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Heartworm in Cats

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.

 grey cat getting pet by owner under the chin

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.

 vet stethoscope icon

Symptoms of heartworm in cats

Heartworm symptoms in cats usually affect the airways. These symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • 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.

 heartworm infection in a cat’s heart

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.


Related Articles:

What are Signs of Heartworms in Cats?
Top 10 Mosquito Feeding Facts

Bayer Products

  • Advantage Multi® for Cats (imidacloprid + moxidectin) packaging

    Advantage Multi® for Cats (imidacloprid + moxidectin)

    An all-in-one monthly topical that prevents heartworm disease, kills adult fleas and treats roundworms and hookworms.

    Advantage Multi® for Cats (imidacloprid + moxidectin)

    Indicated for:

    FLEAS
    FLEAS
    EAR MITES
    EAR MITES
    ROUNDWORMS
    ROUNDWORMS
    HOOKWORMS
    HOOKWORMS
    HEARTWORMS
    HEARTWORMS

    CAUTION: Federal (U.S.A) law restricts Advantage Multi® for Cats (imidacloprid + moxidectin) to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian.

  • Advantage® Treatment Shampoo for cats & kittens

    Advantage® Treatment Shampoo for cats & kittens

    A treatment shampoo that kills fleas and ticks on contact.

    Advantage® Treatment Shampoo for cats & kittens

    Indicated for:

    FLEAS
    FLEAS
    TICKS
    TICKS

  • Advantage Treatment spray for cats

    Advantage® Treatment Spray for cats

    An on-pet treatment spray that kills and repels fleas, ticks and lice.

    Advantage® Treatment Spray for cats

    Indicated for:

    FLEAS
    FLEAS
    TICKS
    TICKS
    LICE
    LICE

CAUTION: Federal (U.S.A.) law restricts Advantage Multi® for Cats (imidacloprid + moxidectin) to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian. WARNINGS: Do not use on sick or debilitated cats or ferrets. Do not use on underweight cats. (see ADVERSE REACTIONS). Do not use on cats less than 9 weeks of age or less than 2 lbs body weight. PRECAUTIONS: Avoid oral ingestion. HUMAN WARNINGS: Children should not come in contact with the application site for 30 minutes after application.