Newswise — MANHATTAN, Kan. — Although it may not feel like spring yet, it's time to start thinking about protecting your pets from spring pests, particularly mosquitoes, according to a Kansas State University veterinarian.

Susan Nelson, clinical associate professor of the university's Veterinary Health Center, says mosquitoes carry heartworm, a blood parasite that can be deadly when spread to cats and dogs. Almost 100 percent of dogs exposed to heartworm will develop the disease. While that number is not as high for cats, it is often more fatal for felines.

"Cats are sometimes a little less obvious with their heartworm disease," Nelson said. "It can be just a little weight loss or lethargy, but we can also see asthma-type signs in cats. They can have trouble breathing, develop a cough, chronic gagging and vomiting."

It only takes one or two worms to cause significant harm to a cat and unlike dogs, there is no treatment for heartworm once cats are infected. That's why it is important to use prevention tools.

"We really want to preach prevention for our pets because it's so much easier and so much cheaper for them, especially since treatment is hard on them," Nelson said.

Nelson also stresses that prevention year-round is key to protecting your pet because just like the weather, mosquito season is unpredictable.

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