There are so many things that we cannot protect our precious pets from, but when it comes to parasites such as heartworms in cats, we often have a real chance at preventing trouble. Most dog owners know about heartworms, but owners with feline family members aren’t always as knowledgeable.
Heartworm disease in cats is a real issue, and this parasite has worse implications for our kitty companions. True Care Veterinary Hospital thinks it is important for our clients to understand the risks and implications of heartworms in cats.
Understanding the Heartworm
The heartworms that infect dogs are the same as those that infect cats. These nasty little parasitic worms carry the scientific name Dirofilaria immitis and are transmitted by the mosquito. When an infected animal is bitten, the mosquito carries tiny baby heartworms, called microfilaria, in its digestive system until it bites another animal, infecting that victim with the parasite.
Once an animal is injected with microfilariae, these tiny heartworms enter the bloodstream and settle in the heart and large blood vessels in the lungs where they become adult worms. Over time, these large worms (up to six inches in length) can result in severe problems, including lung disease and heart failure.
In most cases, symptoms are not present in the early stages of the disease. Over time, symptoms, some more serious than others, can emerge, such as:
- Heavy breathing
- Decreased activity
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Sudden death
Heartworms are never good news, no matter the species they infect. Dogs tend to tolerate a heartworm infection better than their feline counterparts, though.
Cats are not a natural host for the heartworm, which makes the behavior of the parasite in the feline body somewhat unpredictable. Cats tend to have fewer heartworms at any given time, making it difficult to detect an infection. Their bodies also do not tolerate the size of the worm and may mount an aggressive immune response, resulting in dangerous side effects.
Sadly, the most common way heartworms are found in our cat patients are post-mortem, after a sudden and unexplained death.
It is also unfortunate that even if we do detect heartworms in cats prior to death, we do not have a safe way to treat the disease. The medication we use to treat this parasite in dogs is not handled well by the feline body.
Preventing Heartworms in Cats
Never fear, though, if you are a concerned cat owner. There is a light at the end of this tunnel. While we do not have a safe, effective option for treating heartworms in our cat patients, we have some very effective options to prevent infection from the get-go. Parasite prevention is the foundation of a good wellness plan for all pets, and even more so when it comes to heartworm disease.
Even indoor cats should be on a heartworm preventative, as it has been shown that up to one-third of infected cats are strictly indoors. Mosquitoes make it into our homes whether we like it or not.
Periodic heartworm testing for cats is also prudent. While we can’t treat the heartworms, there are some health recommendations that may help your cat to live a longer life, even if infected.
We are happy to help you select a safe, effective heartworm prevention option for your cat. Prevention is the best cure in this situation, and we want to be sure that all of our feline patients are protected.
When my parents’ dog Kya died very suddenly a few years ago‚ their regular vet was not at work that day. But thankfully‚ Dr. Tullio was and treated my parents and their dog as if he was their doctor for the past 15 years—doing everything he could to try and revive Kya and by being so compassionate to my parents in the waiting room after having to deliver the sad news. We truly can’t say enough nice things about Dr. Tullio and can’t wait for him to open his new facility! Thank you.
—Lori Forrest & Bob Leahy
Molly and Oscar have been patients of Dr. Tullio for several years. I have been very pleased with his care‚ his expertise‚ and his understanding with my two Wheatens. Dr. Tullio has been quick to diagnose any issues and remedy all of the problems we’ve had. I look forward to many more years working with Dr. Tullio. I wish him well in his venture.
Dr. Tullio has always treated our dogs with great knowledge‚ care‚ and compassion‚ and we have grown to know him quite well. We have been so completely impressed with Dr. Tullio’s consistent excellence in care and services that we wanted to share our experience with others. We are pleased to recommend as the place to go for both quality treatment and compassionate care for your furry family members.
Doctor Tullio is a kind, caring gentleman who has cared for my cocker spaniels for many years now. He has always been helpful‚ honest‚ and understanding with my pets and me. He is a man I trust completely and have and do refer others to him. Any pet owner can feel safe and secure in trusting their beloved pets to his skilled hands.
—Margaret Rowe‚ Howell‚ NJ