Saturday, April 11, 2015

Heartworm disease in cats

(Fluffy has clearly settled in. No he doesn't have heartworm! More on his life later!)

Maddie's Institute (of Maddie's Fund) launched an intensive effort to get medical and behavioral information to shelter and rescue-group staff and volunteers, as well as veterinarians. Information that you once might have had to pick through veterinary journals to track down (as much of the information is new, or scattered, or not available in full on-line without a journal subscription) is steadily accumulating in the Maddie's Institute library. If you are at all interested in rescue and sheltering, you should--if you have not already--subscribe to their mailings, and especially encourage any younger people who are interested in animal rescue to do the same, so that people entering this field arrive with a broader education than I did.

I had a lucky launch. Upon graduation from high school, I scored a job as a veterinary assistant. I had zero qualifications other than I liked animals, was polite, and I came cheap. The job was live-in, and I was paid $25 a week (washer/dryer and HBO included!). Another staff member left my first week there, so I was given added responsibilities and my pay went up to $60.

But it was the education that was priceless. The veterinarian, Dr. Briggs, somehow assumed that when I said I had been accepted for college in Ithaca but wasn't going to go for a few years, assumed I meant Cornell for veterinary medicine. Actually, I meant Ithaca College for philosophy. It wasn't until the week before I left when he was proudly (and incorrectly) announcing my future to a visitor that we learned our mutual misunderstanding. However, I benefited from it: During the two years I was there, he was a merciless educator. I say merciless, because he wasn't exactly the most gentle teacher, and half the time I was petrified (I started at age 17). But he was an excellent veterinarian, and I learned. His big oak rolltop desk was piled high with journals, from which I also benefited.

I doubt many veterinarians hire 17-year-old high school graduates to assist them in surgery alone any longer. But to replace such opportunities, there is the internet--for at least the knowledge, if not the experience.

That is my long-winded way of introducing Brian A. DiGangi's (DVM, MS, DAVBP Canine/Feline) excellent article on Feline Heartworm Disease, which would be a great thing to read over your Sunday coffee tomorrow--or today, if you are just pouring your cup, like I am.

Despite the availability, ease of use and effectiveness of feline heartworm preventives, one survey found that nearly 70% of shelters in areas of high prevalence of infection did not administer such medications to their feline guests. Added expense and the misperception that cats need to be tested prior to administration of preventives were the primary reasons for avoiding the practice.

Here at The Owl House, our cats are treated monthly with Revolution (Selamectin). Our windows have hardware cloth, rather than screens, so mosquitoes could enter, and we are surrounded by water. This does not assure our cats are heartworm-free (read the article to learn why) but it does mean they likely won't acquire it here. Revolution also controls fleas and ear mites, although not ticks, so it has a wide variety of benefits for us. I really only had a vague and general understanding of how heartworm progressed in cats until I read Dr. DiGangi's article, however.

Dr. DiGangi, whom I have met a number of times at Petfinder's Adoption Options, is an excellent teacher and writer, and his article is in professional but layman's terms, so your brain won't hurt as it might with many veterinary articles.

Heartworm in cats is quite a different disease than in dogs. Give it a read!

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