Cats Don't Get Heartworms....


Many people believe that cats are not affected by heartworm disease, but this is a mistaken belief. It is true that cats are not a natural host for heartworms, but that actually makes heartworm disease an even more dangerous proposition for a cat as opposed to a dog. We call cats "atypical" hosts for the heartworm, but that does not stop heartworms from infesting our feline friends. Heartworms are transmitted to a cat via the bite of a mosquito that injects baby heartworms, called microfilaria, into them. These microfilariae go through a process of maturation in the animal on their path to becoming adults. However, since a cat is not the normal host for them, few make it to adulthood. As the larval stages migrate through the body, the immature forms tend to do the most damage in the lungs in cats. We call this "heartworm associated respiratory disease". Sadly, the most common sign of heartworms in cats is sudden death. Other signs are coughing, difficulty breathing, weight loss, and fainting-like episodes (syncope). Testing, though available, is more complicated in cats due to the much lower likelihood that they will have adult heartworms. There are tests available that can look for exposure to heartworms that your veterinarian can discuss with you. As for treatment, the drug protocol that exists for dogs is not an option for cats, so prevention is an absolute necessity. Even if your cat lives exclusively indoors, they are still at risk of heartworm; only one bite from one mosquito in your home can be a death sentence. Talk to your cat's veterinarian today about which prevention they recommend for your cat to keep them protected!

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