Heartworm Prevention For Cats

How do monthly heartworm preventives work? How do monthly heartworm preventives work? Whether the preventive you choose is given as a pill, a spot-on topical medication or as an injection, all approved heartworm medications work by eliminating the immature (larval) stages of the heartworm parasite. This includes the infective heartworm larvae deposited by the mosquito as well as the following larval stage that develops inside the animal. Unfortunately, in as little as 51 days, immature heartworm larvae can molt into an adult stage, which cannot be effectively eliminated by preventives. Because heartworms must be eliminated before they reach this adult stage, it is extremely important that heartworm preventives be administered strictly on schedule (monthly for oral and topical products and every 6 months for the injectable). Administering prevention late can allow immature larvae to molt into the adult stage, which is poorly prevented. When do I start my cat on heartworm prevention? When do I start my cat on heartworm prevention? The risk of kittens getting heartworm disease is equal to that of adult cats. The American Heartworm Society recommends that kittens be started on a heartworm preventive as early as the product label allows, and no later than 8 weeks of age. The dosage of a heartworm medication is based on body weight, not age. Kittens grow rapidly in their first months of life, and the rate of growth varies widely from one breed to another. That means a young animal can gain enough weight to bump it from one dosage range to the next within a matter of weeks. Ask your veterinarian for advice about anticipating when a dosage change will be needed. If your pet is on a monthly preventive, you may want to buy just one or two doses at a time if a dosage change is anticipated (note that there is a sustained-release injectable preventive available for dogs 6 months of age or older). Also make sure to bring your pet in for every scheduled well-kitten exam, so that you stay on top of all health issues, including heartworm protection. Confirm that you are giving the right heartworm preventive dosage by having your pet weighed at every visit. Do I need a prescription for my pet’s heartworm preventive medication? If so, why? Do I need a prescription for my pet’s heartworm preventive medication? If so, why? Yes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeling on heartworm preventives states that the medication is to be used by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian. This means heartworm preventives must be purchased from your veterinarian or with a prescription through a pet pharmacy Prior to prescribing a heartworm preventive, the veterinarian typically performs a heartworm test to make sure your pet doesn’t already have adult heartworms, as giving preventives can lead to rare but possibly severe reactions that could be harmful or even fatal. It is not necessary to test very young puppies or kittens prior to starting preventives since it takes approximately 6 months for heartworms to develop to adulthood. If the heartworm testing is negative, prevention medication is prescribed. Do heartworm prevention drugs only prevent heartworms? Do heartworm prevention drugs only prevent heartworms? Yes, a number of heartworm preventives used today also are effective against certain intestinal parasites. Depending on the product, these may include hookworms, roundworms, whipworms and tapeworms. Some products are even effective in treating external parasites such as fleas, ticks, ear mites, and the mite that causes scabies. However, it is important to realize that no single product will eliminate all species of internal and external parasites, and you should consult your veterinarian to determine the best product for your pet. Is there an effective natural prevention for heartworm? Is there an effective natural prevention for heartworm? Only heartworm prevention products that are tested and proven effective by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should be used. Is there a vaccine for heartworm disease? Is there a vaccine for heartworm disease? No. At this time, there is not a commercially available vaccine for the prevention of heartworm disease in dogs or cats. However, research scientists are looking at this possibility. Right now, heartworm disease can only be prevented through the regular and appropriate use of preventive medications, which are prescribed by your veterinarian. These medications are available as a once-a-month chewable, a once-a-month topical, and a twice-a-year injection. You should determine the best option for your pet by talking with your veterinarian. Many of the medications have the added benefit of preventing other parasites as well. Are heartworms more common in certain areas of the United States? Are heartworms more common in certain areas of the United States? Heartworms have been found in all 50 states, although certain areas have a higher risk of heartworm than others. Some very high-risk areas include large regions, such as near the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and along river tributaries. Most states have “hot spots” where the heartworm infection rate is very high compared with other areas in the same state. Factors affecting the level of risk of heartworm infection include the climate (temperature, humidity), the species of mosquitoes in the area, presence of mosquito breeding areas, and presence of animal “reservoirs” (such as infected dogs, foxes or coyotes). I live in a northern state. How long should my cat be on heartworm prevention? I live in a northern state. How long should my cat be on heartworm prevention? For a variety of reasons, even in regions of the country where winters are cold, the American Heartworm Society is now recommending a year-round prevention program. Cats have been diagnosed with heartworms in almost every county in Minnesota, and there are differences in the duration of the mosquito season from the north of the state and the south of the state. Mosquito species are constantly changing and adapting to cold climates and some species successfully overwinter indoors as well. Year-round prevention is the safest, and is recommended. Remember too that many of these products are de-worming your pet for intestinal parasites that can pose serious health risks for humans. The expiration date on my cat’s heartworm medication is past. Can I still use the medication? The expiration date on my cat’s heartworm medication is past. Can I still use the medication? As with all drugs or pharmaceutical products, heartworm preventives should be used before the expiration date on the package, because it is impossible to predict if it will be effective or safe. The expiration date is established by a series of tests mandated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to provide assurance that the product is effective and has undergone no significant deterioration. I have missed 2 months of heartworm prevention for my cat. What should I do? I have missed 2 months of heartworm prevention for my cat. What should I do? You need to consult your veterinarian, and immediately re-start your cat on monthly preventive—then retest your cat 6 months later. The reason for re-testing is that heartworms must be approximately 7 months old before the infection can be diagnosed.
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Story at-a-glance – An increasing number of veterinarians are starting to recommend heartworm preventives for cats right along with dogs – even though dogs are the natural hosts for heartworms, and therefore, heartworm infections in cats are relatively rare. Heartworm infection is a very different disease in cats than in dogs. The activity of heartworms inside a cat vs. a dog is very different, as are the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options. Whereas heartworm disease poses a significant threat in the canine population, it poses little threat for the cat population. Much of the sudden interest in feline heartworm disease could be prompted by a new 'syndrome' coined by a major manufacturer of veterinary drugs: Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease, or HARD. Coincidentally … or not … the same drug company sells a heartworm preventive for cats. Other than a 4 year-old abstract of a small experiment involving very few cats and a great many infected mosquitoes, there appears to be no substantiation for this new 'syndrome.' A study in 2010 debunks the results of the study that gave birth to the HARD syndrome. Another study shows no evidence the incidence of feline heartworm infection is increasing in cats. Keeping your cat indoors and helping her immune system stay strong and resilient are the safest, most effective heartworm preventives you can give your pet.
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An increasing number of veterinarians are starting to recommend heartworm preventives for cats right along with dogs – even though dogs are the natural hosts for heartworms, and therefore, heartworm infections in cats are relatively rare. Heartworm infection is a very different disease in cats than in dogs. The activity of heartworms inside a cat vs. a dog is very different, as are the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options. Whereas heartworm disease poses a significant threat in the canine population, it poses little threat for the cat population. Much of the sudden interest in feline heartworm disease could be prompted by a new 'syndrome' coined by a major manufacturer of veterinary drugs: Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease, or HARD. Coincidentally … or not … the same drug company sells a heartworm preventive for cats. Other than a 4 year-old abstract of a small experiment involving very few cats and a great many infected mosquitoes, there appears to be no substantiation for this new 'syndrome.' A study in 2010 debunks the results of the study that gave birth to the HARD syndrome. Another study shows no evidence the incidence of feline heartworm infection is increasing in cats. Keeping your cat indoors and helping her immune system stay strong and resilient are the safest, most effective heartworm preventives you can give your pet.

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