Heartworm disease is a condition most often associated with dogs, but it can be seen in cats as well as many other mammal species. When a cat becomes infected with heartworms, which can grow up to about one-foot long, severe lung and heart disease can develop. Unfortunately, this is often fatal. Infections are transmitted from pet to pet through mosquito bites, and heartworm disease has been diagnosed in pets in all 50 states. Therefore, preventive care and knowledge is essential for keeping your feline companion healthy.
Heartworm disease is less common in cats than in dogs.
Cats are more resistant to heartworm disease than dogs, but it is still a significant risk for cats. Additionally, heartworm disease is often underdiagnosed in cats. About one third of cats infected with heartworms live indoors only. Because heartworm disease is less common in felines overall, there is not a medication that exists solely for use in felines. Medication to treat heartworm in dogs may be used for cats as well, but there are usually significant side effects. Therefore, treatment options usually include surgery to remove the heartworms and symptom management to help the cat outlive the worms themselves. However, there are more comprehensive preventive options that can stop the spread of heartworms in cats in areas where mosquitoes are active.
Cats may not show symptoms of heartworm disease.
One of the biggest challenges in treating heartworm disease in felines is that symptoms are not always obvious. In many cases there may be no symptoms at all until a cat suddenly collapses. When symptoms do occur, they may mimic those of other diseases. These symptoms can include:
- Weight loss and loss of appetite.
- Fainting or seizures.
- Fluid accumulation in the abdomen.
- Periodic vomiting.
- Coughing and trouble breathing.
Your veterinarian can help you better understand your cat’s risk of heartworm disease and work with you to create a prevention or treatment plan that’s right for your feline. For exceptional veterinary care in Scottsdale, you can count on Horizon Animal Hospital. Learn more about us on our website or call (480) 800-4559 to schedule an annual checkup for your furry companion.