Dog owners often hear about parasites that can infect their pets, especially heartworm. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquito bites and can infect the cardiac and pulmonary (lungs) systems of animals. Testing for the parasite in dogs is fast and easy, and there are prevention and treatment options available.
However, heartworms can infect other animals as well, like cats. While it's not as common in cats as it is dogs, Feline Heartworm Disease is not rare. In some areas, it is more common than both Feline Leukemia and the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). As we humans know, mosquitos are sneaky about getting indoors, so even cats that stay in the house are not safe from infection: 27% of cats infected with heartworms were indoor-only pets.
Heartworm Disease in cats, unlike in dogs, can be very difficult to diagnose. Symptoms of infection can appear very similar to asthma and include respiratory stress, frequent coughing, or frequent gagging. Infection can also cause sudden death.
A good treatment for heartworm infection in cats has yet to be found. Once a cat is diagnosed, only the symptoms can be treated; there is no way to kill the heartworms themselves. Therefore, prevention is the best option.
Reston Animal Hospital carries heartworm prevention for cats as well as for dogs. Our most-used product is called Revolution. Revolution is a topical (on the skin) treatment that is easy to apply and lasts for an entire month. Just put a mark on your calendar or an alarm on your phone so you don't forget! Oral options are also available.
For any heartworm preventative, a prescription is required. Please talk to us about Feline Heartworm Disease prevention at your next visit!