Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring and Summer Parasite Control

Spring and Summertime is usually a fun time for people, but it can be a miserable time for cats. Summer is peak season for pesky parasites like fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. At best, these critters can make your kitty uncomfortable; at worst, they can transmit dangerous diseases.

Few creatures living on earth today have had as much impact on world history as the common flea. From the black plague during the 14th century to the present, fleas have been the cause of much grief. They make your cat itch, especially if the cat is allergic to the flea bite, which is quite common. In fact, flea allergy dermatitis is the most prevalent small-animal skin disease. Fleas are also responsible for transmitting tapeworms to cats. “Though we haven’t figured out how to completely eliminate fleas, in the last few years science has made some tremendous advances in helping pets and their owners cope with these annoying parasites”, said Chantal Acosta, a veterinarian with Country Vets in New York City.

The most effective approach to flea control remains the three-step method: treatment of the yard, the home, and the cat. Excellent compounds are available that can be applied directly to the soil in moist, shady areas around the house where immature fleas are most likely to live. These compounds are reasonably priced, long-lasting, and environmentally friendly. As for the home environment, there are safe and effective compounds that can be applied to carpets and upholstered furniture in cases where the flea problem is especially severe, although in most instances, simply vacuuming and thoroughly washing your cat’s bedding may be sufficient.

In recent years, a number of products have been introduced that are truly among the most effective and important formulations in the war against fleas. Many of these products are applied to the cat’s fur once a month. Some are given orally. Talk to your veterinarian about which product is right for you, as different products have different benefits.

Ticks are less of a nuisance in cats as compared to dogs. It is speculated that the meticulous grooming habits of the cat allows cats to remove most ticks from their coat before they attach. Cats are also fortunate in that they are much less susceptible and thus rarely fall victim to dangerous tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, as compared with dogs. Although most once-a-month flea products do not claim to be effective against ticks, some (for example, fipronil) are effective against both.

As if malaria wasn’t bad enough, in recent years the emergence of West Nile Virus has rekindled our revulsion for the lowly mosquito. Dog owners are well aware of the mosquito’s role in transmitting heartworm disease to their canine companions. Cat owners (and veterinarians, admittedly) have underestimated the incidence and consequences of heartworm disease in cats, with sometimes disastrous results. Unlike dogs, cats are not the natural host of heartworm disease, and mild infections can have serious consequences. Heartworm disease in cats can mimic asthma in many aspects, and many cases go misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. An effective treatment for heartworm disease in cats remains elusive, and the prognosis for cats with heartworm disease varies greatly, with some cats dying acutely from their illness. Fortunately, heartworm disease is preventable in cats. Ivermectin, administered monthly as a chewable treat, has been available for years as a preventative. A similar compound, selamectin, can be applied topically, and serves to prevent heartworm as well. "Since heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes, cats who are kept indoors can be exposed as well as those who go outside. All cats in an area that has heartworms should be on monthly heartworm prevention.", says Dr. Anne Sinclair, a board-certified feline specialist and owner of Cat Sense Feline Hospital and Boarding in Bel Air, Maryland.

With the assortment of highly effective products available to veterinarians, summer parasites have gone from miserable to manageable. A close working relationship between veterinarians and cat owners is necessary to optimize control of these critters so that cats can remain comfortable during the warm summer months.

"Summer Parasite Control"
"Fleas and Ticks"
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