As veterinarians, one of our jobs is to educate you, the
pet owner. We have taken this opportunity to share
some new research concerning Feline Heartworm
Disease. We hope you will take the time to review this
information concerning your kitty.
While many of you may have dogs and are aware of
the importance of heartworm prevention, did you know
your cat is also at risk? For many years, heartworm
prevention for cats has been available, but not widely
accepted or encouraged. The feline immune system is
impressive and few heartworms make it to the adult
stage. However, in recent months, the importance of
heartworm prevention in cats has taken on new
meaning as recent studies are demonstrating the
frequency and the various presentations of heartworm
disease in cats.
Now, we know that heartworm disease in cats can be
difficult to diagnose, but the prevalence is still high.
We also know that the indoor cats are equally at risk
as outdoor cats. One study even suggests that indoor
cats may be at a higher risk of developing heartworm
infection and disease than their outdoor cousins. The
theory is that the outdoor cats actually have a better
immune system and are better able to ward off the
heartworm infection. However, these outdoor kitties
come into many other dangerous situations.
Our feline pets are more likely to suffer from
heartworms than diabetes, feline immunodeficiency
virus, or feline leukemia virus. The life cycle of the
heartworm is very similar, but not exactly the same in
dogs as in cats. The mosquito picks up a larval stage
from the dog or cat when they are feeding (these are
called "baby heartworms" sometimes). This larval
stage changes in the mosquito and then is injected
into the skin when the mosquito feeds again. It then
migrates to the nearest blood vessel and begins its
journey. By the time the larva reaches the pulmonary
arteries, it is almost an adult. It is at this stage that the
feline immune system begins to recognize the foreign
nature of the heartworms and begins attacking them.
This will be 3-4 months after the original infection.
Most of the heartworms will die during this stage
becasue the phenomenal abilities of the the feline
immune system. However, during this attack, our little
kitty can suffer tremendous damage to the lungs and
can cause bronchitis, pneumonia, and other asthma
like symptoms. Heartworm Associated Respiratory
Disease (or HARD) is newly recognized, but a very
wide spread disease.
The really bad news is that today, there is no effective
treatment to kill adult heartworms in cats. It only takes
one adult heartworm to kill a cat. The really good
news is that we can prevent an infection from ever
occurring by giving a monthly prevention to protect our
furry family members. We even have a liquid available
that can be placed at the base of the neck on the skin
once a month to prevent heartworms, fleas, and
intestinal parasites. We can run a heartworm test in
our hospital and have an answer in as little as 10
minutes and it only costs about $14.00 a month to
protect your kitty.
Please feel free to call us any time to discuss the
future health of your kitty!