Researchers at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine recently released a study that shows that heartworms do not need to reach maturity to cause pathologic conditions in cats.
The study, which builds on previous research, was conducted by Dr. A. Ray Dillon and Byron Blagburn, PhD, and was published in a special Parasitology Supplement to the journal Veterinary Medicine. The goal of the study was to document in detail the progression of feline heartworm disease and to better understand the origin of lung lesions. The study was also designed to assess the efficacy of a preventive product.
Dr. Tom Nelson, immediate past president of the American Heartworm Society, said the work by Drs. Dillon and Blagburn should help defeat lingering skepticism in the veterinary community about pathogenicity of infections with juvenile heartworms in cats.
"If you're not able to see something and not able to diagnose it, you're inclined to believe it isn't there," Dr. Nelson said. "But you very quickly become a believer when you fully understand what has been demonstrated in these recent studies. It's like smoking. You can't necessarily see it, but the damage is being done."
The AHS works to raise awareness about heartworm disease. Earlier this year, the group released the 2007 Guidelines for the Diagnosis, Prevention and Management of Heartworm Infection in Cats, which included information on the recently defined heartworm-associated respiratory disease (see JAVMA, Feb. 15, 2007, page 474).
Since releasing the updated guidelines, the AHS has embarked on a public awareness campaign called KNOW Heartworms, in partnership with the American Association of Feline Practitioners and underwritten by a grant from Pfizer Animal Health. Information on the campaign is available at www.knowheartworms.org.