With the warm weather here once again, many pet owners find themselves thinking about heartworm prevention. Heartworm disease is one of the most serious diseases that can affect a pet, and while many responsible owners make sure their dogs are suitably protected, cat owners often overlook making certain their feline companions are also protected.
One of the reasons that the cat owner doesn’t think to protect against heartworm disease is because their cat is an “indoor only” cat. While being an indoor cat can protect against certain diseases, it might not be effective against heartworm disease. The disease is carried by mosquitoes and mosquitoes are not known for respecting a homeowner’s boundaries. They will come right into a home and do their dirty work.
When a mosquito bites a cat, it transmits heartworm larvae into the new host. At first, there might not be any signs of a problem at all. Typically, cats infected with heartworms have just a few, one to three. Since heartworm larvae take up to six months to fully mature and sometimes they don’t mature at all, there’s a good chance the early stages will go unnoticed. These immature worms trigger a condition called heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD).
However, as time passes, the cat might develop a severe cough, asthma-like attacks, have several cases of vomiting, experience weight loss, fainting, seizures and might suffer from a loss of appetite. Once the heartworm matures it can live as long as 2 to 3 years in your cat (and 5 to 7 years in a dog!).
It is not uncommon for the first sign to be a sudden collapse or even sudden death.
Unlike dogs, cats that are infected with heartworms have no drug treatment option available. That’s why the best course of action is to use a heartworm preventative. While cats do not make the ideal hosts for heartworm infestation, they can be targeted – especially in regions where the temperature is more moderate year-round. Heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states.
There are a variety of preventative products available, ranging from topical treatment to pills. Naturally, many cat owners prefer to go the topical route, since some cats tend to be less than thrilled with having to be dosed by a pill.
Prior to starting your cat on a preventative medicine, it is imperative that he or she is screened by a veterinarian to ensure there is not a current infestation. Veterinarians will use either an antigen and antibody test to detect exposure to larvae or ultrasound or x-rays to look for infection.
Commercially Available HeartWorm Medications
- Revolution for cats
- Interceptor for cats
- Cat Heartgard chewables
- Advantage Multi for cats
While heartworm disease can be potentially fatal to your cat, exercising preventative measures will greatly reduce the risk of an incident. Check with your local veterinarian for the various options available to decide which is the best product for you.