Heartworm disease affects dogs, cats and ferrets, but heartworms also live in other mammal species, including wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions and—rarely—humans. Yes! Cats really can get heartworms. Feline heartworm disease has been found in all 50 states! Mosquitoes transmit heartworm larvae, and just one bite can infect your cat. Twenty-eight percent of cats reported to have heartworms were indoor only pets. It is imperative to keep your pet on prevention even if s/he never goes outside.
In addition to the heart, Heartworms can be found in body cavities, arteries, and central nervous system. The larvae, as well as the adults, cause inflammation and damage to the blood vessels throughout the body, not just in the heart. As the heartworms mature and die, they can cause respiratory disease, anaphylaxis, or sudden death.
Diagnosing cats with heartworms is more intensive than with dogs. Some testing includes bloodwork, radiographs, and/or ultrasound. With most cats being experts at hiding when they are not feeling well, often we are not running diagnostics until the heartworms have caused major damage. Some signs you may notice will look like respiratory issues: wheezing, coughing, panting, etc.
Unlike with canine patients, there is no medical treatment for feline heartworm disease. In some special cases, the cat may be referred to a specialty practice and undergo a surgical procedure to remove the worm(s).
When it comes to feline heartworm disease, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure. We carry a variety of feline heartworm preventatives that will fit into any lifestyle. Many products also will protect against other parasites. Let one of our customer service representatives help you choose the product that is best for you and your cat.