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Your Cat & Heartworms

This is our last installment to your heartworm series on our blog. Dogs and cats can both contract heartworms, but for each animal it is different. If you would like to read up on the other posts, our dog blog can be found here and our overview post can be found here.

What are the signs of heartworm disease in cats?

Signs of heartworms in your cat can be very subtle, or very dramatic. Symptoms can be coughing, asthma-like attacks, periodic vomiting, lack of appetite, or weight loss. Sometimes cats with heartworms have difficulty walking, experience fainting or seizures, or have fluid buildup in the abdomen. A rare, but unfortunate first sign in some cases is sudden collapse, or sudden death.

When should my pet be tested?

Cats are less likely to have adult heartworms when compared to dogs. Because of this it harder to detect them. The favorite method for screening cats includes the use of both an antigen and an antibody test. Like dogs, cats should also be tested before being put on prevention and retested yearly. There is no approved treatment for heartworm infection in cats, prevention is key.

What if my cat tests positive for heartworms?

Cats are not an ideal host for heartworms. In some cases, the infections resolve on their own, but leave respiratory system damage. In cats heartworms can migrate around the body causing damage. As the worms die they cause damage to different systems, clots, and/or inflammation in the cat’s body.

Here’s what to expect if your cat tests positive for heartworm:

Diagnosing a cat can be difficult. Cats usually have 6 or fewer heartworms, and just one or two can make a cat very sick. The diagnosis can be complicated, requiring a physical exam, a complete blood count, and several kinds of blood test.

Unfortunately, there is no approved drug therapy for heartworm infection in cats. The drug used to treat dogs is not safe for cats. Good veterinary care is important and can help your cat.

Monitor your cat. Depending on where the heartworms are and the amount can help tell you what signs to look for or if the infestation is progressing.

Veterinary care is important if your cat has heartworms. Hospitalization may be recommended in order to provide therapy.

It’s important to give your cat monthly heartworm preventives. Preventives keep new infections from developing if an infected mosquito bites your cat again. Remember both, indoor and outdoor cats can get heartworms.

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