Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Heartworms Aren't Just For the Dogs

Photo: cheesechoker
It's Health Tip Tuesday and I'd like to bring to everyone's attention that dogs aren't the only ones who get heartworms. Did you know that cats can be affected by this parasite as well? Cats are not the intended host for heartworms, but they certainly can get them. I recently did a little research on the topic so I thought I would share some of the details with you.

It all starts when an infected mosquito bites your cat. The larvae (known as microfilariae) travel through the cat's tissue and to the bloodstream. Eventually they end up in the heart and lungs where they may grow to adult worms. Heartworms only have a lifespan of about 3 years in a cat's body. While this is much shorter than their lifespan in a dog, heartworms can still do a lot of damage to a cat's respiratory system - even if they never grow to the adult stage.

Heartworm associated respiratory disease (aka HARD) is the result of feline heartworm disease. A lot of times, the symptoms of HARD are misdiagnosed as asthma or tracheal bronchitis. Chronic symptoms of HARD include coughing, increased respiratory effort, vomiting, lethargy, and weight loss. Sometimes, feline heartworm disease goes undetected and the cat can become ill very quickly without warning. The acute symptoms of feline heartworm disease include blindness, vomitting, diarrhea, increased respiratory rate, convulsions, collapse, and death.

Finding out if your cat has heartworms can be difficult sometimes. There is an antigen test for feline heartworm disease, but it is not always accurate. Veterinarians also use tools like x-rays, cardiac ultrasound, bloodwork, EKG, and more.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for the feline heartworm disease. Many cats are able to fight off heartworm infections on their own. Veterinarians can prescribe anti-inflammatories or antibiotics to help the cat fight off the infection faster. Routine vet visits and tests may also be recommended to check the progress of the infection on a regular basis.

How can feline heartworm disease be prevented? The best option is to use a once a month heartworm prevention for your cat. There are currently four options available on the market today. Many people think that because their cat stays strictly indoors, they are not at risk for heartworms. This is false. It is still possible for indoor cats to get feline heartworm disease, although their chances are lowered. This is another way you can help prevent your cat from getting feline heartworm disease - keep them indoors. And of course, you can minimize mosquito infestations around the home by removing any sources of stagnant water.

7 comments:

  1. Very informative post on heart worms and cats. Have a terrific Tuesday.
    Best wishes Molly

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    1. Hey Molly, thanks for reading. I'm curious - are there heartworms or mosquitoes in the UK?

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  2. This is sooo true! We had a scare last summer when we thought Allie might have heartworms (turns out she didn't). But many cat owners aren't aware of this, so it's important to spread the news.
    It just takes one mosquito.

    Our vet saw more feline heartworm cases in 2011 than he did canine, BTW.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading, glad your kitty turned out to be OK! In recent years it seems as though vets are becoming more aware that heartworms are a problem in cats.

      I think my own cat may have had heartworms and was misdiagnosed with asthma a few summers ago. She is gone now though (due to a different medical problem)

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  3. Dear Ann,

    thank you for sharing this important information! Thankfully our Sammy stays indoors!! Will ask about prevention the next time I'm at the vets.
    take care,
    Duni

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  4. Wow, I never knew this! Such a great article that I posted a link at http://internet-pets.blogspot.com/. Thank you!

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  5. Thanks so much for the info! Very informative! I appreciate your stopping over to say hello!!
    xo
    Chloe and LadyBug

    ReplyDelete

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