DISEASE IN CATS
Although we normally associate
heartworm disease with dogs, cats can and do get heartworms.
Cases of heartworm disease in cats have been reported across
the United States and many other countries.
What is heartworm disease
Heartworm disease in cats is
a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by the internal
parasites - Dirofilaria immitis. The adult worms (of the species
Dirofilaria immitis) have lodged themselves inside the right
chambers of the cat's (or dog's) heart. Sometimes the heartworms
will be in the large vein that feeds blood into the heart,
or occasionally in other parts of the body. A dog can have
tens, or even hundreds, of heartworms. Cats normally only have
a few, but even one heartworm can be deadly to a cat.
The mosquito vector becomes a
carrier of the microscopic immature form of the parasite when
it bites an infected animal (could be a dog or cat). This mosquito,
when it finds the next victim, will inject a small amount of
saliva into the bite wound, and this small volume of spit carries
the parasite into the tiny wound. From here, they migrate into
the body via the bloodstream, and set up shop in the heart
preferentially. Once they are inside, they begin to mature
and very soon, mature reproducing worms are in place. When
only a small number of immature larvae are injected, it is
possible that the reproductive cycle cannot go forward (when
just a few male worms injected for example). This is called
a sterile infestation because two sexes are not in the host.
A big difference between dogs and cats is that one or two worms
in a cat can be life-threatening, whereas in dogs, this level
of worm burden will likely not cause such severe symptoms.
Once the worms mature, they release
microfilariae (next generation babies) into the bloodstream,
and they mature and begin their own life cycle. The worms do
not just live in the heart, but often enter the lungs; filariae
can actually enter many tissues. In cats, most infestations
are classed as low worm burden; meaning that very few adults
are found in the system.
The disease is so-called "vector-borne" since
a mosquito bite is essential to transmit the disease. The only
time of year a new infection can occur is when mosquitoes are
out. The mosquito season varies according to geographic region,
but in the province of Ontario for example, it can be from
about April to November. Note that early thaws and late Indian
Summers can really affect the season. Any region where dogs
can get heartworm, cats can too!
What are the signs?
The heartworms can cause allergic
reactions, inflammation, and fluid buildup in the lungs. Often,
the most common symptoms in cats are coughing and vomiting.
However, these warning signs usually do not appear until the
disease is quite advanced. Unfortunately, the only sign may
be sudden death of a cat that appeared normal and healthy just
a couple of hours earlier. This severe reaction occurs when
a worm dies. But sometimes, the worm or worms will die inside
the cat and the cat will recover with no problems. It is impossible
to tell in advance how a given cat will react to a heartworm
What Preventive Measures
can be taken?
Keeping a cat indoors goes a
long way towards protecting the cat from the bites of mosquitoes.
There have been cases of heartworm disease in indoor cats,
so sometimes it seems, they (the skitters) sneak in through
holes in screens, or when our doors are opened in the warm
weather. Other times, the owners may take their cat out on
the porch for some sunshine, and this provides the "skitter" a
Once a cat is diagnosed with
heartworm disease, managing the disease can be difficult. Treatment,
as well as non-treatment, is very risky, because there's currently
no approved product for treating adult heartworms, and the
onset of clinical signs is impossible to predict in cats that
are left untreated. Even if the disease is treated, your cat
may experience severe complications or even death when the
worms die. Prevention is the best medicine. Ask your veterinarian
about heartworm disease prevention for your cat. It will help
give your feline friend the best chance for a long and healthy
Note that the preventative medication
is not a vaccine. It must be given regularly during the time
of the year that your veterinarian indicates. Talk to your
veterinarian about recommendations for heartworm disease prevention
in your area.
The information provided on this
Cat Newsletter is for general information purposes only and
should not replace the professional consultation, the diagnostic,
or the medical advise of a veterinarian
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2. INTERESTING FACTS FROM CAT’S HISTORY
All cats are members of the family
Felidea. Interestingly enough, the cat family split from the
other mammals at least 40,000,000 years ago, making them one
of the oldest mammalian families. All cats share certain characteristics
that are unique to the cat family.
It seems that the first cats
to live near people were the African wild cats of Egypt. The
mice and rats that filled the Egyptian grain stores probably
attracted these cats. Apparently, the ancient Egyptians were
very appreciative of the cats' help in vermin control. In fact,
they worshipped their cats and gave them a central place in
their culture. The cats were considered gods and killing a
cat was punishable by death.
Small Egyptian amulets representing
cats may date from as early as 2300 B.C.E. The oldest picture
of a cat was found in the tomb of Baket III. It dates from
1950 B.C.E. and shows a cat confronting a rat.
In Buddhist temples across Asia,
cats are kept as mousers. These temple cats have a pointed
pattern, and may be ancestors of the Siamese breed.
Ailurophobia is the fear of cats.
Julius Caesar, Henry II, Charles XI, and Napoleon all suffered
from this and would nearly faint in the presence of a cat.
A Spanish stamp commemorating
Charles Lindbergh's record-breaking flight from New York to
Paris showed his cat Patsy watching as his plane took off.
Pasty often accompanied Lindbergh on his flights, but did not
go on the 1927 flight that made him famous.
In the midst of building the
Grand Coulee Dam in the state of Washington, engineers were
stymied by the problem of threading a cable through a pipeline
until an anonymous cat saved the day. Harnessed to the cable,
this unknown hero crawled through the pipeline maze to successfully
finish the job.
The first cat show took place
in 1871 at the Crystal Palace in London. The first cat show
in North America was held in New England in the 1870s for Maine
The first animated cat was Krazy
Kat, a cartoon strip drawn by George Herriman that made the
transition from paper to film in 1916.
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