April is heartworm awareness month. Heartworm disease is a nasty, potentially fatal condition. While dogs are the preferred hosts for heartworms, they’ll happily live inside cats as well.
Heartworms are transmitted to pets via mosquitoes. Worms dwell in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels of infected pets. They create terrible damage including inflammation and blockages. By the time pets show symptoms, the damage is done. Symptoms include coughing and trouble breathing, lethargy, distended stomach, vomiting, weight loss, and sometimes death.
The good news about this ravaging disease is that it’s preventable. Prevention is the number one way to keep your pet(s) safe.
If you have an indoor only cat, you may think you don’t need heartworm prevention. Think again. It’s best to talk to your veterinarian about your cat(s) and their specific risk, but here are some facts to consider:
- Mosquitoes get inside homes through screens and open doors and windows.
- It only takes one bite from one mosquito to infect a pet.
- Cats are amazing escape artists, even when well behaved and content.
- There is no approved treatment for heartworms in cats.
Diagnosing heartworms in cats is more involved than doing so in dogs. If a cat’s initial blood test raises suspicion, confirmation requires further blood work along with radiographs and sometimes ultrasounds.
Because there is no safe treatment for heartworms in cats, all that’s possible is close and consistent monitoring, evaluation, and treatment of symptoms and discomfort. While worms don’t typically reach adulthood inside cats, they can live up to three long, damaging years.
Talk to your babe’s veterinarian about testing and prevention. The American Heartworm Society recommends testing every 12 months and using prevention medication 12 months out of the year.