Can Your Cat Get Heartworm Disease?

You’re familiar with heartworm disease’s horrific effects on dogs, so you always give your German shepherd dog Lothar his monthly heartworm preventive treatment. However, you just learned that your beautiful cat Priscilla is also at risk, as up to 10% of cats can contract heartworm disease. While cats seem to be more naturally resistant to it, you’re not taking any chances with your precious kitty’s health. You’ve made an appointment with your Livonia veterinarian, who will get Priscilla on a parasite detection and prevention program.


Disease Origin and Transmission

Heartworm disease originates with a worm, but is transmitted by a mosquito that feasts on an infected victim, usually a dog. Next, the mosquito bites another animal, who gets infectious mosquito larvae planted in its tissues.The mobile larvae take up residence throughout the victim’s body, growing into adult worms over several months. The full-grown worms eventually land in the victim’s heart and major blood vessels, and then explode in numbers. Now the poor victim experiences a potentially fatal health crisis.


Potentially Devastating Effects

Adult heartworms can inflame Priscilla’s lungs and blood vessels, and can even obstruct her arteries, putting her entire circulatory system in jeopardy. While Priscilla’s healthy immune system might eventually kill the heartworms, they can survive in her body for up to three years. The dying worms often release antigens that can set off a life-threatening inflammatory response.


Feline Heartworm Symptoms

Priscilla might exhibit a mix of symptoms that are also indicative of other illnesses. For example, she might have trouble breathing, and may also vomit and cough. She might alter her eating habits, seem unnaturally tired, and even display seizure symptoms.


Spectrum of Treatments

If the vet suspects Priscilla has mild heartworm symptoms, he might prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to lessen her lung inflammation. This supportive treatment helps Priscllla’s body cope with the disease until the heartworms have died and the inflammation subsides. If Priscilla’s case seems more severe, she’ll be hospitalized and receive more medications, IV fluids, oxygen, and antibiotics. She’ll also get physical exams and x-rays twice a year.


Before your Livonia vet can start Priscilla on a monthly heartworm preventive treatment, he must first confirm that she’s heartworm free. He’ll test her annually before prescribing more medication. If Priscilla remains heartworm negative, she’s more likely to remain a healthy, lively cat who enjoys life with your family.

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