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Among the illnesses that affect our pets, few are better known than heartworm disease. And for good reason: Heartworm is potentially life threatening to our pets. But do you truly understand all aspects of this disease — and how to prevent it? To test your heartworm smarts, determine whether the following statements are true or false. You may be surprised by some of the answers.
TRUE OR FALSE: Cats don’t need heartworm prevention.
To understand how heartworms affect cats — and
dogs — it’s important to know the heartworm life cycle:
In cats, many of the larvae never develop into adult heartworms, but instead migrate to the lungs through the pulmonary arteries, where they die and cause inflammation. This can cause cats to develop severe respiratory disease, even without worms in their hearts. Respiratory distress, including the coughing and labored breathing that we see in many heartworm-infected
cats, is similar to other feline respiratory or heart diseases, such as
asthma, cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle) or bacterial or viral infections that cause pneumonia.
Finally, and most importantly, while we have effective treatments for
canine heartworm disease — although they can be costly and painful and, if not begun soon enough, might not prevent heart and lung complications — these same treatments cannot be used to eliminate adult heartworms in cats.
TRUE OR FALSE:
All pets require heartworm prevention — even those that stay indoors.
TRUE. Even though truly indoor pets are less likely than outdoor pets to be bitten by heartworm-infected mosquitoes, indoor pets can still get infected with heartworms. In fact, North Carolina University’s survey of heartworm-infected cats revealed that 27 percent of the cats were characterized by their owners as residing entirely indoors.
One reason this misperception continues is that some pet owners think that if their pets live inside, they just cannot be exposed to mosquitoes. However, many pets are allowed to sit or lie near open windows or accompany their owners out on a deck or patio. And let's face it: Most of us have seen mosquitoes inside our homes. Do not allow this myth to be perpetuated. Insist on year-round protection, regardless of your pet’s indoor or outdoor habits. Mosquitoes can sneak inside, so even indoor pets need preventive medicine.
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