Preventing Heartworm Disease in Cats

A cat walking on a fenceWhen it comes to heartworms, most pet owners think of the risk to their dog companions. While it’s true this disease is more prevalent in dogs, heartworm disease in cats does occur, and diagnoses are on the rise. In fact, cats with this illness are also in greater danger of experiencing life threatening reactions to these parasites.

The team at Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital want to keep all our feline friends safe by keeping pet owners informed of how to prevent this terrible disease.

The Basics of Heartworm Disease

Cats are considered atypical hosts, meaning they’re not as physiologically hospitable to the heartworm as canines. This is why there are fewer cases of cat heartworm, but it’s also why cats are more susceptible to serious and life-threatening reactions.

Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes who have fed on an infected animal. Heartworms are caused by the parasite Dirofilaria immitis. When the mosquito feeds off an infected host, it picks up the tiny immature heartworms called microfilariae. These microfilariae are then transmitted to a pet where they mature and move to the heart and blood vessels within the lungs, sometimes growing up to 6 inches in length.

Heartworms can live within a host for up to 7 years in dogs and 3 years in cats, resulting in an increased risk of cardiac arrest and other serious health problems.

Symptoms of Heartworm Disease in Cats

Some felines will exhibit signs of heartworm disease, such as:

  • Coughing or asthma-like symptoms
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy

Unfortunately for many cats, the symptoms do not always appear unless the disease has reached the final stages or after a sudden, unexplained death.

Because there are no effective treatments and it takes only a few worms to become fatal, the absolute best course of action to combat feline heartworm is prevention.

A Focus on Preventing Heartworm Disease in Cats

The good news in all of this is that heartworm can be avoided with a monthly preventive for your feline friend. In fact, if given consistently (no skipped doses), this method is nearly 100% effective and safe for your furry pal. There are a few products on the market, and your veterinarian can help you determine the right choice for your pet.

Along with parasite prevention, it’s vital to maintain your pet’s wellness exams, which include screening for heartworm disease and other illnesses.

While heartworm disease may affect more of our dog companions than feline friends, the severity of this illness is not worth the risk of forgoing protection. We encourage you to keep your pet protected with a safe, monthly preventive. Please call us for an appointment.