Prevention and control of feline parasites is an important part of maintaining the health of a cat. The new “Feline Life Stages Guidelines” issued by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) suggests guidelines for kittens and cats of all ages. The guidelines stress that prevention of parasites involves not only the cat but the environment as well.
Parasite control in kittens
Kittens can be infected with roundworms by their mothers before birth. Therefore, strategic dewormings are recommended beginning at three weeks of age and repeated every two weeks. Monthly parasite prevention for endoparasites (such as roundworms) can be administered at 8-9 weeks of age and should be continued until at least 6 months of age. It is important to note that roundworm infections can affect family members, particularly young children, which makes prevention and control of these parasites a top priority.
Feline parasite prevention and control for cats of all ages
Fecal examinations allow diagnosis of parasites not prevented or controlled by monthly medications. In addition, regular fecal examinations can help evaluate the efficacy of monthly preventive medications.
Kittens should have fecal examinations performed two to four times during their first year of life. Cats from 7 months to 2 years of age should have fecal examinations performed one to four times yearly, depending on the cat’s individual risk and lifestyle. Cats two years and older need fecal exams done once to twice yearly, again depending on the cat’s individual risk and lifestyle.
Heartworm prevention for cats
Heartworms pose a risk for cats of any age, particularly in areas where the parasite is endemic. Heartworms can infect both indoor and outdoor cats. They are passed through the bite of an infected mosquito, just like they are in dogs. However, in cats, the symptoms of heartworm disease appear differently than they do in dogs. Often, heartworm disease causes non-specific signs. Small numbers of heartworms can cause severe disease for an infected cat. Heartworms can be fatal.
Testing for heartworms and diagnosing heartworm disease is much more difficult in cats than in dogs as well. While a routine antigen test is usually sufficient to detect heartworm infection in dogs, both antigen and antibody tests may be necessary in cats. Even with both tests, the diagnosis may still remain questionable.
Treating heartworm disease in cats is much different than in dogs as well. Adulticide treatments used in dogs are not recommended in cats. (Author’s note: There is no definitive treatment for heartworm disease in cats. The disease is often mistaken or misdiagnosed as feline asthma or other respiratory disease and the only treatment available is symptomatic relief.)
Monthly preventive medications for feline heartworm disease are safe and effective and are recommended for cats living in endemic areas. Many of these preventives also provide control of other parasites as well.
Additional recommendations pertaining to feline health covered by the AAFP/AAHA guidelines include:
- frequency of wellness examinations
- nutrition and weight management
- behavior and enrichment
- dental care
These feline health care topics will be covered individually in greater length in upcoming columns. Stay tuned or subscribe to email alerts and be notified when a new article is published.
If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy:
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- Fleas on Dogs and Cats
- Roundworms in Dogs and Cats
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