Please note that some posts contains affiliate links & I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links Find out More

Heart-to-Heart About Cat Heartworms

by | Aug 19, 2011 | Cat Behavior & Care | 4 comments

Cat heartworms are a growing concern, particularly since the incidence of dog heartworms continues to rise. Is your cat protected against heartworm disease?

CAT HEARTWORMS TRANSMISSION

To become infected, a cat must live in an area that has infected dogs, and with mosquitoes that have a taste for both dog blood and cat blood. Wildlife also serves as a reservoir for the disease so coyotes and raccoons could put your pets at risk. Heck, the coyotes come up onto my back patio! Even though Magical-Dawg is negative for the disease and takes preventative, Seren-kitty could get heartworm from a single mosquito biting a coyote and nailing her before I could swat the sucker.

That’s right, I said it. A cat doesn’t have to go outside to be exposed. Exclusively indoor cats also get heartworm disease. They may even be more susceptible, yikes!

Heartworm mapHOW CAT HEARTWORMS ARE TRANSMITTED

Mosquitoes ingest baby heartworms (microfilariae) when taking a blood meal from an already infected animal. The immature parasites spend about three weeks developing inside the mosquito and migrate to the mouthparts of the insect. When the mosquito again takes a blood meal, larvae are deposited upon the skin and gain entrance to the new host’s body through the bite wound left by the mosquito. Once inside the body, the immature heartworm undergoes many more molts and development stages.

CAT HEARTWORMS SYMPTOMS ARE H.A.R.D.

heartworms

Outdoor cats exposed to mosquitoes increase risk of contracting heartworm disease–but even indoor kitties can get infected.

The larvae are carried by the blood through the heart to the cat’s pulmonary arteries which almost immediately become enlarged and inflamed. They usually die in cats in about 9 months (they can live 5 years in dogs!) and cause severe inflammatory respiratory problems when they die. This has been described as heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD).

Feline airways become thickened, stiff, and inflamed. Cats with asthma symptoms—open-mouth breathing with blue gums—may in fact be suffering from heartworm disease. Frequent vomiting also can be a sign of feline heartworm disease. “The third unfortunate sign we see is the cat is fine this morning, and dead this afternoon,” says Dr. Graham.

CAT HEARTWORMS TESTS

Current tests don’t detect all feline heartworm cases. Antigen tests identify the presence of adult female worms. That means cats could have immature worms present, or an adult male, and appear to be safe. Antibody tests can detect very early infections by immature worms–fantastic for our dogs!–but half of all cats that have worms don’t have antibodies against them. Additional chest radiographs and echocardiograms may be needed when heartworm infection is suspected.

A single heartworm can kill the cat, and there’s no cure or treatment for feline heartworms. Instead, veterinarians suppress the inflammation in the lungs and make it easier to breathe using such drugs as prednisone, bronchodilators, and doxycycline. Infected cats usually are put on heartworm preventive so they don’t get any new worms that further complicate their care.

Preventing Feline Heartworms

While diagnosis is difficult and treatment virtually impossible, there are preventive products for cats. The American Heartworm Society provides guidelines and the latest research on its site. They recommend all cats should be on preventative, year round. Start kittens at 6 to 8 weeks of age–there are products that not only prevent heartworms but also control other parasites like fleas so you’re multi-tasking and keeping kitty safe. It costs pennies a day to protect my dog and cat, compared to the expense of treating an infection.

Losing Shadow-Pup or Karma-Kat to heartworms is not a price I’m willing to pay.

How about you? What sorts of preventatives to you give your fur-kids? Fleas and tick stuff? Heartworm prevention? Do you prefer the “natural” route or have suggestions how to get the cats to accept “what’s good for them?” There are liquid alternatives and spot ons for some of these preventions. What works best for your pets?


YouTube Button

Subscribe to Amy’s YouTube Channel

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

4 Comments

  1. Lotta's ullisar

    That is a scary worm! Very interresting article, I’ve only heard of it before, Have you heard if it’s common in Europe/Scandinavia? As I live in Sweden and am concerned about my cat. I will also try to check it up myself, but maybe you know.

    Reply
    • amyshojai

      Hi Lotta, you’d have to ask your veterinarians. From what I can tell, the incidence of canine heartworms is increasing in Europe possibly from importing pets from outside of the country.

      Reply
  2. Charles

    A nasty-sounding worm. Fortunately we don’t get so many of these in the UK, I think. There’s some interesting information about tapeworm and fleas on http://www.CatWormsSymptoms.com, if it’s relevant.

    Reply
    • amyshojai

      Hi Charles,

      Yes, cats DO get heartworms in the UK and dogs, too. They’ve been found around the world, unfortunately. I understand Italy has a big problem because of mosquitoes and water.

      Thanks for the link to the intestinal worms issues. Here if a kitty is on some of the more common flea preventives–and some of the heartworm preventives too–they also prevent intestinal parasites.

      Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Feline Friday: Heart-to-Heart About Heartworms « Amy Shojai’s Blog « Undercover Kitty - [...] Feline Friday: Heart-to-Heart About Heartworms « Amy Shojai’s Blog. Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]
  2. Monday Mentions: Pets, Vets & Furry Writer-icity « Amy Shojai's Blog - [...] Amy Shojai's Blog Bling, Bitches & Blood HomeAbout AmyContact Amy ← Feline Friday: Heart-to-Heart About Heartworms [...]
  3. Woof Wednesday: Heart-to-Heart About Doggy Heartworms « Amy Shojai's Blog - [...] disease. That can make your dog sick or worse—it could kill her. Dogs are the natural host–but they also…
  4. Feline Friday: Happy Cat Month « Amy Shojai's Blog - [...] Provide preventive medications. No one likes fleas, ticks, mites or heartworms, especially your cat. Even indoor cats are at…
  5. Heart-to-Heart About Dog Heartworms & Mosquitoes - […] That can make your dog sick or worse—it could kill her. Dogs are the natural host–but they also can…
  6. Cat IBD: Dealing With Feline Inflammatory Bowel Disease - […] usually is made only after ruling out other causes for vomiting, such as giardia, trichomoniasis, heartworms, or a swallowed…
  7. Prevent Pet Parasites Year Round To Protect Dogs & Cats - […] When an infected mosquito bites your dog in August, larvae are deposited upon the skin and gain entrance to…

Leave a Reply

Categories:

Recent Posts

TOP 10 DO’s & DON’Ts WHEN ADOPTING A PET for ADOPT A DOG MONTH

It’s Adopt A Dog Month! If a new fur-kid is in your future, remember that more goes into adopting a dog than picking the “prettiest” or just plopping food in a bowl. I’ve written about shelter adoptions before, but here are more specific tips. Follow these do’s and don’ts to ensure your furry love connection lasts past the honeymoon and endures for the lifetime of that pet.

10 DO’s & DON’Ts for Adopting a Dog (or Cat)

Don’t adopt too early. Kittens and puppies adopted too young bite and claw more than those corrected by Mom and siblings. Wait to adopt furry until they are at least 8-10 weeks old for pups and 12 to 16 weeks for kittens…

What Makes Humans Happy? And Where Do Pets Fit In?

When we look at the principles of Positive Psychology (the study of what human wellbeing and fulfillment is made of – including happiness) it’s easy to see why so many of us attribute our happiness and wellness to our pets! I’ve frequently written about how pets show love, and what dogs want out of life. So why not explore what makes humans happy, too?

Read on to learn about th 5 Elements of Human Well-being According to Positive Psychology…

How to Prepare for a Disaster: Pet Preparedness & Tips

With the latest hurricane and more on the way, it’s time to revisit your pet disaster plan. You do have one, right? After Katrina and Harvey, everyone should understand the importance of disaster preparation.

I posted this in June for National Pet Preparedness Month. September is Disaster Preparation Month. Hurricane Ian drives home the importance of having a disaster plan not only for yourself when Mother Nature throws a tantrum but also to keep your pets safe. Whether you must deal with tornadoes, floods, landslides, typhoons, wildfires, or other emergencies, there’s a rule that we must always PLAN FOR THE WORST.

And then pray it doesn’t happen. For those going through issues now, refer to these resources:

Florida Animal Shelter Emergency Response
Mobile Phone: 941-525-8035.
Office Phone: 863-577-4605.
Email: sthayer@spcaflorida.org.

Florida Animal Shelter Emergency Response

American Humane Red Star Disaster Response

American Red Cross

Disaster Assistance and Emergency Relief (Government)

What Cats Want Out of Life & What Cats Need

Whether you share your pillow with a kitty, or care for feral, stray or community cats, always consider what cats want out of life. I’ve written about what makes humans happy, as well as what dogs want out of life, and it’s time for the cats. We love our cats all year long, but sometimes lose sight of what cats need out of life. It’s important to channel your “inner kitty” to learn how to keep the purrs rumbling 24/7 to provide what cats need.

Dark Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Books Galore! Booksweeps Giveaway, Emily Kimelman & More!

👀 I spy a steal…If you haven’t read my first September & Shadow Thriller, you can enter to win it on BookSweeps today — plus 55 exciting Dark Mysteries, Thrillers & Suspense books from a great collection of authors… AND a brand new eReader 😀

I’ve teamed up with fantastic authors to give away a huge collection of mysteries and suspense thrillers to 2 lucky winners!

Oh, and did I mention the Grand Prize winner gets a BRAND NEW eReader? 😁

Adopting “Other-Abled” and Less Adoptable Pets

September 19-25 is National Adopt A Less Adoptable Pet Week, founded by PetFinder.com. The organization encourages shelters and rescues to create special week-long events devoted to giving overlooked pets like those with disabilities a better chance at finding homes.

This struck a chord with me, especially after living with a tri-pawd dog when Bravo lost his leg. He didn’t act disabled, though. Have you ever adopted an other-abled pet or less adoptable pet?

What Is A Less Adoptable Pet

Why less adoptable? They’re the wrong breed or have special needs. Overlooked pets include deaf dogs or deaf cats, blind pets, or those missing a limb. Many folks prefer the ‘perfect’ cute puppy or kitten and don’t want a crippled pet, or just don’t like the color of the dog or cat. Of course, we know black dogs and cats, and those with only one eye, or three legs, still love us with all their furry hearts! Read on…

Do Pets See In Color?

I love this question. What do you think? Today’s Ask Amy topic is Do dogs see in color? What about cats and dogs, do they see things differently?

Today, take a fun look at this YouTube video discussing the question. And weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments–does color matter to your fur kids?

How to Manage Fur Shedding

When dog shedding and cat shedding creates hairy tumbleweeds, it creates a fur-ocious mess you need to manage. At one time, our German Shepherd Magic’s fur shedding turned our cream carpet to gray. Today we live with two short-haired pets. But Karma-Kat’s silver fur and the Shadow-Pup’s undercoat become furry dust mice on the kitchen’s slate floor, float through the air, and cling to upholstery and clothing. Knowing what to do goes beyond keeping the house clean. Proper fur care can prevent skin problems and also help manage hairballs.

Exposure to sunlight or artificial light determines the timing and amount of shedding. “It is a normal process which can be accelerated under certain circumstances,” says Steven Melman, VMD, an internationally known expert on veterinary dermatology and the founder of DermaZoo.com. In fact, indoor pets exposed to artificial light shed nonstop, even during triple-digit summer or frigid winter months.

Whatever time of year shedding occurs, it’s aggravating, and a nonstop cleaning challenge. Why do pets shed fur, and how can we manage the mess?

DON’T Hug Your Dog on National Hug Your Hound Day! Here’s Why

Several years ago when I wrote for the puppies.about.com site (now TheSprucePets) I took issue with a promotion advertised by a big-name pet food company that encouraged people to post pictures of themselves hugging dogs. Hoo-boy…Oh dear heaven, by the comments I received you’d think that I said cute babies are evil, apple pie is poison and advocated BEATING YOUR DOG! Part of that has to do with folks reading only the title and ignoring the content of the message. Oh well. That drives home the importance of titles, I suppose.

The promo really struck a chord with pet lovers. After all, who doesn’t love a hug? Hugs mean love, hugs mean happy happy happy, hugs are tail-wagging expressions of the joy we share with dogs. Right? RIGHT?!

Uh, no. And glory be, the promotion lives on, declaring September 11 as “Hug Your Hound Day.” Before you tar-and-feather me, read on to learn WHY hugging your dog can put you, and your dog, in danger…

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP): Treatment Hope On The Horizon

Since September celebrates Happy Cat Month, I wanted to share some recent good news about FIP. Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a viral disease of cats first described in the late 1950s that continues to challenge our understanding today. Until recently, FIP was considered a death sentence and veterinarians had little help for diagnosing the disease. On September 1, 2022, The American Association of Feline Practitioners and EveryCat Health Foundation announced the publication of Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) Diagnosis Guidelines appearing in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. PLEASE let your veterinarian know.

Dr. Niels Pedersen, now professor emeritus at U.C. Davis, California, has studied FIP since the 1960s. I had the honor to interview Dr. Pederson for an article about FIP that appeared in CATS Magazine (no longer printed) back in the 1990s, and later to hear him speak at prestigious veterinary conferences and at the Cat Writers’ Association events. You can read a 2017 Winn Feline Foundation recap of one of Dr. Pedersen’s sessions on the topic here.  

Today, FIP can be treated, and some cats like Wizard (in the pictures) possibly cured of the disease.

Visit Amy’s Website

Amy Shojai CACB is an award winning author.  You can find all her publications and book her to speak via her website. 

On Demand Writer Coaching

AmyShojai.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com http://amazon.com/.

Awards

Memberships

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This