Cat Heartworms

Updated 2/2/2012

Author: VetDepot

Dogs are at the highest risk for developing heartworm disease, but cats can get the disease when they are bitten by a mosquito that has previously fed on the blood of an infected dog. It takes only one mosquito bite to transmit the disease, so any cat, even one that spends her life indoors, is at risk.

Why Should Pet Owners Be Concerned?

Heartworms cause a very different disease in cats than they do in dogs. Because cats are not the natural host for heartworms, the immature forms of the parasites can end up almost anywhere in the body. Also, cats mount a much more aggressive immune response against the worms than do dogs, and the resulting inflammation is responsible for much of the damage in the feline form of this disease. But canine and feline heartworm cases share at least one thing in common, they can both be deadly.

How Do I Know If My Pet Has Heartworms?

Cats that are infected with heartworms can have a variety of clinical signs, none of which are specific to this particular disease. Vomiting, loss of appetite and weight, coughing, and difficulty breathing are all possible signs of heartworm infection.

Testing for heartworms in cats is not as straightforward as it is in dogs either. The traditional blood test can only determine whether one or more adult female heartworms are present in the body. Because cats may only be infected with juvenile worms or have only a few adult worm that by chance are all male, false negatives are common. Other blood tests are available that test for exposure to heartworms, and veterinarians generally use a combination of blood work, chest x-rays and ultrasounds, physical exam findings to determine whether or not a cat has heartworm disease.

Heartworm Infection in the USA

Veterinary Care

The drugs that are used to treat heartworms in dogs are not frequently used in cats because rapidly killing a number of adult worms all at the same time often leads to the death of the cat as well. Many times, veterinarians will prescribe a heartworm preventative, anti-inflammatory pet medication, rest and close monitoring in hopes that the pet's immune system can get rid of the parasites without too many side effects. If adult worms are present within blood vessels, it is sometimes possible to surgically remove them.

Home Care

The good news about heartworm disease is that prevention is very easy. Several safe and effective heartworm preventative medications are available with a veterinarian's prescription. Most of these offer some protection against intestinal parasites, and Revolution and Advantage Multi control fleas as well. Your vet can help you pick the ideal product for your cat. Year round treatment is best to provide the highest level of protection for your cat.

The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not be considered complete. Certain product or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of your pet. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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