Sadly, the case might be worse for cats, as the blood tests to detect the heartworm parasite are not highly accurate. There is no approved adulticide treatment for heartworms in our feline friends. Many veterinarians and owners do not think to treat their cats with monthly heartworm preventative in spite of there being both oral and topical monthly medications available. I was at a Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine cardiology continuing education seminar in New England last June when a boarded cardiologist asked all 100 veterinarians in the room if they regularly placed cats on heartworm prevention. Only about 30 percent of the room raised their hands, and this was a self-selected group that was interested in cardiology!
Usually, the reason given for not using preventative is that the pet is an indoor pet. However, we all know that we see mosquitoes in our homes all summer and fall, and even early in the spring. In a study performed in North Carolina, 28 percent of the cats diagnosed with heartworm were inside-only cats (www.Knowheartworm.com). In New England, the percentage of heartworm-positive cats is likely much lower, but not zero.
Veterinarians have an answer to the heartworm problem. Safe, effective heartworm prevention medications exist in a variety of easy-to-use applications. What’s even more incredible is that the cost of a lifetime of preventive for most pets is significantly less than a single treatment for the disease. So, why do pets continue to suffer and die from a preventable problem?
When all the facts are reviewed, the simplest reason for our failure to control this deadly parasite is simply that we don’t give the preventive medicine as we should. Whether it’s forgetfulness or financial concerns, pet owners must realize that they are on the front lines in this battle and their actions could have dire consequences for the pet.