Mosquito-borne parasite threatens more than 75 million cats!! Historically, heartworms Heartworm were considered a “dog only” parasite, but on-going studies and research continue to show that our cats are susceptible to this parasite as well. Beyond being a risk for cats, heartworms are capable of causing death, often with no warning. What options do cat lovers have?
Experts from the American Heartworm Society consider heartworm to be a bigger problem than either Feline Leukemia Virus or the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. In fact, studies of cats along the Gulf Coast show that 26% of cats have signs of heartworm infection at some point in their lives and 10% have actual heartworm. These statistics are 5-10 times higher than the accepted national prevalence of 2-3% for Feline Leukemia. Yet, despite the large numbers, many cat owners are unaware of the damage that heartworms can cause to their pet.
Like dogs, mosquitoes transmit heartworms to cats. But, cats are often infected with smaller numbers of worms and fewer of the worms survive to adulthood. Unfortunately, this is not good for cats. The small size of the cat’s heart and blood vessels, in addition to a strong response by the immune system means that dying heartworms can often create emboli in the cat’s lungs. These obstructions can cause death, often within 1 hour. Clinical signs of heartworms are often non-specific, meaning that most pet owners may ignore them until it is too late.
To make matters worse, if your cat is infected with heartworms, there is currently no approved treatment. However, good news is available. Like so many things, prevention is the key. Your veterinarian has several safe and effective products to insure that heartworms do not develop in your cat. Both oral and topical products are available and your veterinary staff will help you choose the best one for you and your pet.