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.
most effective approach to flea control has been 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. They are so effective, in fact,
that the three-step method is becoming less necessary, and flea control
can be achieved by treating the pet only. These new products are either
applied directly to the cat, or are given orally or by injection. 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.