Just because your pet cat is living indoors does not mean she is not at risk for heartworm. Heartworm may affect not only dogs, but also cats. In fact, it is far worse than dogs. With that in mind, you have to do everything you can to protect your feline friends against these pesky parasites.
But before anything else, allow us to explain why heartworm is worse for cats than for dogs.
3 Reasons Why Heartworm Is Dangerous for Cats Than Dogs
This may sound very interesting, but this is true. You need to read on to find out why.
1. There is no safe treatment.
There is a treatment for heartworm among dogs, but not for cats. The medications used to eliminate heartworms in dogs are toxic and deadly to cats. If used for cats, it will not just kill the annoying parasites, it will also kill the feline host.
2. They are difficult to detect.
Research suggests that cats do not usually host heartworms in their body. For that reason, any infection brought about by the parasite becomes hard to detect.
3. Heartworm in cats may result in sudden death.
Unfortunately, some cats do not show any signs that they have heartworms in their body. Owners only know about them when their feline pals drops down and are then taken to the vet.
How Cats Get These Heartworms
Mosquitoes are the primary carriers of heartworm. When an infected animal is bitten by a mosquito and this mosquito gets inside the house and bites another creature like a cat, the heartworm can be passed onto it.
Technically speaking, the mosquitoes carry with them the larva form of the heartworm. Once the mosquito feeds and breaks the skin of its victim, the larva finds its way and enters the body of a new host. From there, the larva may get into the bloodstream and cause serious problems in the body.
In most cases, it takes six months before the larva turns into a mature heartworm. And as its name suggests, its favorite hiding place is the heart or the other major blood vessels nearby.
Who Are at Risk?
Heartworms are passed via insects like mosquitoes. That means it is not possible to acquire the parasite even when there is direct contact with an infected animal. Then again, cats are still at risk, especially the following:
- Cats that live in areas where there are higher rates of heartworm complications.
- Cats that live in places where there are high populations of wildlife and strays.
- Cats that live near the habitats of mosquitoes such as stagnant water.
- Cats that are not protected against heartworms.
- Cats that reside in areas with a climate that is favorable to mosquitoes.
The sad news is that an adult heartworm may survive for up to three years inside a cat. Therefore, even if a cat only encounters a heartworm-carrying mosquito once a year, the infection may still happen the next year.
How to Know If Your Cat Is Infected by Heartworms
Unfortunately, most cats do not show signs of heartworm infestation. Some of them just drop down dead. This devastating instance may happen due to allergic reactions caused by the larvae that are moving through the heart or lungs.
Still, some felines show signs. These include:
- Weight loss
- Swollen belly
- Rapid breathing
How to Diagnose Heartworm in Cats
This part can be a bit tricky because certain factors may affect the results. Basically, vets will need two sets of blood tests to come up with a diagnosis. These tests are:
- An Antibody Test – If the result comes out positive, it means the cat has already been exposed to heartworms and mounted an immune response.
- An Antigen Test – This test is done to look for signs of the presence of a heartworm.
If both the results are positive, or one is at least positive, the vet will often recommend a heart ultrasound. He does that so he can easily identify and spot any adult heartworm.
How to Treat a Cat with Heartworms
Sadly, there is no way to treat heartworm in cats yet. Though there is a treatment for dogs, when used in cats, it can lead to severe side effects, such as death.
The best way to deal about with the problem is perform a surgery. However, this should only be done by an expert.
How to Prevent the Spread of Heartworm
Knowing what heartworms are capable of doing, it is just right to take preventive measures ahead of time. Speak to your cat’s vet to know what options are available and which options work best for your feline friend.
Let Your Cat Stay Heartworm-Free!
We only want the best for our pet cats, so make sure they are protected against any potential health threats like heartworms. Aside from deworming them every now and then, if possible, clean all the places your cats enjoy staying such as near the cat scratching post or under the dinner table. Your pet will be very thankful if you do that.