Understanding and Treating Heartworm in Cats: Vital Signs to Look For

Heartworm is a serious parasitic disease that affects pets, including cats. Although it's more commonly associated with dogs, heartworm can be even more devastating in cats. Here are some signs your cat may have heartworm and how you can treat it.

What Is Heartworm?

Heartworms are parasites that live in the lungs, heart, and blood vessels of infected pets. They are transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. Once inside your pet, the worms mature and reproduce, causing significant damage to vital organs.

Signs Your Cat May Have Heartworm

Cats often exhibit subtle or even no signs of heartworm disease. However, when symptoms do occur, they can include:

  • Coughing or Asthma-like Attacks: These may be mild or severe, and can lead to fainting or seizures in extreme cases.
  • Weight Loss and Decreased Appetite: Cats with heartworm disease may eat less than usual and lose weight.
  • Vomiting: This is a common symptom in cats and may occur with or without blood.
  • Difficulty Walking: Some cats may experience difficulty walking or sudden paralysis if heartworms obstruct blood flow to part of the body.
  • Collapse or Sudden Death: Unfortunately, in some cases, the first sign of heartworm disease in cats is sudden collapse or death.

If your cat shows any of these signs, it's critical to seek immediate veterinary care.

Diagnosing Heartworm in Cats

Diagnosing heartworm in cats can be challenging as there's no single definitive test. Vets typically use a combination of blood tests, X-rays, and ultrasounds to confirm the presence of heartworms.

How to Treat Heartworm in Cats

Unlike dogs, there's no approved drug treatment for heartworm infection in cats. The focus is usually on managing symptoms and improving the cat's quality of life. Treatment options may include:

  • Supportive Care: This includes medications to control vomiting and inflammation in the lungs, and sometimes oxygen therapy.
  • Surgical Removal: In severe cases, surgical removal of heartworms may be an option. However, this is a high-risk procedure and is usually a last resort.
  • Preventive Medication: While it can't treat existing infections, heartworm preventive medication can protect your cat from future infections.

Prevention Is Key

As always, prevention is better than cure. Heartworm disease is easily preventable with medications that kill immature worms before they become adults. These are typically given monthly and are available in various forms, including chewable tablets and topical applications.

Remember, your cat depends on you for its health. Regular vet check-ups and preventive care can help ensure your cat lives a long, healthy life, free from the threat of heartworm disease.

In conclusion, while heartworm in cats can be challenging to diagnose and treat, understanding the signs and seeking timely veterinary care can make a significant difference. With preventive measures, you can protect your furry friend from this potentially fatal disease. 

Contact a local veterinary hospital to learn more.