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Feline Heartworm Treatment

"Feline heartworm treatment addresses symptoms since heartworm is considered a relatively incurable disease as no effective treatment is available. Unapproved or conventional methods usually fail in cats, as any therapeutic option to eliminate heartworms will lead to an immediate congestion of the pulmonary artery, followed by acute arrest and then death. Infection is lethal in most cases. Only strict monitoring, nursing and use of some symptomatic therapeutics and herbal preparations as tonics can help. The key for survival is for cats to out live the heartworm life span which in cats is 2 – 3 years. Surgical elimination is effective in a high burden worm infection. The prognosis for condition is termed, “Grave”."

Options for Feline Heartworm Treatment:

There is no satisfactory cat heartworm treatment. The infection is considered to be highly lethal with a mortality rate (causing death) noted in reported cases as above 50%.

The most appropriate option for treating worm infestations doesn't work for heartworm in cats. Drugs that are usually preferred for elimination of heartworms in dogs and other pets, don't work since killed heartworms can block or congest the pulmonary artery, causing immediate death. That is also the only reason for higher mortality rate in cats, and why this infection is considered lethal.

Feline Heartworms are therefore left untreated and allowed to complete their life cycle in the affected cat. Complete elimination of feline heartworms on their own usually takes 2 – 4 years depending upon the burden or strain they are placing on the cat's body. Only monitoring of developments and nursing along with mild symptomatic treatment is considered appropriate for support.

Monitoring Cats with Heartworm:

Monitoring is the basis for feline heartworm treatment. As it is impossible to use any specific drug, it is recommended that developments should be closely monitored, to prevent any possible immediate medical emergency, but also to ensure the progress of any selected treatment approach such as medications or remedys used to maintain the strength of cardiac muscles and vessels.

Nursing and Care of Feline Heartworm Patients:

An affected cat should be restricted from activities such as exercise, running etc. Cat must be kept in the house most of time.

Symptomatic Feline Heartworm Treatment:

In most cases, corticosteroids are used to manage feline heartworm. Corticosteroids such as prednisolone can be used on a regular basis. Tablets are usually administered every 24 – 48 hours. Corticosteroids help in maintaining pulmonary function and in reducing the chance of death due to a blockage in the pulmonary artery.

Other symptoms such as lethargy, anorexia (appetite loss) and cough can be treated by the respective drugs and a B - Complex vitamin, but should only be used under the recommendation of a veterinarian, as these can cause severe reactions in affected cats.

Herbal/Homeopathic Feline Heartworm Treatment:

Some herbal and homeopathic preparations can be used for enhancing the strength of cardiac muscles, arteries and veins. These preparations are called tonics. These should be used based on the recommendations of a veterinarian and after reviewing the manufacturer’s recommendation. One product that meets this requirement is PetAlive Heart & Circulation Tonic.

Surgical Feline Heartworm Treatment:

Surgical elimination of feline heartworm treatment is preferred only where the worms are placing a high burden on the heart. Though the risk is higher, it is the only available choice in severe cases. Worms can be retrieved from the right atrium, right ventricle and pulmonary arterial apex by using endoscopic basket, introduced through the jugular vein through a procedure called a jugular venotomy.

Prevention of Feline Heartworm:

Feline Heartworms are preventable; macrolides are therapeutic agents, which can help stop heartworms during the early or larval stages of development. In this context, tablets containing preventive doses of either ivermectin or selamectin are used once in a month for purpose. Popular brands include Heartgard® for Cats, Interceptor®, Revolution® or Advantage Multi™ for Cats which can be purchased at a discount from an on line retailer like Vetmedicines.com , Similarly, monitoring and regular screening of cats for feline heartworms once in every 3 months is highly recommended. Preventive treatment should only be initiated in adult cats and should be continued for the cat's entire life and with screening for heartworms initiated in kittens.

References:

The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health

American Heartworm Society

 

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