It's on the Rise
For years now, heartworm disease incidences have been on the rise in the US despite advances in our ability to prevent the disease. Heartworm disease is a very serious and potentially fatal disease contracted by pets who are bitten by an infected mosquito. Heartworms are often times up to one foot long and live in the hearts and lungs of infected pets. If left untreated, pets will develop cardiac and respiratory failure, which leads to death.
Heartworm Disease-Not Only a Dog Disease
When pet owners hear about heartworm disease, many believe it only affects the canine population. However, the same mosquitoes that infect dogs also infect cats. Generally speaking though, that is where the similarities between canine and feline heartworm disease end.
There are many differences between canine and feline heartworm disease. According to the Companion Animal Council, the rate of incidence of adult heartworms in cats is only about 10% as often as dogs. This is because, often times, a cat's immune system will kill the larvae before they become adults. Also, the number of heartworms present during an infection vary greatly between cats and dogs. A cat is usually only infected with 1-3 adult heartworms where a dog can harbor up to several hundred. However, just 1 adult heartworm in a cat can cause serious illness.
What to do? Test and Prevent
The test typically used to diagnose heartworm disease in dogs is not shown to be effective in diagnosing heartworm disease in cats. In addition to bloodwork, cats will most likely need radiographs, ultrasound, or echocardiogram to get a more definitive diagnosis. Unlike dogs, cats who are diagnosed with heartworm disease face a large challenge as there is no approved medical treatment to kill those adult heartworms.
Once again, prevention is really the best case scenario to protect your cat from heartworm disease. Here at Evans Animal Hospital, we always recommend year round heartworm prevention for all of your pets as mosquitoes are a year round problem here in the southeast. Even indoor pets should remain on prevention as it only takes one mosquito to infect your pet. Some of the products approved for the prevention of heartworms in cats are Selamectin, Milbemycin, and Ivermectin. Feel free to call and speak to one of our staff about which product is best for your cat.
Dr. Chaffin Roseberry
4317 Evans to Locks Road
Evans, GA 30809