Feline Heartworm Disease

Most pet owners know the importance of their dog’s monthly heartworm pill, but not everyone realizes the importance of protecting their cat as well.

How does my cat catch heartworms?

Heartworm larvae are carried in a mosquito’s saliva glands. It can take just one mosquito to infect a susceptible pet. Many owners feel that heartworm prevention is unnecessary because their pet is indoors. This assumption is false. One mosquito that gets into the house is all that is needed to infect an animal. When the mosquito bites the dog or cat, the larvae are transferred into the animal’s bloodstream. They migrate to the heart and lungs where they grow to become mature heartworms.

What problems can heartworms cause?

In cats, disease is caused by adult worms damaging the heart and lungs. This damage can lead to heart enlargement and failure, severe pulmonary artery damage – even cutting off blood supply to lung lobes. Adult heartworms live 1-2 years in cats. When they die, they can break off and go into the lungs. The inflammation resulting from this can be lethal. Signs of heartworm disease in cats include vomiting, coughing, weight loss, exercise intolerance, breathing problems, collapse, and even sudden death. Sudden respiratory distress with no previous problems is a very common sign.

How is the disease different than in dogs?

Cats are not as susceptible to heartworms as dogs, but because there is no effective treatment and the disease is often fatal in cats, we recommend prevention in all cats. Cats do not need to be tested prior to starting preventative because they do not have a risk of allergic reaction as dogs do.

How do I prevent heartworm disease?

Prevention for heartworm disease is simple: monthly preventative. This comes in pills (Heartgard and Interceptor), and spot-on products (Revolution, Revolution Plus, Bravecto Plus). We recommend Revolution Plus (buy here) because it protects against heartworms, fleas, intestinal parasites, and ear mites and is much easier to administer than a pill. Heartworm prevention should be given year-round.

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