Posts tagged Cat

Help Your Pet RELAX this 4th of July!

The 4th of July is almost here! 

Agnus the chihuahua sitting in an american flagWhile we’re sure our pets are just as patriotic as we are, they may not share our excitement for the local fireworks displays.

Pets can find fireworks terrifying. Fortunately we have a number of remedies that actually work well!

 

Starting out, it’s important to introduce our natural pet stress-relieving techniques a few days or even a week before they’re needed, to give your pet ample time to become comfortable with them. If your pet is afraid of the very thing meant to relax them, you won’t see good results. Plus, it seems like every neighborhood has that “one guy” who doesn’t wait until the actual 4th of July to celebrate with fireworks! So start your chosen treatment method before the fireworks actually begin. Once your dog or cat is stressed out, it can be difficult to calm them down. It’s important to remember that your pet is not only fearful for its’ own safety, but for yours as well! If you begin to worry about whether your pet will be stressed or anxious, it will only validate the fear and add to the anxiety.  It’s important to be calm during such times, as this will help your pet to relax and reduce the fear.

Flower Essences are a very effective tool for combating stress and anxiety because they function on an emotional level.

They’re remarkably simple, combining the energetic essence and effects of flowers in unique formulas.  We’ve found our pets are very “tuned in” to emotional energy, and they seem receptive to these formulas.  While they’re effective, they’re also very mild on the body and completely safe.  Flower Essences can be applied in a number of ways: dropped directly into your pet’s mouth, rubbed on their fur, added to their drinking water or even all of those methods at once!

Some of our most popular Flower Essences listed below are now 15% OFF:

Homeopathic Remedies can be effective, very mild and completely safe for your pets.

Homeopathic Remedies work by combining a number of ingredients in extremely small quantities that might seem like they would add to the stress; however these formulations in turn cause the body to react against the ingredients – which can produce a calming effect.  The typical daily dosage can be increased during times of stress (like during fireworks, or that wild party you have planned!).

Our most popular stress remedy, Only Natural Pet Stress & Anxiety Homeopathic Remedy requires 5-10 drops 3 times per day to treat general anxiety. During times of stress that dose can be increased to 5-10 drops every 15 min for the first hour, every 30 min for the second hour and then once again for the third hour (If your Fireworks show lasts that long, we’d appreciate an invite!).  Homeopathic Remedies should ideally be dropped directly into the mouth. However, if that is difficult they can be mixed with treats, food or water as well.

We offer several other homeopathic remedies for anxiety. One may be right for your pet!

Herbal Formulas are another great option, that tends to work over a longer period of time than homeopathic remedies or flower essences.

These formulas can keep your pet relaxed for an extended time with little to no interruption of the benefits!  Since the effects last a bit longer, herbal remedies are one way to reduce any sudden “spikes” of stress and create a sustained, relaxed feeling.  Herbal Remedies can be mixed with food, treats, water or given directly.

Other herbal remedies you’ll find on our website (Also now 15% OFF):

We have a few other solutions for relieving stress that don’t fit into one of the above categories as well.  Our Only Natural Pet Phero-Soothe is a simulated Pheromone spray that creates a feeling of safety and well-being in any environment.  Our pets have a powerful sense of smell, which helps make this product effective. The Thundershirt is a unique and creative product. It gently “hugs” your pet, which creates a sense of safety and security by making them feel less vulnerable. Both of these products can be combined with just about anything as well, so they’re a versatile choice that will complement any solution!

Treating anxiety, especially a rational anxiety like a fear of loud explosions, can take some trial and error.  We’ve found that combining two or more products is generally the most effective. So explore your options, find the right solution for your pet, and get ready to enjoy those 4th of July fireworks without stress for you or your pet!

All Stress and Anxiety Solutions at 15% Off

June 14 – June 26, 2013

Coupon Code: RELAX

Shop Now >

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Friends for Food Winner Announced

We want to thank everyone who participated in our Friends for Food promotion. Thanks to your involvement, we are going to donate over a ton of food to the Boulder Humane Society. 2,406 pounds to be exact! Our donation will occur over the course of the year and be primarily utilized as part of the Food Share Program developed by the Humane Society to help those that adopt pets gain access to natural pet food for their newly adopted friends. You can learn more about this program by visiting www.boulderhumane.org.

As part of this promotion, we also offered a $250 gift card prize to one lucky friend who Like us Facebook. We are happy to announce that Laura Boyajian is our winner! She will receive a gift card via email that which can redeemed at www.onlynaturalpet.com.

Congratulations and thank you all for being a part of this engaging and worthy cause!

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Solving Cat Scratching Problems

There has been a lot of media attention lately on cat declawing, as the total number of cities banning the practice as animal cruelty rose to 8 by the end of last year. Declaw surgery is no manicure; it amputates 1/3 of the cat’s paws. Declawing is extremely painful for the cat, and medical complications are extremely common. Despite average pain management at the time of surgery, it is now known that serious pain can persist for months or years, leading to physical and behavior problems. Studies show that  33% (1 in 3) declawed cats will develop a more serious behavior problem, such as aggression, or failing to use the litterbox. It’s far better (and more humane) to resolve behavioral problems with behavioral solutions.

What can you do about destuctive scratching without declawing? Fortunately, there are many alternatives, one or more of which is sure to work for any cat.

Keeping Furniture Safe

Surveys recently found that while 95% of cats are declawed to protect furniture, only 52% of cat guardians provided their cat with a scratching post. Scratching is an extremely strong instinctive need for cats, and unless you give them an attractive and acceptable surface to scratch on, they will choose one for themselves—and it could be your sofa or expensive carpet! So the first step in preventing destructive clawing is to give the cat a good scratching object and start transferring the behavior.

To train your kitten or cat to use the post or scratcher, place it next to a problem scratching spot, or near a favorite sleeping spot. Cats like to stretch when they wake up from a nap. Rub the post with catnip if your cat likes it. Gently redirect scratching to the post. No yelling or punishment—they don’t work, and will only confuse and frighten the cat. Praise the cat or give treats for using the right surface. Be patient, and be consistent.

Some cats have a distinct preference for either vertical or horizontal scratching surfaces, which can easily be determined by observation. Cats tend to prefer corrugated cardboard and sisal rope or matting over carpet (the most common post covering). There is an incredible variety of shapes, sizes, and orientations available. From simple cardboard scratchers to wall art and exotic cat furniture, you’ll find something here to please any cat! We advise providing multiple options, even for a single cat. All vertical posts should be sturdy, stable, and tall enough for your cat to stretch fully. Make your own scratchers from cardboard, logs, sisal, or soft wood, or try one of these cat-friendly products:

If your cat still prefers furniture to his own scratching objects, loose furniture covers (blankets, towels, sheets), or protective double-sided sticky tape can be used to make the furniture unappealing. Specially made tape comes in strips and sheets, and won’t harm harm upholstery. Don’t worry, these are not permanent measures; once your cat is using the acceptable alternatives reliably, you can remove the protectors.

Keeping People Safe

Another concern is the potential for the cat to scratch a person. For young children, the elderly, immuno-compromised individuals, or people on blood-thinners, this seems like a legitimate reason to declaw; but it isn’t. Studies show that declawed cats are more likely to bite, and to bite harder or more frequently.  Cat bites are far more dangerous to human health than scratches, and are much more likely to become infected.

Children (and some adults!) should be taught how to approach and handle cats gently and humanely. Children can learn, but declawing is for life. Never play rough with a cat or kitten using bare hands or feet. Yes, it’s funny and cute to play with a kitten with your hands (we’ve all seen that YouTube video), but when he’s all grown up with inch-long fangs, it’s not so amusing. Don’t create a bad habit to start with, so your cat won’t have to unlearn it later (which is not so easy to accomplish).

Additional protection for human health can be accomplished by regular nail trimming to keep the claws blunt and harmless. Scissor-style nail clippers or human nail clippers are the easiest to maneuver. It’s ideal to get kittens started young by handling the feet and trimming nails early; but even adult cats can learn to tolerate it. Be patient and go slowly. There’s no rule that says you have to trim all 18 claws at once; one or two when your cat is sleeping or peaceful is also a great way to start.

For even more protection, you can apply vinyl nail caps over the nails. Your veterinarian’s office or groomer can show you how to apply them. Once the nail caps are applied they remain in place for approximately 4-6 weeks. They will fall off with the natural growth of your cat’s nails. We recommend that you check your cat’s nails periodically because usually just one or two fall off at a time and these can be easily reapplied. Each kit contains 40 nail caps and will last approximately 4-6 months per cat.

More Options

There are “repellents” available that will make the unacceptable scratching area less appealing to your cat. Or, make your own using citrus oils or citronella.

If your cat is scratching due to territorial anxiety, natural pheromones can encourage use of the correct surfaces (posts, scratchers)

There’s Never a Need to Declaw

All reasons for non-medical declawing have non-surgical alternatives. There are many humane choices that will protect both human and feline health, as well as sofas and Persian rugs. Those who absolutely insist that no cat of theirs will have claws, can adopt an already-declawed cat (there are many of them in shelters and rescues).

With time, patience, and a little effort, one or more of these alternatives will work for any cat; making it unnecessary and inhumane to use a radical, irreversible surgery to solve a behavior problem.

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Keeping the Holidays Safe for Your Pets

The holidays can be a stressful and even dangerous time for our pets. The routines are upset, visitors abound, and tempting smells are coming from the kitchen! Keeping pets safe is sometimes tricky at this time of year, so here are a few tips and tricks to help everyone enjoy the holidays fearlessly!

The Christmas tree is the first item of great interest on your pet’s Santa list. Many cats find it irresistibly tempting to climb. So, make sure your tree is in a sturdy, tip-resistant stand. (A classic Christmas card shows a cat and two women gazing at a decorated tree that’s tightly guy-wired to the walls and ceiling; one woman says to the other, “No chance of the cat knocking over the tree this year!”)

Most tree stands have a water container—this is another hazard. Aromatic compounds from the tree itself and the chemicals often added to the water are highly toxic to pets; make sure the container is wrapped and taped or otherwise made inaccessible to your feline and canine friends, who will often try to drink from this novel water source.

Christmas lights and wires on the tree and around the home are an invitation to chew for both cats and dogs. For wires that are easily accessible to curious teeth (especially young animals), run them through inexpensive foam pipe insulators that you can find at any home improvement or hardware store.

Metal tinsel is rare these days, but mylar tinsel and garlands can also pose a swallowing hazard. They can cause serious damage to a pet’s intestines. Consider a beaded garland instead. Also, when unwrapping presents, make sure all ribbon and string is safely disposed.

Keep glass ornaments to a minimum if you must use them at all, and place them higher on the tree, with unbreakable ornaments lower down. A broken glass ornament is a minefield for tender paws. If a pet eats all or part of a glass ornament, immediately feed cotton balls or bread soaked in milk or cream; the soft mushy texture will gather up all the sharp pieces and safely “escort” and expel them.

Parties and visitors increase the risk of a cat slipping out through an open door; make sure all your pets are microchipped and wearing collars and ID tags.

You may want to provide a “base camp” for your pet that includes food, water, bed—and for cats, a scratching post, and litter box—in a room that’s less likely to be disturbed. A spritz or two of a pet pheromone spray (Only Natural Pet Phero-Soothe) or flower essences (Only Natural Pet Just Relax Flower Essences, or Spirit Essences Holiday Stress Stopper) will keep the atmosphere calm. But no decorations in that room, please, especially lit candles! (Of course, unattended burning candles are a serious hazard at any time of year!)

Take it easy on the treats. Too many fatty treats like turkey skin or ham can cause serious tummy upset; in dogs, these can trigger life-threatening pancreatitis. Ask dinner guests to refrain from feeding “under the table”—or even better, keep pets safely confined during the festivities. Chocolate, of course, is toxic to both dogs and cats.

For extra comfort, consider adding essences, herbs (like Animals’ Apawthecary Tranquility Blend, or Only Natural Pet Chinese Herbal Blends Calm), or homeopathics (Newton Homeopathics Nervousness & Fear) to meals during the most hectic times.

A little extra care and attention will make this holiday season a safe and happy one for the whole family!

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The Scoop on Litter

Recently I was helping a friend who was recovering from surgery. She asked for a particular type of kitty litter, so off to the pet superstore I went. When I got to the litter section, I was dumbfounded by the sheer number of choices as well as the astonishing variety. Clearly, niche marketing had arrived in a big way. However, many of the litters appeared to distinguish themselves simply by labelling. For instance, one brand had half a dozen sub-types; all the litters looked identical, but had different labels touting one special ingredient or function. There was multiple-cat strength, fragrance or no fragrance, fast or long-lasting odor control, anti-bacterial, low-dust or dust-free, hard-clumping or plain clay–it was all pretty overwhelming. Thank goodness I had a specific order from my friend, or I would have spent all day gawking at that wall!

Since house-soiling is a major cause of cats being abandoned or relinquished, the whole subject of cat litter and boxes is much more important than one might think. Despite the dozens of choices of box size and shape and litter type, the one who really makes the decision about which to use is the cat. Our mission, as humans, is to provide whatever our cat prefers, since the consequences of failing to do so are extremely unpleasant.

So, what do cats want?

  • Openness. Most cats prefer an open box (as opposed to one with a hood). Privacy is not so important to cats, and in fact a wide field of view–so that nothing can sneak up on them–is often a higher priority.
  • Cleanliness. This another human responsibility, and again, the cat will definitely let you know if you’re falling down on the job. Remember, their noses are only inches away from the litter–that gives them the right to be picky! Clay and pelleted litters needs to be dumped and replaced every few days. Clumping litter should be scooped daily, and the whole box emptied and washed at least once a month.
  • Pleasant texture. Since they have to walk on it with their very sensitive paws, most cats prefer the soft texture of scoopable/clumping litter over clay or pellets.
  • Sufficiency. There should be plenty of boxes in a multi-cat home (experts recommend 1 box per cat + 1). Sometimes you can get away with less (my 5 cats shared one enormous box for years–until one day they didn’t!), but if litterbox issues develop, adding more boxes in more places is one of the main ways to solve such problems. But just lining up a bunch of boxes in the basement won’t do. There should be a box on every floor; this is especially important for older cats for whom stair-climbing may be uncomfortable.
  • Comfort. This means that the box should be big enough for the cat to easily turn around in (large plastic storage bins work well). Also, overweight, arthritic or declawed cats may be especially sensitive not only to the texture of the litter, but also its depth. If there’s too much litter in the box, the cat could feel like it’s sinking into quicksand. About 1-1/2 to 2″ of litter is plenty.

Now, within this framework, we can make certain choices. Automatic litterboxes work very well in many households, but some cats just won’t use them; the only way to know is to try, and it’s a potentially expensive experiment. Hooded boxes may be acceptable if you’re diligent enough about keeping them clean, but in a multi-cat home the “ambush factor” can discourage their use. High-sided storage bins are great for preventing litter from being kicked all over the room; but they may be too difficult to get in and out of for very young and very old cats.

Then we’re back to the choice of litter. Most litters are made from clay of some kind, often bentonite (which swells and clumps when wet). However, clay has some serious drawbacks. For one thing, it’s dusty. The dust contains silica, which can contribute to kitty and human lung diseases. Asthmatic cats (and people) should consider alternatives, since scooping the litter stirs up quite a bit of dust. (My own asthma virtually disappeared when we switched to World’s Best.) There have also been scattered (but largely unconfirmed) reports of intestinal blockage from cats ingesting the litter. Young kittens (who don’t know to avoid the wet spots), and cats with a lot of fur between their toes can get quite a bit of litter stuck on their feet; and of course they clean their paws by licking and will swallow whatever is on them. A natural cat litter made from corn or wheat does not carry this risk, as the body can break those materials down.

As a vet, I strongly recommend avoiding clay litter and the dusty clumping varieties, not only because of the health risks to you and your cat, but also because plant-based litters are a renewable resource. Clay comes from strip-mining and is very environmentally unfriendly. There are many natural alternatives available today. Offering your cat a “buffet” of 2 or 3 kinds will be a guide to your cat’s preferences. If you do change litters, remember to do it gradually to minimize stress and increase acceptance of the new product.

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Fur Loss – What’s the Problem?

Is your pet “going bald?” There are many reasons why a pet might lose fur, but in most cases, it’s because the of overgrooming: chewing the hair and breaking it off, or pulling it out completely. Those 12 tiny incisor teeth between the canines (fangs) are designed for grooming, and under normal circumstances, they’re used to “comb” through the hair to remove debris, mats, and parasites.

Hair loss from any cause is called “alopecia” (“aloe-pee’-sha”).  Sometimes you’ll actually catch your pet in the act of chewing, or notice that he’s scratching or grooming more than usual, but more often you’ll glance down and suddenly notice a bare patch where the fur used to be. Areas where alopecia can develop without you noticing are the tummy, tail base, and front legs. Dogs are especially prone to work intensively at an itchy area and develop raw, open sores called “hot spots.” When cats do this, they cause even worse damage because of their rough, barbed tongues.

Parasites

The first essential step is a trip to the veterinarian’s to diagnose the cause of the problem. Far and away the most common reason for both dogs and cats to pull out their hair, especially around the base of the tail, is flea-bite allergy. It only takes a single flea bite to produce an intense and prolonged reaction. Your vet can prescribe an effective and safe flea preventive and help you get rid of fleas and eggs in and around the house, or you can use more natural methods. Once the fleas are gone, the skin will heal up on its own, or you can use homeopathy to hasten the process.

Another parasite that may be far more common than many vets suspect is mites. There are several species of mites that produce a condition called “mange.” Sarcoptes mites (scabies) cause unrelenting, severe itching. They are most often found on the belly, but can wander anywhere. Scabies mites prefer warm, moist areas. Cheyletiella (“walking dandruff mite”) and Demodex may or may not be itchy, but if the infestation grows out of control, they can cause scratching and hair loss. Demodex is a normal parasite of humans and animals (we have them in the hair follicles of our eyebrows–eew!), but if the immune system is weak, it can explode into a nasty infestation. Sometimes cat ear mites will get into the skin, particularly around the head and neck. All of these can cause animals to lick, scratch, rub, and chew to try to relieve the itching. Strengthening the immune system is the most basic support for a parasitized pet.

Most mites have one thing in common—they are easily transmitted, and they are not picky about where they set up housekeeping. In a household with scabies, multiple animals and people are likely to be infected. Your vet will do a skin scraping and put it under the microscope to check for mites, which are very tiny and hardly visible to the eye. However, scabies mites are very hard to find. It’s been estimated that only 20-30% of pets with scabies are ever definitively diagnosed, even by multiple skin scrapings. If there are two or more itchy individuals (of any species!) in the household, treatment for mites may be indicated.

Ringworm (which is actually a fungus) is also frequently implicated in cases of hair loss, especially around the face, feet and ears. It is more common in cats than dogs, and even more so in kittens–but all animals, including humans, can get them. The hair disappears in small patches, and the skin turns dry, gray (or red, especially in people), and flaky. The time between initial contact and the appearance of lesions varies from one to three weeks. Ringworm is extremely contagious! While it doesn’t seem to bother the animals much, in people it can be extremely itchy! Treating ringworm can be difficult and time-consuming.There are a number of effective topical creams that can be used if the lesions are small and localized, but a pet with a major infection may need to be shaved and bathed in a special shampoo for a month or more. Alternatively, there are oral medications or herbs that must be given consistently, usually for several weeks. They have serious side effects, so be sure to discuss the options thoroughly with your vet. Homeopathic treatment can be very helpful.

Internal Disease

Along with parasites, the veterinarian will also consider other potential causes of hair loss. Certain patterns, such as symmetrical hair loss along the sides, may point to an endocrine disorder; i.e., a problem with one of the hormone-secreting glands, such as the thyroid or adrenals.

Localized pain may also cause the excessive licking. A brewing abscess is painful, and will inspire a lot of licking before it opens and drains. Hair loss over joints may indicate arthritis pain. I once examined a cat who had suddenly started licking at one particular spot on her right side. As I mulled over which organs were in that part of the abdomen, I became suspicious, and ransome tests. It turned out she had acute pancreatitis, which we successfully treated before it became a full-blown, life-threatening problem.

Allergies

Contact allergies, while rare, are possible. A new carpet, cedar bed, or different detergent used to launder the pet’s bedding can cause a local allergic reaction that causes the pet to lick at the itchy area. Hair loss and rash will occur in the areas where the pet most frequently comes into contact with the material, such as feet and tummy.

Once parasites and medical problems have been ruled out, there are still two major players to consider. The first is diet. Food intolerances or allergies may show up first in the skin, causing tiny red crusty sores that spread or coalesce as the pet rubs or scratches at them. Secondary bacterial infections are common once the skin becomes irritated. Food allergies are much more common in cats than in dogs. Lesions around the face, feet, and ears are typically seen with food allergies. Allergies to inhaled substances, such as dust mites or pollen, may produce identical signs. A diet trial with low-allergen food, skin or blood test (good diagnostics for dogs but notoriously inaccurate in cats), or trial treatment may be used to assess allergies. Treatment consists of improved diet including added essential fatty acids and other natural products.

“Fat Deficiency”

The skin and coat are also the first to suffer when the diet is inadequate in certain nutrients. Pets on all-dry, “light,” or “low-fat” diets may develop dry, flaky skin, and the coat may be dull or greasy feeling. The skin may be irritated and the coat may become thin because hair is falling out. Or there may be plenty of fat in the diet, but not the right kind of fat.

Supplementation with essential fatty acids and/or Vitamin E may provide a great deal of relief. Omega 3 fatty acids, in particular, found in fish oil and cod liver oil will help calm underlying inflammation, and condition the skin and fur. There are a number of good products for animals, such as Nordic Naturals Pet Omega 3 or Cod Liver Oil.

Many cat lovers have also found that homemade and raw diets, which eliminate the colorings, preservatives and other additives found in commercial cat foods, has done the trick. Simply getting rid of the dry food in favor of any wet food, such as canned, is the ticket in many cases.

It’s All in the Head?

Some herbs have mild sedating or calming effects. There are combinations made especially for animals. These would be appropriate to use if you know what the stressor is, and can dose appropriately whenever the stress will occur. For instance, if your pet gets upset when he’s left alone, you would give him the herbs right before you leave for work or school.

Other Treatments

Hherbs can help soothe and heal the skin.

Homeopathy can also be very beneficial in treating alopecia related to itching.

One of the best and simplest modalities for treating stress on the pyschological level is flower essence therapy.

Alopecia is a  sign that something’s wrong, and it’s often uncomfortable for the pet. While it’s not always easy to find out why your pet is pulling out her hair, it’s very important to get to the bottom of it, and to treat it appropriately.

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The Truth About Heartworms

Veterinarians and pharmaceutical companies have teamed up in a marketing campaign to frighten pet guardians into giving year-round heartworm preventatives to both dogs and cats. They say they’re doing this to improve protection for individual pets, but the facts say they have other motives.

Except for a the warmest parts of the U.S., heartworms are a completely seasonal problem. There is no reason to give heartworm medicine to most pets year-round (except to make money for those who make and sell it!).

Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. Hearworm larvae, called microfilaria, live in the blood and are sucked up by the bug. Once inside the mosquito, they must further develop before they can infect another dog. For that to occur, outside temperatures must remain above 57 degrees F, day and night, for a certain period of time. The warmer the temperature, the faster the larvae will mature. If the temperature drops below critical level, larval development will stop; but the larvae don’t die—development will re-start at the same point when the weather warms back up. Larvae reach their infective stage in 8 to 30 days (the latter being the entire lifespan of the average mosquito).

In many areas of the country (northern and mountain states, for instance), such warm temperatures simply don’t exist for most of the year, and sustained warm temperatures don’t occur until at least June. In fact, only in Florida and south Texas is year-round heartworm transmission possible. Within 150 miles of the Gulf Coast, heartworm risk exists 9 months out of the year. In the rest of the country, heartworm transmission is possible between 3 and 7 months out of the year. Hawaii and Alaska have each had a few cases of canine heartworm, but the incidence  in those states is very low.

It should be obvious that during seasons where there are no mosquitoes, there is no risk of heartworm. Evidently that little fact escaped the attention of the veterinarian who prescribed heartworm protection—in December–for a puppy living high in the Colorado mountains. At that altitude, temperatures are never warm enough for heartworms!

When an infected mosquito bites a dog or cat, the microfilaria are deposited on the skin, where they crawl into the bite wound and enter the bloodstream. Inside the body, they grow and progress through other larval forms. In dogs, the heartworm’s natural host, larvae migrate to the heart and eventually develop into adult worms, reproduce, fill the blood with microfilaria, and pass it on to the next mosquito.

In cats, full-grown worms can develop, but not reproduce. Adult heartworms are over a foot long, and it doesn’t take but 1 or 2 to fill up a cat’s tiny heart and cause serious problems. In 80% of the time, the cat’s immune system kills the larvae at an earlier stage, and clears the infection. However, microfilaria can cause significant inflammation in the lungs, even in cats who never show any signs of infection. Cases of heartworm have been diagnosed in cats living entirely indoors.

Heartworm preventative drugs do not kill adult heartworms, but they do kill microfilaria up to a certain stage of development. Currently it is believed that larvae under 6 weeks old are affected. This means that in order to prevent heartworms from reaching adulthood, the preventative can be given up to 6 weeks after the mosquito bite and still work. The recommendation is to give the drugs every 30 days, purportedly because once-a-month dosing is easier for most people to remember (and, coincidentally, it also sells more drugs). Preventatives should be given starting 4-6 weeks after the earliest possible infection date and continue 4-6 weeks after the last possible infection date. In most states, protection should be continued through November or December. In southern Texas and Florida, year-round preventatives may be needed. Local conditions may vary from year to year.

The most common preventative drugs for heartworm are ivermectin (Heargard®) and selamectin (Revolution®). While these drugs are generally safe and effective, there are always exceptions. Toxicity associated with ivermectin include depression, ataxia (balance problems or unsteady walk), and blindness, but these are uncommon at the doses used in heartworm preventatives. Selamectin is also used to treat ear mites and some worms; adverse reactions include hair loss at the site of application, diarrhea, vomiting, muscle tremors, anorexia, lethargy, salivation, rapid breathing, and contact allergy.

Update 7/15/2010: The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) recently reported that mounting evidence suggests that preventatives may be susceptible to a very serious problem: resistance. This is similar to the situation with antibiotics, where massive and unnecessary over-use has caused many bacteria to develop resistance to one or more drugs, creating super-infections, and making many antibiotics useless. The CAPC report states: “There is a growing body of anecdotal reports and experimental evidence that currently available heartworm preventives (macrocyclic lactones) may not be completely efficacious in preventing heartworm infection in dogs. Reports of resistance for dogs in the region [south-central U.S.] have resulted in confusion about how best to prevent infection in veterinary patients.” If ivermectin and related drugs lose their effectiveness, that will be trouble indeed, since these drugs are also used in the treatment of heartworm infections.

Only Natural Pet HW Protect Herbal Formula is a natural product intended for use as a preventative to be used during mosquito season as part of a comprehensive heartworm control program. The formula was designed with two objectives, using herbs that work together to reduce the likelihood of mosquito bites to lower your pet’s risk of becoming infected, and to help eliminate existing larvae-stage parasites in the bloodstream. This tincture was developed to help prevent heartworm infestation using extracts of herbs well known for their mosquito repelling properties, and others well known for their anti-parasitic properties.

References:

Knight DH, Lok JB. Seasonality of heartworm infections and implications for chemoprophylaxis. Clin Tech Sm An Pract. 1998 May;13(2):77-82.

Atkins C. Feline heartworm disease. NAVC Clinician’s Brief. http://www.cliniciansbrief.com/webrief/25.php. Accessed 5/20/2009.

Companion Animal Parasite Council, http://www.capcvet.org/downloads/Heartworm%20Preventive%20Efficacy.pdf. Accessed 7/15/2010.

Pena F, Rosenthal M. Expert shares new protocol to manage heartworm signs. Veterinary Forum. 2008 Aug 1:17-18.  http://www.vetlearn.com/ArticleDetails/tabid/106/ArticleID/3289/Default.aspx. Accessed 7/15/2010.

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