Having pets run, play, and participate in all the activities of their families as they grow, change, and mature is the picture of a full life. Pet preventive health care can maximize the fullness of that life both in terms of what your pet can do and for how long.
Speaking of that, it’s Heartworm Awareness Month! Yes, cats can be affected as well. Each year, we recommend that pets are checked for intestinal worms and dogs are tested for heartworm. In our region, we have seen an increase in heartworm cases due to pets from southern climates being moved northward. Both dogs and cats need to be on heartworm prevention year-round.
How heartworm affects cats
Cats are not natural hosts for heartworms, so the parasites often won’t survive to the adult stage in felines. Infected cats will usually have zero to three adult worms inside their bodies, while their canine counterparts can have 30 or more adult worms inside their bodies. But, even immature heartworms can wreak havoc on a cat’s organs and can lead to heartworm-associated respiratory disease (HARD) and other health conditions.
How heartworm is spread to cats
When a mosquito carrying heartworm larvae bites a cat, it can pass the larvae into the bloodstream of the cat. The larvae then travel through the cat’s body until they reach the blood vessels in the lungs and heart.
Diagnosing heartworm in cats
There are no telltale clinical signs of heartworm disease in cats, which makes diagnosing the disease a challenge. Some cats might exhibit:
- Coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Difficulty walking
- Decreased appetite and weight loss
- Sudden collapse or sudden death
To determine if your cat is suffering from heart disease, we may conduct several diagnostic tests, including blood tests, urinalysis, X-ray, and ultrasound.
Treating heartworm in cats
Unfortunately, there is no treatment for feline heartworm disease. The medication that treats heartworms in dogs is not safe for cats. If your cat is diagnosed with heartworm disease, we will attempt to stabilize him and manage his symptoms.
Preventing heartworm in cats
Because there is no treatment for feline heartworm disease, it is imperative that your cat is given a monthly heartworm preventive medication. Research has shown that indoor cats are also at risk of heartworm infection, so heartworm preventives should be administered to all cats—indoor and outdoor.
If you have any question about protecting your cat, please don’t hesitate to contact us.