As a caring pet owner, you should do everything possible to keep your pet heartworm-free and healthy. Heartworm disease does not affect dogs the same way as it does cats. In cats, it is a very serious and sometimes deadly condition.
While heartworms are more common in dogs, cats tend to experience graver symptoms. Unfortunately, these symptoms have fewer treatment options. To protect your little furry friend, you need to take them for monthly heartworm preventative treatments. This is because prevention of heartworm disease is easier than treating it.
This condition can result in heart failure, lung disease, and damage to other organs in pets. It can also lead to death, especially in cats, dogs, and ferrets. A parasitic worm known as Dirofilaria immitis causes heartworm disease.
The heartworms spread through mosquito bites, proceeding to live in the affected pet’s lungs, heart, and associated blood vessels. Heartworms also find their way in foxes, coyotes, sea lions, wolves, and other mammal species. In rare cases, they can live in humans.
Mosquitoes are intermediate hosts. This means that the heartworms live inside mosquitoes for the short period required to become infective.
Heartworm Disease in Dogs
These parasites thrive in dogs. They live, mature, mate, and reproduce in dogs. Left untreated, they increase in number. Some dogs can have hundreds of heartworms living in their bodies at any one point.
Heartworm Disease in Cats
With regard to hosting heartworms, cats are not ideal. This is why most heartworms in cats fail to survive into adulthood. Also, most cats with adult worms typically do not have more than three heartworms. This means that most cats with heartworm disease do not have adult worms.
This is the reason this disease often goes undiagnosed and untreated in cats. That being said, you need to know that even immature heartworms can cause heartworm-associated respiratory disease in cats.
Signs and Symptoms of Heartworms in Cats
Some cats with heartworm disease do not show any symptoms. Sometimes, one can only tell if the cat is overly dramatic or very subtle. These include asthma-like attacks, weight loss, coughing, lack of appetite, and periodic vomiting.
Occasionally, affected cats may experience seizures or fainting, have difficulty walking, or suffer from fluid buildup in the abdomen. Unfortunately, the first sign of this condition is the sudden collapse or death of the cat in many cases.
Most of the symptoms of heartworm disease in cats are very nonspecific. They often mimic other cat diseases. Strangely, they rarely show signs of heart failure. Respiratory symptoms are the most obvious signs of heartworm disease due to the damage caused to the lungs by the worms.
Usually, cats show symptoms of this disease at two stages. The first stage is when the immature worms arrive in the cat's lungs and heart arteries. The second stage is when the adult worms die.
Prevention Is the Best Approach
There are several FDA-approved oral and topical products given monthly to prevent heartworms in cats. They all require a prescription from a veterinarian. Year-round prevention is the best way to protect your cat from heartworms and certain intestinal worms.
To learn more about heartworm disease in cats, visit Bergen County Veterinary Center at our offices in Waldwick, New Jersey. You can call 201-205-2500 today to schedule an appointment.