Cats and dogs both catch heartworm in the same way, but heartworm affects cats in distinctly different ways.
Cats and dogs both catch heartworm through the bite of an infected mosquito, and studies show cats are infected at a rate similar to that of dogs. However, heartworm disease in cats is drastically different.
How is heartworm in cats different from heartworm in dogs?
The first difference with heartworm in cats is in the size and quantity of the worms that live in the heart. In cats, heartworms are typically smaller than they are in dogs. Additionally, heartworm‐positive dogs can be infected with multiple worms at once, whereas cats are typically only infected with one or two.
While heartworms can live, grow and thrive in a dog for up to seven years, they can usually only live for two to four years in a cat. This is because heartworms in cats trigger an intense immune reaction that does not take place in dogs. While helpful at attacking the worms, this reactive immune response is typically very hard on the cat and causes serious symptoms.
Symptoms of heartworm in cats
Heartworm symptoms in cats usually affect the airways. These symptoms include:
- Rapid chest movements
- Difficulty breathing
In fact, heartworm symptoms can easily resemble the signs of asthma, a common condition among cats. However, it is not uncommon for cats to suddenly succumb to the disease without ever showing signs at all.
Prevent heartworms before they infect your cat
Unfortunately, an approved treatment for heartworm in cats does not currently exist. A veterinarian can test your cat for heartworms, but even with testing, heartworms can be difficult to diagnose in cats. These tests might also be expensive and hard on your cat.
Where there are mosquitoes, there can be heartworm disease. You cannot ensure a mosquito‐free environment any time of year, especially in warm, humid areas of the country. This is why preventing heartworms with veterinarian-prescribed medication is essential for protecting your cat from this deadly parasite.
Ask your veterinarian to get a heartworm preventative prescription for your cat.
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