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Compendium September 2007 (Vol 29, No 9)

American Heartworm Society News Brief

by American Heartworm Society

    The American Heartworm Society held its 12th Triennial Symposium in Washington D.C., in conjunction with the 144th AMVA Annual Convention. The Heartworm Symposium, State of the Heartworm, featured a panel of distinguished investigators representing international research efforts aimed at understanding heartworm disease, its treatment and pathology. Feline heartworm disease has become a particular focus of the Heartworm Society this year. The complications associated with feline heartworm disease are not limited to pathology from adult worms. Studies are ongoing, but evidence suggests that significant disease and pathology in cats occurs from the effect of L5 larvae and that cats can develop significant signs and even die from heartworm disease without ever developing adult worms. Dr. Tom Nelson, DVM, past president of the American Heartworm Society and a board member of the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) stressed that understanding feline heartworm disease is a critical focus of the Society's efforts. "Heartworm is no longer just a dog disease. This is not just a Heartworm Society message or a CAPC message. This is being voiced by lots of different groups." To promote increased awareness of feline heartworm disease, the Heartworm Society launched its "Know Heartworms" campaign in January of this year. Among other things, the campaign features a newsletter and a website (http://www.knowheartworms.org/) offering downloadable educational materials. The campaign is co-sponsored by the American Association of Feline Practitioners and Pfizer Animal Health. "In terms of heartworm disease", Nelson stated, "Things start out pretty much the same between dogs and cats. Within 3 months, however, you can have a 2-to 3-inch worm within the pulmonary artery of a cat. This is where things start to change. In cats, we have a very high mortality of these immature worms 3 to 4 months after infection. This results in a very severe inflammatory response." This inflammatory response is often misdiagnosed as asthma and can clinically resemble other bronchial and respiratory diseases. The Heartworm Society has identified this syndrome as heartworm-associated respiratory disease, or HARD. Recognizing the significance of this 3-month disease cycle is key to understanding the abbreviated and severe pathology of heartworm disease in cats.

    NEXT: Canine Dystocia: Medical and Surgical Management

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