Because the focus of heartworm prevention is often on our canine friends, the owners of dogs and Cats may be surprised to learn that heartworm disease affects both types. The fact is, cats are equally susceptible to the bites of infected mosquitos. And to make matters worse, while dogs are able to be safely treated for heartworm disease, cats are incurable. This is why heartworm prevention in cats is so important.
What are heartworms?
Microscopic baby heartworms are transmitted directly into a cat’s bloodstream through the bite of an infected mosquito. Heartworms grow from the bloodstream in the heart, lungs and arteries and cause great damage. Because cats are considered atypical hosts, they do not get as many heartworms as other animals. There is no treatment for heartworm disease in cats and the risk to their health is very high.
Parasite prevention stops them
When a cat is protected with parasite prevention medication, microscopic heartworms cannot grow. Many cat owners make the mistake of providing parasite prevention medication only during the spring and summer months, but maintaining the routine throughout the year is critical.
In Georgia, parasites don’t actually enter full dormancy as they do in the northern states. As a result, heartworm prevention in cats must remain a year-round endeavor. A monthly dose to prevent heartworms will keep heartworms in the blood from ripening.
Heartworm Disease in Cats
Once a cat has adult heartworms that live in the heart, lungs, and arteries, all we can do is treat symptoms. Typically there are breathing problems. Cats can cough, wheeze, vomit, experience weight loss, and have changes in appetite. As they progress, they may faint, have fits, have difficulty walking, and build up fluid in their abdomen. Breakdown and death can be imminent.
Start early, stay strong
Kittens 6-8 weeks of age can begin their lifelong routine with monthly heartworm medication. Since it can take up to 6 months for worms to detect changes in your cat’s blood test, annual tests are critical to preventing them.
All cats – indoor and outdoor only – deserve to be protected from this preventable, incurable disease. If you have any questions or concerns about your cat’s lifelong health and vitality, we at Cat Care of Vinings are always here to help.