat’s blood stream, similar to oral preventatives.
It should be applied to the skin on the back of the neck, just high enough where your cat is not able to lick the medication. If you have multiple cats, be sure to keep them separate so that they do not lick it off of each other. Don’t forget to remove collars before applying. Once dry, your cats fur may be “crispy” for a couple of days where the medication was applied. This will go away on its own.
Another option is Catego. This is a topical flea and tick prevention, but it does not do anything for heart worm prevention. Catego is applied once every 30 days on the neck just like Revolution. It works similar to Vectra 3D and the fleas will die once they come in to contact with your cat’s skin. The fleas do not have to bite to die since it works through their skin.
If you’re not comfortable with the idea of topical preventatives, oral preventatives are available as well.
Oral preventatives work much differently than topicals. These work through your pet’s bloodstream as opposed to their skin & hair follicles. This means that they work by killing the fleas that ingest your pet’s blood. They will not repel nor kill the other stages of the flea life cycle. In short, the fleas have to bite to die.
Our doctors have decided to carry Trifexis, Simparica, and Nexgard in clinic for our oral preventatives.
Trifexis is for both heart worm and flea prevention. It also deworms for some intestinal parasites when given. This is a beef flavored chewable tablet that is given once every 30 days. Give it after your dog has eaten a full meal. This is not only easier on your dog’s stomach, but it also ensure that the medications are completely absorbed into your dog’s system. This is the only combination product that we carry in clinic for dogs.
Simparica is for flea and tick prevention. This is a liver flavored chewable tablet and it is also given once every 30 days. You can give this to your dog just like a treat or with a full meal, it doesn’t matter. Studies show that both medications in Simparica are just as effective at day 30 as they are on day 1, so that your dog is fully protected for the full 30 days.
Nexgard is also for flea and tick prevention. This is a beef flavored chew (from the makers of Heartgard) and is given once every 30 days just like the others. You can give it either with a meal or just as a treat. Make sure that your dog does not swallow it whole as it will be better absorbed if it is chewed. Nexgard is also able to be used to treat certain types of mange.
There are oral preventatives available for cats as well, but we do not currently carry these in clinic.
If you’re using an oral preventative, you may still see fleas on your pet or in your house. This doesn’t mean that the product isn’t working! Don’t forget that these medications work through your pet’s bloodstream and that the fleas have to bite to die.
True or False?
I only have to apply flea preventatives to my pets that go outside.
FALSE! Remember, it just takes one flea to cause a huge outbreak in your home. Flea eggs and larvae can be brought into the home on your shoes and clothing. Make sure that every pet in your house is on a preventative.
Fleas die back in the winter so I only have to treat my pets in the summer.
FALSE! Adult fleas can live outside in temperatures as low as 49 degrees! Also, since we’re in Houston, Texas it rarely gets cold enough here to truly cause the fleas to back off. We recommend each pet be on preventative year round for their health and to help prevent surprise infestations.
There are numerous products on the market. The ones listed are the ones that our doctors recommend and that we carry in clinic. You’re welcome to choose whichever product you feel it right for you and your furry family. Other options are available through our online store as well. If you have any questions about fleas, preventatives, or what we would recommend, please feel free to contact the clinic.