April is Heartworm Awareness Month. Many people assume that heartworms are mostly a concern with dogs. While it is true that infestations are more common in our canine companions, kitties are also susceptible. A Cherry Hill, NJ vet offers some information on this below.
It’s definitely helpful for pet owners to understand how heartworms work. These horrible parasites are not transmitted directly from pet to pet: instead, they’ve enlisted the mosquito to transmit them. The worms are in larval form at this point, but once inside a host body they grow rapidly. Within about six months, they will reach their adult size and start reproducing.
There is both good and bad news there. On the bright side (at least for Fluffy), heartworms are more suited to infesting canids, such as dogs, wolves, and foxes. Cats’ bodies just aren’t as hospitable to them. Many die before they reproduce, which is why it’s rare to find more than a few grown worms in a kitty. However, heartworm infestations are still extremely dangerous to cats. It doesn’t take many worms to cause serious damage. Even one or two can cause severe—and potentially life-threatening—damage to your feline buddy’s respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
It’s important to know the signs to look for. Coughing is the most common one for both Fluffy and Fido. Other red flags include a lack of appetite, breathing trouble, weight loss, and vomiting. Unfortunately, infestations can also cause fainting, staggering, and seizures. Some infestations cause sudden death, even in cats that seemed perfectly healthy. This, of course, can be extremely heartbreaking and traumatic for owners.
One issue here is the fact that there’s a lot of misinformation about heartworms in cats. For instance, many people assume that indoor kitties are safe. They are definitely safer than outdoor cats, but the truth is that Fluffy is at risk anywhere a mosquito can reach her … even inside her favorite box or grocery bag. The only way to really protect your furry pal is to keep up with preventative care.
As you may know, heartworm infestations in dogs are often treatable, though the treatments can be both expensive and taxing. There are no approved treatments for kitties, which makes this even more concerning.
Please contact us with any questions about cat care. As your Cherry Hill, NJ animal clinic, we’re here to help!