April is Heartworm Awareness Month! It’s common knowledge that heartworms are a threat to dogs, but did you know that they are just as dangerous for our feline pals? Here, a Dawsonville, GA vet discusses heartworms in cats, and offers some advice on protecting your kitty.
Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes. This is both good and bad news for Fluffy. On the one hand, her thick fur protects her from many mosquito bites. However, that soft coat isn’t exactly impermeable armor. Cats can—and do—get bit. Needless to say, hairless cats are at higher risk than kitties with fur on.
Heartworms are microscopic when they are first transmitted. However, they grow quickly. Within about 6 months, they reach their adult size—which can be up to a foot long—and start reproducing. Heartworm infestations affect Fluffy and Fido a bit differently. Cats’ bodies aren’t as habitable to the worms as dogs’ are. The good news is that most worms die in cats before reaching maturity. It’s fairly unusual to find more than a few adult worms in a kitty. However, even one can do some serious damage. The worms can also move around through a cat’s body, which can cause a whole slew of issues.
The symptoms of heartworms in cats can vary pretty widely. In some cases, there are no symptoms. Sadly, heartworm infestations in kitties sometimes result in sudden death, even in cases where there were no warning signs. This of course can be absolutely devastating for the owner. That said, there are a few things to look for. Shortness of breath, lethargy, and weight loss are some of the common ones. Ask your vet for more information.
This is the scary part. While there are treatments available for dogs, there isn’t currently anything that is safe for Fluffy. Medication may help with symptoms, and in some cases, the worms may be surgically removed, but in general, there just aren’t many options for treating heartworm infestations in our feline friends.
As the saying says, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keep up with Fluffy’s parasite control regimen! Keeping her indoors will also help, as will taking steps to keep mosquitos out of the house. Ask your vet for specific advice.
Please reach out with questions or concerns about heartworms. As your Dawsonville, GA animal clinic, we’re here to help!