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Preventing Heartworm in Indoor Cats Using Neem Oil

by Joan
(Lindenhurst, NY)

I have two female littermates a little under a year old. I live in the Northeast (Lindenhurst, Long Island, NY) where it is now winter, but looking to the summer and mosquito season, I wish to protect my cats from heartworm but feel strongly about avoiding the chemical formulas typically suggested.

I live in a house with no other pets, the upper level of a ranch home having screens in place. Zero chance of cats getting out since there are double doors.

I searched for alternatives and came across neem. I saw a product called Neem Protect (Ingredients: Neem Oil, citronella oil, celery seed oil, eucalyptus oil) but 1). It contains ingredients such as citronella and eucalyptus that I understand can be toxic to cats and 2) there is no stated use for prevention of mosquito bites.

Are the essential oils in the Neem Protect product safe because they are used in small quantities, or would you consider it prudent not to use such oils on cats at all?

Can I safely make my own spray using neem oil, water and perhaps some non-toxic emulsifier--just shake the bottle well?

If neem is effective, how much should it be diluted and how often must I spray it on the cats to afford protection?

Would you suggest spraying the outside of my house with neem, in a more concentrated form perhaps?

Do you have any other suggestions besides neem that I can handle on my own?

Thank you,
Joan

Comments for Preventing Heartworm in Indoor Cats Using Neem Oil

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Jan 20, 2013
My Online Vet Response for: Preventing Heartworm in Indoor Cats Using Neem Oil
by: Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

Hi Joan,
Your concern is well noted. But since Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes, you have already taken a BIG step in protection by keeping your cats INDOORS.

You wrote,
"I live in a house with no other pets, the upper level of a ranch home having screens in place. Zero chance of cats getting out since there are double doors."

And a low chance of mosquitoes getting in!

I would NOT advise using any oils especially NEEM Oil on your cats. It would be good to practice mosquito control on the outside of your house in the Spring.

You wrote,
"Are the essential oils in the Neem Protect product safe because they are used in small quantities, or would you consider it prudent not to use such oils on cats at all?"

It would be best NOT to use any of these oils or any essential oils at all on a cat. You could certainly use it outside. You might also want to check the product called 'Cedarcide', to use outside for mosquito and other insect control.

Heartworm disease is basically a 'canine' problem. A mosquito must first 'bite' a dog that has heartworm. The blood containing the microscopic larvae are drawn up into the mosquito where is goes through 2 larval changes.

When the mosquito bites another dog, the larvae are transmitted through the bite/puncture into the blood stream. They travel to the heart, where they develop into mature heartworms that are 4-6" long. The adult worms live in the heart, and produce more larvae which are then passed out into the blood stream.

Of course, this mosquito might bite a cat or even a human! In the case of a human, one of three things can happen:

1. Nothing

2. A huge welt may appear on the skin, secondary to an allergic type reaction to the foreign protein from the larvae.

3. The larvae will travel into the blood stream, through the heart and lodge into the lung tissue. In this location the human's immune system will kill the larvae and leave a 'scar' in the lung tissue. If the human has a chest x-ray taken for some reason, this scar will show up as a 'spot' on the x-ray. And this will be of concern, since the doctor will need to make sure the spot is not due to cancer!

TO BE CONTINUED IN PART TWO

Jan 20, 2013
My Online Vet Response for: Preventing Heartworm in Indoor Cats Using Neem Oil PART TWO
by: Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

Hi Joan,
Here is the rest of my response.

In a cat bitten by a mosquito carrying heartworm larvae, it is similar to the scenario above. But since a cat is a little closer genetically to a dog, there is a small chance that larvae can develop into an adult heartworm in the heart.

In my opinion, since it is MUCH less common for cats to develop heartworm, and since the preventive measures are so toxic to a cat, I feel that the best way to prevent heartworm in a cat is to keep them inside where there is less chance for them to be bitten by a mosquito!

Please keep us posted by coming back to this page and clicking the 'click here to add your own comments' link below.

Take care,
Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

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DISCLAIMER: The above should never replace the advice of your local veterinarian, as they have the ability to evaluate your dog in person.

Jan 21, 2013
Thank you!
by: Joan (Lindenhurst)

Dear Dr. Tillman,

Thank you very much for your reply. I hope others see it and will be better informed as well. Yours is an invaluable service, and I'll share it on Facebook.

Best wishes,

Joan

Jan 21, 2013
My Online Vet Response for: Preventing Heartworm in Indoor Cats Using Neem Oil
by: Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

Hi Joan,
You are very welcome! And *THANK YOU* for the endorsement!

Take care,
Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

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