Heartworms in Cats

drharrisHeartworms are being found more frequently in cats. Heartworms are less common in cats than in dogs, but cats can get them too. Affected cats usually have only a few of these worms in their heart, but because the cat’s heart is very small and the worms are quite large, even 1 or 2 worms can be fatal. Signs of heartworm disease in cats include chronic coughing, wheezing or vomiting and sudden collapse or death.

Heartworm Prevention is Key

Diagnosis is made based on clinical exam, laboratory, findings and x-rays. There is still no treatment for cats that have heartworm disease, so prevention is key! Outdoor cats are most at risk, but interestingly enough a new study of feline heartworm disease in Texas and South Carolina showed that 36% of infected cats were kept totally indoors. Since it takes so few of the heartworm parasites to cause disease in cats, even the occasional mosquito finding its way into the home can carry more than enough heartworm larvae to be fatal.

Luckily, cats can now be put on the once-a-month preventative medication during the mosquito season, just like dogs. Though effective preventative medications have been available for dogs for years, more than 1/3 of dogs in our area are not being protected. Many of them are harboring the heartworm parasite. Mosquitoes then carry the disease from infected dogs to other pets, and occasionally to people as well.

Heartgard for Cats

Heartgard© for cats is a chewable, good-tasting tablet your cat should like. The price is quite reasonable, and the medication also helps prevent roundworms and hookworms – common intestinal parasites – as well. Alternately, a topical product called Revolution ® can be applied to the skin at the top of the neck once monthly. This will help prevent heartworm, fleas, hookworms, roundworms, and ear mites. This is ideal for the outdoor cat, as well as the indoor/outdoor cat.

Vaccinations Recommended for Outdoor Cats

Cats are exposed to lots of other diseases, so you need to decide on a total health care package for any cat, especially one that goes outside. We recommend vaccination for Distemper, upper respiratory diseases, and Rabies for all cats, indoors or out. Feline Leukemia vaccination is also recommended. Cats going outdoors should also be protected against fleas and intestinal parasites as part of a regular health care program.

If you have a cat who is special to you, you may want to start him or her on the new once-a-month preventative medication as well. It could save a life! Ask for medication at the front desk when you check out.