“The Good Word” by Dr. Carol Good – Rockford Animal Hospital

*Yes, cats get heartworms too!*

     If you have a dog, you probably already know about heartworm parasite infections, but if you have a pet cat, it may be news to you that cats get infected also.   Even if your cat is indoors 100% of the time and its tender feet have never touched grass or dirt, they can get infected.

This was discovered about 15 years ago when veterinarian’s investigating the health of cats at animal shelters across the United States began to notice heartworms present inside the hearts of cats. Tests were developed to look for heartworm exposure in live cats and over 50% of the cats tested had been exposed to or were infected with heartworms.   Many of them were reported by their owners to be indoor only cats.

Prior to this time, it was thought that cats were not a normal host for heartworms so they could not be infected. However, veterinary researchers have proposed that because of extremely high exposure, the heartworm parasite has adapted itself to infect cats. Just like dogs, cats get infected by being bitten by a mosquito who fed on a dog or other host* already infected with heartworm parasites. A cat’s heart is much smaller compared to a dog so it is less common for a baby heartworm to fully mature into an adult worm.

Unfortunately, even immature worms can cause disease symptoms in a cat. Unlike dogs, the damage is not to the heart muscle, but rather an allergic reaction in the air tubes in their lungs (bronchi). This can lead to symptoms like chronic vomiting, breathing difficulties and, in rare cases, even death due to an acute asthma-like attack. There is no treatment to kill these worms once they have matured to this level and they can live for about 3 years before dying naturally. The only option, once a cat is infected, is to manage the symptoms medically the best we can and wait for the worms to die on their own.

There is good news though. Heartworm disease can be prevented. Many effective, safe and moderately priced, prescription medications are available to kill heartworms before they can cause damage. Some products are oral and others are applied topically to the skin.

The product that I prefer is called Revolution. It is a topical product so you don’t need to worry about whether your cat will eat the medication. Plus, it not only kills heartworms, but it also kills fleas, ear mites and two types of stool worms that can infect both cats and people (roundworms and hookworms). One, simple application, every 30 days, year round and your cat is protected. It couldn’t be easier for you or better for your cat. Don’t wait for tragedy to strike, call us today at 866-9589 and ask about heartworm prevention for your cat!

*Natural hosts for heartworms are: Coyotes, Wolves, Foxes, Sea lions, Tigers and Dogs


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