Can Cats Get Heartworm? The answer is yes!

Cuddling CatsMost of us are familiar with the risk of heartworm disease in dogs, but few may be aware that cats can also be affected. As there is no approved drug therapy available for cats, a prevention program is critical for both outdoor and indoor pets. Prevention is the only means of protecting cats from the effects of heartworm disease. Heartworm primarily causes lung disease in cats of all ages, living in any region. The disease is spread by infected mosquitos. When the mosquito bites a cat, larvae from the heartworm parasite, Dirofilaria immitis, are transmitted into the bloodstream. Over a period of four to six months, the larvae travel toward the heart. As the worms mature, they settle in the heart and lungs. It’s important to know that these living, dying, adult, and immature worms can all cause severe inflammatory responses, whole-body allergic reactions, and heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD). If heartworm goes untreated and the cat is unable to fight off the infection on its own, heart and lung damage or failure, kidney and liver damage, impaired breathing, and sudden death can occur. Signs of heartworm disease in cats can be very subtle or very dramatic. Symptoms can include: persistent cough, asthma attacks, depression, lack of appetite, weight loss, and periodic vomiting. Occasionally, an affected cat may have difficulty walking or suffer from fluid in the abdomen.

More facts about heartworm disease in cats:

  1. Medication used to treat heartworm in dogs is fatal when used in cats.
  2. Think 12: Get your pet tested every 12 months and give your pet heartworm preventive 12 months a year.
  3. The prevalence of feline heartworm disease is on par with Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). It has been diagnosed in all states
  4. If an infected cat shows symptoms of lung disease, we can administer steroids to control inflammation.
  5. Heartworm in cats can be difficult to diagnose. Tests can be inconclusive and insensitive.
  6. Many infected cats are able to fight off the infection. They should be monitored periodically while waiting out the worms’ lifespan.
  7. Ask us about other prevention strategies.

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