Feline Heartworm Disease

Heartworms on ultrasound

Feline Heartworm Disease:

Here at State Road Animal Hospital we are seeing a large increase in the number of cats that are positive for heartworm disease.  In the month of January alone we had 3 positive cats out of the 15 cats that were tested.  Even indoor kitties can be exposed to heartworm disease; all  it takes is one mosquito bite to transmit the disease.  

The large size of the heartworms compared to the small size of a cat’s heart and blood vessels can cause severe consequences for infected kitties.  The most common symptoms we observe are lethargy, coughing, trouble breathing, vomiting and/or seizures.  Some cats with heartworm disease do not show any clinical signs.  However, even cats without symptoms are at risk for sudden death from a heartworm infection. 

Unfortunately heartworm disease is not treatable in cats like it is in dogs.  The small size of feline blood vessels, make it impossible to kill the adult worms within causing an obstruction of the pulmonary blood vessels, which would be fatal.  So we have to manage kitties with heartworm disease slowly while we wait for the worms to die.  This usually takes about 2-3 years. 

The image of heartworms above was captured during an echocardiogram (ultrasound study of the heart) of a patient at SRAH named Patches.  Patches was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia.  When she failed to respond to treatment, an echocardiogram was performed revealing her heartworm disease. 

Fortunately we have effective preventatives available for heartworm disease. All cats, even indoor only cats should receive their heartworm prevention monthly and receive a heartworm test every other year to be fully protected against this dangerous parasite.

patches heartworm positive cat


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