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Heartworm Prevention for Cats

Contrary to popular belief, heartworm is not just a problem for dogs. It’s true that cats are not natural hosts for heartworm, and contracted worms do not always develop to the adult stage. But as there are no treatment options for heartworm disease in cats, the only way to protect your pet from the problem is by prevention.

Know the risks

Heartworm is only transferred from the host to host by mosquitoes. The good news is that heartworm is not directly contagious, but the bad news is that wherever mosquitoes and animals exist, your cat is at risk. As mosquitos can enter the house without too much trouble, even indoor cats are at risk from heartworm.

Why is prevention important?

Cats aren’t as likely to develop heartworm disease, but once they do, there are no treatment options available. The drugs that are currently used by vets to treat heartworm in dogs are not safe for use on cats. Giving your cat a regular heartworm preventative medication is the only way to ensure your cat does not develop this painful and dangerous disease.

Signs and symptoms of heartworm in cats

One of the problems pet parents face is that cats often do not display signs of heartworm disease until it’s too late. This is why consistent testing and prevention is so important.

The most common signs cats display are coughing, labored breathing and vomiting. Less commonly, cats may experience lethargy, weight loss, convulsions, and even sudden death.

Testing cats for heartworm

For the best chance of recovery from heartworms, early diagnosis is key. It will also be necessary to test for existing heartworm before your cat is started on heartworm prevention medication.

Unlike with their canine counterparts, heartworm in cats is harder to detect and as such the tests are not as straightforward. Dogs can usually be diagnosed with a simple blood test, but testing in cats requires an antigen and antibody test, and may also involve an x-ray, ultrasound, urine test or white blood cell count.

Heartworm prognosis for cats

Although there are no treatment options that will eliminate adult heartworms, the prognosis for cats is not all bad. In most cases your vet will manage the symptoms of heartworm disease, helping to maintain your cat’s health while the heartworms work through their life cycle. This treatment may include reducing inflammation in the heart and lungs, treating breathing issues, and general nursing care. As the life cycle of heartworms in cats is shorter than in dogs, and the cat’s immune system is better at fighting heartworm, up to 80% of cats may recover within 2-4 years of diagnosis.


Heartworm Prevention for Cats

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