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Feline Parasites

Heartworms represent an increasingly recognized problem in cats. As in dogs, heartworms are transmitted by feeding mosquitoes and, once mature, end up in the right side of the heart and the large vessels of the lungs. For cats, the likelihood of heartworm infection is directly related to the number of infected dogs in the area. Because mosquitoes can transmit the disease, being an indoor-only cat does not prevent a cat from getting infected. Signs of heartworm infection in cats can vary in severity from asymptomatic to sudden death.

The heartworm larvae, which enter the cat’s bloodstream after it is bitten by an infected mosquito, eventually migrate to the heart or blood vessels of the lungs. Here the larvae cause a severe reaction, resulting in lack of oxygen exchange and cough.

Signs of infection are variable but most often are related to the respiratory system. A veterinarian may suspect that a cat has been infected in cases of coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, vomiting, lethargy or weight loss. While some cats will have very mild signs, others can develop signs of congestive heart failure. Some cats will suffer from sudden death as a result of the death of one or more worms.

Because the number of worms infecting cats is usually lower than in dogs, the diagnosis of heartworm can be more challenging. Blood work, x-rays and a sonogram of the heart may all be needed to determine whether or not your cat has been infected with heartworms.

At the present time, there are no acceptable treatments for eliminating heartworms from infected cats. Your veterinarian may treat your cat’s symptoms if it is displaying signs of disease. Because of the potential for serious or fatal consequences of infection, and lack of approved treatment, preventing heartworm is the best strategy.

For more information on feline heartworm disease, please visit http://www.petsandparasites.org/cat-owners/heartwo...

Fleas are small insects that live on the blood of mammals. Dogs and cats commonly get fleas from other dogs and cats and some wildlife—they do not come from sand. Since fleas can live for a long time off of an animal, your pet can also get them by being in an area where an animal with fleas has been, e.g., new apartment, park, wayside, boarding / grooming / veterinary facility, etc. Fleas can also be brought into the home by owners who move through areas with large amounts of fleas, e.g. Your front lawn if you have stray cats in the area, or large amounts of wild animals such as rabbits. Fleas cause itching, dermatitis, blood loss, and tapeworms. If you get enough of them in a house, they may bite people.

Flea infestations are much more easily prevented than treated. The most effective preventives are the topical and oral products that contain insect growth regulators. These kill adult fleas as well as preventing the development of juvenile fleas. Other less effective products are sprays, powders, collars, and dips. For best effect, it is recommended to apply flea prevention every month all year round or at minimum when the daily temperature is routinely over 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

If your pets do get fleas, you can expect it to take 3-4 months to fully treat the infestation. All animals with fur in the house will need a high quality topical and oral flea prevention every 30 days for a minimum of 3 treatments to break the life cycle. A product available is Capstar™, an oral tablet that kills most adult fleas on the pet within 4-6 hours, which when used in combination with topical flea preventives is a quick way to begin eliminating flea infestation. As well as medications given to your pet, you may need to treat your house or kennel area with flea bombs or contact a pest control service in the face of an active infestation. Fleas are most prevalent in summer and fall in our area but can survive year round on untreated animals.

Always make sure you are using the appropriate size and age product for your pet. Never put dog or any other species flea product on your cat.

Cats and Ear Mites
Ear mites are small parasites (Otodectes cynotis) related to ticks that enjoy living in and sometimes around the ears of pets. Ear mites are a common problem in cats and kittens, particularly those that go outdoors and those that hunt. An ear infection (due to bacteria or yeast) can look very similar to ear mites. Have your veterinarian perform an ear exam and smear to determine an appropriate treatment.

Ticks are small parasites that live on the blood of animals. It is common knowledge that ticks are in wooded areas where deer and other wildlife live. What many people don’t realize is that ticks can also be found in open grassy areas such as lawns. The ticks can arrive and be carried into yards by wildlife (such as deer, raccoons, opossums, turkey, and coyotes) and even stray cats and dogs. Ticks also don’t feed on just one animal in their adult life, they feed off multiple species in one life cycle which allow them to travel to many locations and to effectively spread disease. Ticks transmit diseases including Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and many others.

Tick activity peaks in spring and fall but they can be active in remotely warm weather (> 40 degrees). Topical tick preventatives are good but not 100% effective (most kill the tick after it attaches but before it transmits disease). A good rule of thumb for tick prevention is if a cat walks through a hundred ticks, the prevention should stop all but one from attaching. Although cats can be very good at grooming ticks off themselves, if your cat goes outdoors and you live in a tick infested region you should discuss tick control options with your veterinarian.

Always make sure you are using the appropriate size and age product for your pet. Never put dog or any other species flea product on your cat.

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