How to Help Your Vet Manage a Colic – Part 1

How to Help Your Vet Manage a Colic – Part 1

Tuesdays with Tony

I see a lot of stuff as the Springhill Equine Clinic Cat, and it seems to me there are few things that strike more fear into the heart of a horse owner than colic. Colic is a catch-all term for abdominal pain and can be caused by a variety of different things in your horse’s belly, ranging from a mild gas colic to a serious lesion that requires surgery.  I’m not sure why horses don’t just puke on the carpet (or a keyboard, I love puking on keyboards, very satisfying) like I do whenever they start to feel colicy, but my docs say that’s not how it works. Colic will never be a fun time, but here are some ways to help your horse (and my docs!) so things go as smoothly as possible.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Be Prepared

  • Know how to recognize the signs of colic – Rolling, pawing, looking at the flank, and laying down are the most common signs, but horses can also show more subtle signs such as not wanting to eat, kicking at the stomach, restlessness, stretching out as if to urinate, increased respiratory rate, and reduced manure production. If you notice any of these things, give my doc a heads up so she can advise you what to do next.
  • Call my doc! Even if you aren’t sure she needs to come out yet, it’s best to discuss what’s going on. If you wait too long, it could turn a mild problem into a severe one. Generally, colic is much more easily (and economically) treated if you can catch it early. A severe colic may have no chance of survival if you don’t pursue treatment immediately.
  • Get yourself an inexpensive stethoscope and learn how to listen to your horse’s heart and gut sounds. You can find one for as little as $20 and my doc can show you how to use it! Practice ahead of time, don’t wait for an emergency to happen. When you call my doc, it’s very helpful to tell her what the heart rate is – it helps to determine how serious the colic is. A horse’s normal heart rate is around 26-46 beats per minute (much slower than yours, and waaay slower than my thrillingly fast kitty heartrate of 170 beats per minute) You can hear it best on the left side, just behind his elbow, about where the girth rests. A high heart rate is often a sign of a more serious colic. His gut sounds can be heard on both sides of his belly, high and low, in front of his hips. A normal horse has active rumbles all over his belly, and you shouldn’t have to listen for much longer than 15 seconds to hear some. Again, practice ahead of time to get used to his normal sounds. Keep a thermometer around, too. Practicing ahead of time will also help you keep track of what your horse’s normal temperature is, so you’ll be more likely to notice a problem. Normal temperature is usually between 98.5 – 100.5 degrees F.
  • Have a transport plan. If your horse needs to get to the hospital for surgery or medical treatment, who is going to trailer him there? If you have a trailer, can it be hooked up quickly and ready to go? Are the tires and lights good? You don’t want to have to worry about these things when the colic is happening, trust me.
  • Consider a major medical insurance policy for your horse. Colic surgery can be very expensive, around the mid to high 4 figures in north central Florida. Insurance can be surprisingly affordable, especially compared to the cost of treating a colic. It’s a very sad thing to have to euthanize a horse that could have been treated. When your horse is sick, the financial part is the last thing you’ll want to have to worry about. There are also colic programs from Platinum Performance and SmartPak that will cover a significant chunk of the surgery cost if your horse is enrolled.
  • Be familiar with the idea of colic surgery. While hopefully you never have to use this option, you should make sure you don’t have any misconceptions about surgery. Decades and decades ago, colic surgery was less common than it is now. Some people still have the idea that colic surgery doesn’t have a great success rate. But the truth is, the survival rate for colic surgery is about 90%. Most horses can go back to athletic careers a few months after. Another misconception is that older horses can’t handle surgery well. Studies have shown that postoperative survival rates for older horses are about the same as younger horses.

 While You’re Waiting for the Vet

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

  • Give my doc good driving instructions or an accurate GPS address to find your barn. The importance of well-marked street numbers visible from the road can’t be overstated! Keep your phone close in case she needs to contact you. If the house might be hard to find, especially at night, get someone to stand by the driveway or meet at a landmark to help direct her to where your horse is.
  • Have a well-lit area available for my doc to examine your horse. It should be a safe place to work and free of obstructions. Have a clean water source available in case she needs to pass a nasogastric tube into your horse’s stomach. It helps to have a power source available to plug in equipment. Also, this feline thinks you ought to put the dogs away so there are less slobbery distractions.
  • Take away your horse’s food until after my doc has examined him. This includes grass, too. It’s okay to leave him water, though a colicky horse usually won’t be interested in drinking.
  • Keep an eye out for manure. The amount of manure your horse has passed, and whether it’s a normal consistency, is useful info for my doc. If possible, collect some of the manure for her to inspect, as it might offer a clue about the cause of the colic. But, a common misconception is that if a horse is passing manure, the colic has to be getting better. That’s not always the case, since there are about 100 feet of gut inside your horse. The manure could be further back than the site of the problem or obstruction.
  • You don’t have to continuously walk your horse, especially not for hours and hours! That can do more harm than good. A little walking (5 or 10 minutes at a time) can help to improve the activity of the intestines. But it’s okay to let him rest calmly. Laying down isn’t going to cause a twisted gut – that’s an old wives’ tale. If your horse is rolling violently and you can’t keep him up, your own safety is the priority, so it may be best to put him in a safe place and stay back until the vet arrives.
  • Think about possible causes. Do you have a new batch of hay? Has your pasture changed recently? Anything else different in your horse’s lifestyle?

In part 2, we’ll go over what will happen while my doc is examining your horse, and what to do after the vet visit, so keep an eye out for that one!

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. Are you subscribed to my blog? Don’t rely on Facebook to let you know it’s here. Be a good human and scroll down to the purple box. You can do it, just a little more. As a reward, I’ll email you my blog every Monday, a day early! 

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Cold Weather Horse Challenges

Cold Weather Horse Challenges

Tuesdays with Tony

The first cold snap of the year is always dreadful for us thin-skinned Florida cats. There are several topics that classically arise this time of year including blanketing recommendations, colic concerns, and barn management.

Blanketing

Currently, the number one question we are hearing around the clinic is whether or not to blanket the horses. There are several things to take into consideration when making that decision. First of all, if your horse is clipped, they are more likely to need that extra layer than one that is not. General recommendations are that if the overnight low is in the 50s to use a light sheet, and if it is in the 40s to use a light/medium blanket. If it’s in the 30s or below you will need a heavier blanket, but thankfully that’s a rare occurrence in Florida!

 

  Low in lower 50’s Low in lower 40’s Low in lower 30’s 20’s or below
Clipped Sheet Light blanket Med Blanket Move Further South
Not Clipped Naked Naked Naked  

 

If your horse is not body clipped, you will likely not need to blanket at all, with a few special considerations. Horses with underlying conditions, like PPID (aka Cushing’s), or those that are underweight may have more difficulty regulating their temperature. In general, horses should also have access to a shelter from excessive rain and wind in order to tolerate a drop in temperature.

After blanketing, it is always smart to check each animal to make sure they are not sweating or overheating under a blanket. There is a greater health concern of a horse overheating under a blanket than being too cold without one!

Colic Concerns

With cold weather changes, there is unfortunately an increased concern for colic in horses. This weather change from warm to cold is often accompanied by decreased drinking by the horse. In the past, bran mashes were fed during this time to prevent colic. Unfortunately, this is no longer a good idea (was it ever?!) because introducing a different food your horse is not accustomed to can be a perpetrator of colic itself! Instead, adding water to your horse’s normal feed is recommended. If you’re feeling cold, you can even add warm water!

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Monitoring feed intake and manure production is also essential during this time. We often give extra hay when the cool weather starts for a few different reasons. For one, the pastures are not growing as well and adding hay is often necessary to meet daily forage requirements. Additionally, we know that eating forage can contribute to keeping them warm (hindgut fermenters, blessing and a curse). As we add in more hay, we need to make sure that manure production isn’t slowing down, as this can be a first early sign of an impaction. It’s important to feed a high quality hay during these times as lower quality forages, such as coastal, can be a common culprit in colics.

Covering All The [Frozen] Bases

Those of you unlucky enough to have lived through a winter in the dreaded north realize that barn maintenance during cold weather is imperative. When temperatures reach freezing levels, it may be necessary to disconnect hoses and leave a steady drip from the spigots to prevent pipes from freezing. Breaking thick ice out of water troughs and buckets can also be a common occurrence, and sometimes the hose itself is too frozen for refills, so you have to carry water back and forth from the stalls to the spigot.

Don’t worry too much about the temperature of your horse’s water. If you want to use a bucket heater to keep it from freezing solid, that’s fine. But studies have shown that horses will drink water that’s 35-45 degrees F preferentially over warmer water, even when it’s sub-freezing temperatures outside. Further proof that cats are superior, if you ask me.

Let’s be sure to be extra Thankful on Thursday that we don’t need to walk to the barn with a hammer to break ice out of water buckets here in Florida! And for those of you in cold climates, I’ll think about you while I’m basking in the sunshine.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. If you really want to take a deep dive into cold weather stuff, the humans have a podcast episode on this very topic. You can find it over on the Podcast Page, just scroll down the episode list all the way back to Season 1, Episode 15. Or you can subscribe to Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth wherever you get your podcasts. I know, it’s so much good stuff, it’s hard to take it all in. You’re welcome.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Blocked Goats and Sheep 101

Blocked Goats and Sheep 101

Tuesdays with Tony

A few weeks ago, we talked about being extra careful to monitor your male cats’ litter box usage due to the risk of urinary obstruction. We’re now going to talk about a similar topic in a different (louder, much less refined) species: goats and sheep. While the general problem is the same, the specifics are a bit different, so let’s get into it.

This disease is an unfortunately common one of the castrated male small ruminant, and is known as obstructive urolithiasis, though more simply called urinary blockage. For the purposes of this review, I’ll mostly be talking about goats because they tend to be the main pet species around here, but the same things apply to sheep.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

A quick terminology review for the uninitiated human: intact male goats are known as bucks, intact male sheep are known as rams, and castrated males of either species are known as wethers. There’s a saying that goes around the sheep and goat circles: “friends don’t let friends have pet wethers.” I don’t know why anyone would want to be owned by anything other than a cat, but perhaps I’m biased.

Wethers have a bad habit of accumulating grit and stones in their urinary tract due to diet and inadequate water intake. The disease is most common in the castrated males because the lack of testosterone prevents widening of their urethra at specific points. This means there are a few very, very narrow areas along the offramp from the bladder where they can get a fatal traffic jam!

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so let’s go over prevention of obstructive urolithiasis in wethers. Well, it can start as simply as when they become wethers. Waiting to have a veterinarian surgically castrate a buckling until he’s 6-7 months of age is ideal as it will give him more time for his urethra to mature and widen. The important caveat to this is that bucklings can become fertile as early as 3-4 months of age, so they’ll need to be separated from female goats (including their mother) for that time to prevent unwanted pregnancies. If separation is not possible, surgical castration at 3-4 months is still preferred over banding as birth control for pet animals.

If you do have a wether, especially if he was castrated very early, the easiest and most effective prevention strategy is to ONLY feed him roughage and browse. Translated: no grain; none, zero, zilch. Pet wethers don’t need it, ever. Also, avoid feeding them too much alfalfa hay. Instead, feed them a nice grass hay and let them browse. Goats are natural browsers and prefer eating shrubs, bushes, and trees that are more than 6-8 inches above the ground. They would absolutely love to clear wooded areas of your property for you, and that browse is the healthiest thing for them to eat.

There are dietary supplements that can be used in certain situations, especially if goats need to be on concentrate feeds for showing or other reasons. Talk to your veterinarian for details about what is best for your herd, but your average pet wether will do his best by just browsing the pasture and being supplemented with a decent quality grass hay.

There are a few different types of stones that goats can develop, but it will be difficult for them to develop any stones if their urine is dilute. This means you have to encourage your goats and sheep to drink water, and monitor them to make sure they do.

Springhill equine veterinary clinic

There should be multiple clean water sources in each area where livestock are housed, and they should be cleaned out regularly. White water tubs draw your human eyes to dirt and debris, since you don’t have discerning taste like a cat does. Automatic waterers are great, but only if they work well and are clean. Sheep especially will be unwilling to leave the flock for a faraway water source, so make sure there are multiple sources near the food to limit competition.

Even with proper dietary management and plenty of water sources, some wethers are just unlucky–they don’t have 9 lives like me–and they can still develop this condition and block. So now let’s talk about how to figure out if your goat might be blocked and what to do about it.  

First off, any time a wether isn’t acting like himself, the very first thing to rule out is urinary blockage. Watch him for a bit to see if you can see him urinating or trying to urinate. If you have the ability to move him to a freshly bedded stall, that will often be enough to encourage a goat to urinate. I get it, a fresh litter box is one of life’s greatest joys. Vocalizing while urinating is not normal for goats or sheep, neither is parking out and positioning without producing any urine. Seeing either of those things most definitely warrants a call to that veterinarian you have a great relationship with.

Now, here comes the not-so-exciting news. Most of the time, urinary blockage in wethers requires referral to a hospital for surgical management. If it’s his first time blocking and he isn’t super down in the dumps yet, your veterinarian may be able to come out remove something called the urethral process, which is the final part of his urinary tract, and sometimes is the source of the blockage. This procedure requires sedation and pain management and should only be done by a veterinary professional. Many wethers will block again after this procedure, and soon, but it can sometimes buy time to get them to a hospital for surgical management.

If urinary stones are obtained from removing the urethral process or found in the preputial hair, they should be submitted to the scientist-type humans for analysis. This stone analysis, plus a review of diet and management, are the necessary steps to determining what interventions the wether will need to prevent re-obstruction in the future. Calcium carbonate stones are very hard to manage, but removing sources of high calcium like alfalfa can be beneficial. Struvite type stones can be managed by acidifying the urine through dietary supplementation as directed by your veterinarian.

There is no one plan that will work for all goats or sheep, all stones, or all situations to prevent re-obstruction. The best plan is good husbandry and management of all goats: stop feeding grain, offer grass hay or pasture, and make sure they have more than adequate access to clean, fresh water. Use a goat or sheep-specific mineral and not one meant for horses or other livestock. Management matters, as does having a great relationship with your veterinarian.

If you’re in Springhill’s practice range, that veterinarian can be Dr. Speziok. She offers Herd Evaluations for goats and sheep that allow for the creation of an individualized management plan for your specific situation. Give my minions a call at 352-472-1620 to make an appointment.

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. As a goat person, you’ll definitely want to check out the goat videos on my YouTube Channel. My docs will teach you how to do a FAMACHA score to check for parasites, check your goat or sheep’s body condition score, and more. Make sure you subscribe to the channel, as new content goes up every month. You’re welcome.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Horse Shows and Drug Rules

Horse Shows and Drug Rules

Tuesdays with Tony

This isn’t going to be a blog about what you think it’s going to be about. I like to keep it interesting because I’m a cat, and that’s how we roll. Today I’m going to talk about the guidelines that exist for using medications at horse shows, and some things you humans should think about when using medications.

Yes, You Can

The number one comment I hear from the front desk is, I can’t give any medication. I have a horse show coming up. Yeah, I know you thought I was going to say, What do you have that doesn’t test? My Docs are definitely not down with that kind of thinking, so I don’t hear a lot of that around here. However, if you say this to one of my Docs, they’re likely to reply that you don’t need to go to that horse show if this is your question. 

Back to the real topic here. Most organizations have guidelines in place for using appropriate, safe amounts of medications for horses showing. These guidelines allow the use of pain relievers like bute, Banamine, or Equioxx, and some other medications like dexamethasone. The rules also allow for veterinarians to treat minor emergencies like simple eye injuries, small lacerations, or mild colics while still allowing the horse to compete, IF the veterinarian feels that’s okay. Good drug rules work hard to ensure the welfare of the horse first and foremost. 

It’s important to remember what a competition involves for horses. There’s travel to the venue, sleeping in a strange bed, potentially lights on all night long, likely a high workload, and managing a nervous human, to name just a few. I know many of you humans take an Advil or two at a horse show. That’s reasonable. These guidelines allow your horse to have that same benefit.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Know Your Rules

The best way to follow the rules is to know the rules. Start by finding out the organization you will be showing under. Some common examples are USEF, AQHA, AERC, and FEI. No two organizations are the same, even the ones that do essentially the same events. For example, NSBA and AQHA rules have some slight differences. There can also be differences based on level of competition. USEF and FEI rules may be in effect at the same horse show for horses doing different levels. You may be showing preliminary level eventing, but your barn mate may be doing the 1*. You guys are going to have very, very different drug rules. In a moment I will explain why that’s a big deal. 

Be sure you have a firm understanding of the rules you will be competing under. If you aren’t sure, reach out to my Docs. They can often help you interpret the sometimes confusing language of drug rules. Discuss things with your trainer or other professionals who’ve been competing for a while. This will all help you get an understanding of what you can and can’t do.

Happy Horses

Let’s go over some scenarios to help you understand how to approach the use of medications at a horse show. 

Scenario 1: Your horse, Dobbin, is 18 years old and has been there, done that and is now teaching you, novice human, how to do the things you want to do. Dobbin has some minor aches and pains typical of the age, but is well managed at home with lots of turnout and a good warm up. You’re at your very first away show, which means Dobbin is in a stall for most of the weekend without his usual nighttime turnout. The showgrounds also have a lot of hard surfaces like concrete and asphalt. 

This is an appropriate place to add in NSAIDs like bute, Banamine, or Equioxx. Once again, talk to my Docs about the best way to do this. My Docs will help you decide which one is the right answer for Dobbins, typically with some trials long before the horse show. My Docs will also help you determine the best time to start and stop medications before and after the horse show. Most of those drug rules I talked about put limits on how long medications can be given. Bute is typically 5 days in a row, for example. My Docs will also help you come up with a plan to manage Dobbin’s temporary environment with non-medical things like walks and stretches. Drugs aren’t the magic answer, they are a support system. 

Scenario 2: Your horse, Flicka, is 4 years old and at her first horse show EVER, and it’s a scary, terrifying place, and she might lose her mind at any moment. She quit eating altogether this morning and now you’re pretty sure she’s colicky. 

This is where what I like to call the “vet clause” comes in. Many of the event rules give veterinarians the ability to treat Flicka for her colic, while still allowing you to compete with a short “time out.” Typically that time out is 24 hours. My Docs only authorize return to showing in cases similar to this where we have a horse with a relatively minor problem. They aren’t going to sign off on a major colic continuing to show. However, we all know horses are horses and they do stupid things. Similar to the Dobbins scenario, my Docs would also help you formulate a non-drug plan to help Flicka handle the stress. Long walks, frequent small meals, and, unfortunately, the thing no human is good at, patience will likely be the prescription here. 

The Big Dog: FEI

I’m going to end with a bit about FEI rules. FEI rules are tough and have zero give. A lot of this is because these are the rules that govern the Olympics, and the Olympic Committee is serious about drug use. If you are going to be showing under FEI rules, please, please, please for the love of all that is cat schedule a chat with my Docs. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

There are a whole lot of things you can’t do even 14 days out from a competition. And their drug testing is incredibly sensitive. Residual bute in a feed bucket which is then used to feed an FEI horse can cause a positive drug test. This means you have to be careful with even the other horses in the barn. No sharing anything! Many supplements, especially if they contain herbs, can cause positive tests. Moral of the story here: ask lots of questions, and don’t assume anything is legal. Also, my Docs can help you navigate the maze of FEI rules and passports (but don’t get me started on passports).

I know you guys hear the word ‘drugs’ and think bad. However, the appropriate use of some medications can make the competition world a better place for horses. Schedule a talk with my Docs to go over your goals, hopes, dreams, and fears, and they can help you come up with a plan!

Until next week,

~Tony

P.S. I just scratched the surface on this. If you want a deep dive, go listen to the podcast episode the humans did on this topic. It will clog your brain up with knowledge. You can find all their episodes over on the Podcast Page, or you can subscribe to Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth wherever you get your podcasts. Speaking of subscribing, you should scroll down to the purple box and subscribe to my blog before you go listen to that podcast. Yes, that’s a good human. 

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Heartworms 101

Heartworms 101

Tuesdays with Tony

Good morning, Humans. It’s the first of the month: have your pets had their heartworm prevention?

Did you know that heartworm prevention is less prevention, and more treating the problem before we know it’s there? Let me back up a few steps – sometimes my cat wisdom can get a little quick for the average human mind. 

What Is A Heartworm?

Heartworms, otherwise known as Dirofiliara immitis, are a frustrating parasite of dogs and cats that exist in the circulatory system and are spread by mosquitoes. They have been found in every state in the U.S. other than Alaska, and are especially problematic in the southeast. In most areas of the country, heartworm disease can be transmitted year round. Though mosquitoes are less prevalent during cooler months, they can fly indoors and find shelter in warm buildings to keep the lifecycle going. 

The Cycle of Doom

Speaking of lifecycle, let’s talk about these annoying little critters and what makes their world go round. Heartworm larvae live in the bloodstream of infected animals, which are then sucked up by a mosquito when they are bitten. While in the mosquitoes’ body, the larvae mature into an infective stage. When that mosquito then bites another susceptible animal, the larvae move into the tissue where they develop for 1-2 months. After that, they move into the bloodstream where they take a few more months to mature into adults and travel into the great vessels of the heart where they live, work, and breed, making baby heartworms to release into the bloodstream to be picked up by another mosquito and infect more animals. 

But The Drugs Handle Everything, Right?

Now, the real rub here is this: the heartworm prevention products that we have actually work by killing the developing larvae in the tissue before they turn into adults. These products cannot kill mature larvae or adults. 

To make matters worse, we can only detect that a pet has a heartworm infection after the heartworms have reached adulthood, as the antigen we use to detect them is produced by adult female heartworms. So, rather than “preventing” heartworm infection, what we’re really doing is stopping the infection in its tracks while we can, before the nasty parasite gets too big for our medications. 

To look for the adult heartworms, we do a blood test that just needs a few drops of blood and generally takes a few minutes to run. Your animals should have that test done every year routinely because of the long period between infection and the ability to detect disease. If we do find a positive test, then we have to pursue heartworm treatment, which is a 3-9 month process that involves expensive injectable medications to kill the adult worms and treat the symptoms of infection. This treatment is only available for dogs, us cats get the short end of the stick as we don’t handle the injectable medication well. 

Many dogs and cats are infected with heartworms without showing clinical signs for months or even years, so don’t try to tell me you don’t need to test your dog because they “seem fine.” Listen to your vets’ advice, test your pets yearly, and most importantly, maintain them on heartworm prevention all year round!

I asked about the first of the month at the beginning of this blog because most preventions are given monthly. My humans tend to remember the first of the month to keep them on schedule, and also recommend setting a recurring reminder in the calendar app of your choice. 

Heartworm preventions are prescription products (this means you have to bring your pet to the doctor at least once a year to continue getting them) and are generally very safe. Most of them also work to kill intestinal parasites such as hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms, so they have a double effectiveness in keeping all the nasty creepy crawlies away from and out of your pet. 

Be Consistent! 

The most important point is this: heartworm prevention must be given consistently all year round because if the developing larvae in the tissue gets beyond 1-2 months of age, we cannot prevent the heartworm infection from setting up shop in the heart. When this happens, we don’t know about it until at least 6 months later when we do a routine test. At that point it’s too late for prevention and we need to talk about treatment, which is long, expensive, and not without side effects. 

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Heartworm Mythbusting

You may have some preconceived notions about heartworms that are probably wrong. So let’s break some of them down. 

The first myth I’d like to bust is that cats don’t need to be on heartworm prevention. First off, cats are the most important creature in your house and deserve the best of the best. Cats can most definitely get heartworm disease, but we can’t treat it. We also have a harder time diagnosing heartworm disease in cats because, being the superior species that we are, we often do a good job of killing off female heartworms in our hearts. We don’t do as good with killing the male heartworms, which still cause disease but don’t have the antigen that is tested for. This means false negative tests with cats are not uncommon. The very best thing to do is have your cat on heartworm prevention every month all year for life. 

The second myth we should talk about is that if your animal is “indoor only,” they don’t need to be on heartworm prevention. Let’s first hash that term out. Dogs are almost never truly indoor-only. They go out for walks, into a back or front yard, or at least onto a patio. Cats are more frequently inside, however many go on patios, sit by open windows, go into garages, and go outside at least to get from the house to the car when going to the vet. Unless your pet lives in a literal bubble and never sees the light of the sun, they are at risk of being bit by a mosquito in the short sessions of outdoor time they do have. Also, mosquitos do in fact have wings, and can get inside your home quite easily. This means even your truly indoor-only pets are at risk. 

The final myth I’ll debunk today is that if you spend part of the year outside the southeast, you don’t need to give heartworm prevention while you’re away. I’ll point you back up to the beginning of the blog where I remind you that the way heartworm preventions work is by killing developing larvae in your pets’ body while they can still be killed, not by preventing them from ever getting there in the first place. Hopefully learning this helps you remember to give your pets heartworm prevention all year round and to make sure to get them tested at the vet every year. 

As always, if you have questions, my human staff–*ahem* veterinarians–would be happy to help you find the best products and plan for your furry friends. 

Until next week, 

~Tony

P.S. Have you subscribed to my blog yet? Don’t rely on Facebook to deliver my incredible cat thoughts to you. Be a good human and scroll down to the purple box and put your email address in there. I promise I won’t spam you, I’ll just send you my blog every Monday. You’re welcome.

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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