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Feline Heartworm Disease
Heartworm Spread by infected mosquitoes, heartworm is increasingly being recognized as an underlying cause of health problems
in domestic cats. Despite its name, heartworm primarily causes lung disease in cats. It is an important concern for any cat owner living in areas densely
populated by mosquitoes, and prevention methods should be discussed with a veterinarian.
Can Cats Get Heartworm You may have thought heartworm disease only affects dogs, and it’s true that the infection is less common in cats.
The cat is not a natural host for the heartworm parasite, Dirofilaria immitis, and so the heartworm is not likely to complete its entire life cycle.
That means that fewer and smaller worms survive, and many do not reach a cat’s heart. The worms that do survive—and the resulting immune reaction that the
cat’s body sets up to kill the developing worms—can cause severe health problems.
How Is Cat Heartworm Diagnosed Heartworm disease is not as easily diagnosed in cats as it is in dogs. Routine testing requires a combination
of blood tests. When cats show signs of respiratory difficulty and heartworm is suspected, diagnosis is usually attempted based on a cat’s history, physical
examination, radiographs, echocardiogram and blood tests.
How Can Heartworm Be Treated There are currently no products in the United States approved for treating feline heartworm infection. The good news
is that many heartworm-infected cats are able to fight the infection themselves, and can be monitored with radiographs every few months, while waiting out the
worms’ lifespan. If an infected cat shows symptoms of lung disease, the cat can be given a cortisone-like medication as needed. Medication can also be given to
help control coughing and vomiting.
How Can I Prevent My Cat from Getting Heartworm There are several FDA-approved medications available that reliably prevent feline heartworm infection.
Check with your vet and please remember, it’s recommended that cats are screened for heartworm infection with blood tests before being given any type of
preventative medication. It’s also a good idea to limit your cat’s exposure to mosquito-infested areas and bring her in for preventative screenings during
vet visits. Regular checkups are key to detecting an infection early, and can give your cat a good chance at recovery.