Does My Cat Need Heartworm Prevention?

Q

Does my cat need heartworm prevention?

A

In a word, yes. While heartworm is commonly thought of as a disease of dogs, it does also affect cats. The exact prevalence of cat infections is not known but appears to be much less than that of dogs.  Oddly enough, about one fourth of the infected cats are indoor only.

Since cats are not the normal host for heartworms, the course of disease is different.  While dogs may carry an infection for several years until there are enough worms to cause congestive heart failure, cats can have symptoms with one or two worms. These can be very vague such as lethargy, vomiting and loss of appetite or even sudden death. Many cats develop a respiratory disease similar to asthma (often misdiagnosed as such).

Diagnosing cats with heartworm can be problematic. The blood tests that are available are not very sensitive and may only indicate that the cat has been exposed to heartworm. Even worse, there is no treatment for cats with heartworm. In many cases an allergic reaction to the death of the worms is what causes the death of the cat.

The good news is that there are very good preventatives out there.  Some even combine heartworm and flea prevention as well as intestinal parasite prevention.  To get your cat on a preventative or for further information, contact Hudson Veterinary Hospital at (330)650-2929.

Dr. Mark