Q: How does heartworm disease differ in cats than in dogs?
A: Felines are not the direct host of heartworm, and most worms do not mature to the adult stage in cats. Most affected cats are infected by 1-3 worms, vs. several hundred in dogs. Even though the worms do not reach adulthood, they still reach havoc on a cat’s heart and lung. There is also NO treatment for heartworm disease in infected cats.
Q: What are the signs of heartworm disease in cats?
A: Often heartworm infection goes undiagnosed in cats. Symptoms may include coughing, asthma-like attacks, periodic vomiting, lack of appetite, or weight loss. Many times chronic lung disease or sudden death are associated with possible heartworm disease.
Q: How significant is my cat’s risk for infection?
A: Heartworm prevalence in your area may be greater than you expect. Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when 250,000 animals from the south where shipped and adopted around the country the incidence of heartworm positive cases has been growing throughout the US. Additionally, research shows that the incidence of infection is no different with inside vs. outside cats!
Q: What happens if my cat tests positive for heartworm disease?
A: Diagnosis often includes x-rays and bloodwork to determine the severity of the disease. While there is no treatment, good veterinary care can be given. You veterinarian could recommend intravenous fluids, drugs to treat lung and heart symptoms, antibiotics, and general nursing care. In some cases, surgical removal of heartworms may be possible.
Q: What forms of preventative are available for cats?
A: Monthly chewable or topical products are available for heartworm prevention. It is strongly recommended to provide heartworm prevention year round. We are seeing mosquitos surviving even our snowy winters.
Q: Do heartworm preventatives provide additional protection from other things?
A: Most heartworm preventions also include a dewormer for many common intestinal parasites as well as some external parasites such as fleas, ticks, and ear mites. There is no one preventative that provides protection from every species however. Consult your veterinarian to select the best product for your pet.