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Cherokee Animal Clinic
P O Box 416
665 Johnson Street
Rusk, TX 75785
Clinic Hours:
Monday - Friday 7:30 am - 5:30 pm

Adapted information courtesy of Purdue University & the American Heartworm Society

Many pet owners don't realize that protection from heartworms is as important for cats as it is for dogs. "For a long time, veterinarians didn't know cats were getting heartworms because we didn't see heart disease like we see in dogs," said Dr. Steven Thompson, who specializes in canine and feline practice. "Heartworm disease in dogs presents itself as heart failure, with worms stuck in the pulmonary artery increasing the blood pressure and causing enlargement of the heart or other symptoms. Pet owners might notice coughing or exercise intolerance. The dog is the primary host, so many heartworms will be found in the heart during necropsy (an autopsy for animals)."

"Cats, on the other hand, are typically only infected with one or two heartworms. Their larval migration to the pulmonary artery stimulates a profound immune response", he said. Because of this difference, heartworms in cats create asthma-like symptoms and breathing problems.

When one or two adult heartworms make it to the heart, they cause changes in the pulmonary arteries, but rarely heart failure. While the worm is traveling to the heart, it can trigger an asthma-like condition that can be debilitating or even fatal. Even more critical, when the worm dies a year or two later in the artery/bloodstream of a cat, it can block an artery, called pulmonary thrombosis, and can cause death very quickly. The standard treatment after infection in dogs is to kill the worms, but this is not a good option for cats.

Often a cat's own immune system kills the larvae, but it's like playing Russian roulette to not use a heartworm preventive for your cat. Who knows whether their cat will be the one who can fight it?

Several misconceptions about heartworm exposure in cats cause many pet owners to think they don't need to protect their cats from the potentially fatal parasite. A lot of people think their indoor cats can't get heartworms, but mosquitoes can get in houses. All it takes is one bite from one mosquito carrying heartworm larvae. One study shows 28% of cats diagnosed with heartworm disease were inside-only cats!

People also think thick fur will protect their pet from mosquito bites, but it doesn't. Although indoor cats may be less likely to encounter mosquitoes, their immune systems may not be as well-equipped to fight these parasites once they are exposed.

One study suggests that the more mosquito bites a cat receives, the more heightened is the immune response to this worm. Indoor cats with lower exposure may not eliminate the larval stage, allowing it to reach the arteries in the heart to become an adult.

Dogs infected with heartworms may develop heart failure, and symptoms may not be apparent for years after an infection. Infected cats are more likely to die suddenly or develop chronic breathing problems. A minority of cats with heartworm disease manifest intestinal problems like vomiting. Heartworms evolved to live in the heart of a dog, so when they are inside of a cat, they tend to migrate to different parts of the cat's body, still seeking the dog's heart. In infected cats, 10% to 15% have larvae that migrate to the eyes and brain, which can cause seizures or vision abnormalities.

Look for the signs!!...

Coughing Panting Open-mouth breathing Rapid breathing Gagging
Appetite loss Weight loss Diarrhea Lethargy Fainting

Feline heartworm disease is INCURABLE! But it is 100% PREVENTABLE!!

For additional information or feel you need to have your cat examined, give us a call!.

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