Heartworms can arise in virtually any breed or age of cat and they can be as much a danger to indoor cats as to outdoor living cats. The outcome of heartworms can be different though from cat to cat and if they are lucky the worms can pack up and go on their own accord. Generally speaking, older cats or kittens are more at a risk once the worms have established themselves in the heart or lungs. In the worst case scenario, if left undiagnosed and untreated – heartworms can become extremely fatal.
How Do Cats Get Heartworms?
Nearly all cases of feline heartworm begins with a simple mosquito bite. Some mosquitoes carry the parasite Dirofilaria immitis, whose larvae is transferred into the cat’s bloodstream when it is bitten. Unlike dogs, a cat’s immune system will recognize this larva as an infection almost right away and so will fight against it so that the larva’s chances of growth and survival are pretty slim. This doesn’t mean however, that a case of heartworm in cats should be overlooked – they are still at risk from infestation and due to their reasonably small blood vessels and hearts, even one worm can be fatal.
What Are The Symptoms?
It can take up to two months before any signs of infestation. However, the following symptoms might occur in the case of heartworm:
• Loss of Appetite
• Cat Coughs
• Weight Loss
• Breathing Problems (Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease)
Further, more critical signs start to occur when the worms affect the proper functioning of cat’s internal organs. They include :
• Sudden Difficulty to Breathe
• Abnormal Heart Rate (usually faster)
• Loss of Sight
• Cat Diarrhea
• Sudden Death
How Is Heartworm Diagnosed?
If you have any concern that your feline pet has heartworm, you should immediately take him to your veterinary. Usually your veterinarian will perform a physical examination followed by X-rays of the heart and pulmonary arteries. The vet will also conduct an ultrasound on your cat’s heart, as well as a blood count. If after these examinations it is still not clear, they may do Antigen testing and Antibody testing.
As mentioned before, an adult cat that is otherwise in good health and whose infestation is not severe, can recover from heartworm without veterinary treatment practices. It is important, however, that your cat maintain a regular check up every six months with your local veterinary clinic. Cortisone can be used for lung disease and medications to prevent vomiting and excessive coughing can be given as well. When the case is more severe, however, then IV fluids, oxygen treatment and antibiotics can also be used. The truth is though – there is no medication that can guarantee the cure of heartworm, therefore the best cure is prevention.
Ivermectin (an oral medication) and Selemectin (a topical medication) are both used to prevent heartworm in cats. Before you give any cat such medications they should have a medical exam pbeforehand to check that heartworm is not already an existing problem. Otherwise, you can give the treatment on a monthly basis. Indoor cats are at a lesser risk and try, if possible to stop them being in areas that might be near to mosquitoes.