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How To Treat Heartworms In Cats

Have A Veterinarian Check Your Cat For Heartworm At Your Next Appointment

Ask a Vet – How to treat a cat infected with heartworms

We recommend scheduling an appointment to discuss heartworm prevention for cats with us before your cat contracts heartworm. If you witness any symptoms that might be indicative of cat heartworm disease, please contact us immediately to schedule an appointment. Our veterinary team will provide you and your feline friend with an effective cat heartworm prevention protocol.

How To Recognize Heartworm Symptoms In Cats

Some pets will show symptoms immediately, while others display no symptoms at all until they suddenly collapse and die. The clinical signs of heartworm in cats are nonspecific and can vary from subtle to severe. They may include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fainting
  • Seizures

Note that some heartworm symptoms may look like other common health issues in cats, such as allergic bronchitis or feline asthma . However, these conditions may be secondary, caused by the heartworm infection. Be sure to discuss your pets medical history with your veterinarian when testing for cat heartworms so they can better differentiate between HARD and other similar conditions.

How Are Heartworms Diagnosed

There are several methods used in diagnosing heartworms unfortunately, none are 100% reliable, so a combination of tests is often needed. The diagnostic sequence usually progresses as follows:

A) Clinical Signs

One of the most challenging aspects of diagnosing feline heartworm disease is that there are no specific clinical signs. The most common signs are a sudden onset of coughing and rapid breathing, signs that can also be caused by several other diseases.

“One of the most challenging aspects of diagnosing feline heartworm disease is that there are no specific clinical signs.”

Other common non-specific clinical signs include weight loss and vomiting. On occasion, an apparently normal cat may be found dead, or may develop sudden overwhelming respiratory failure, and heartworm disease is diagnosed on a post-mortem examination. Sudden death is thought to be due to a reaction within the lungs to the young heartworms, or to a reaction to dead or live heartworms entering the pulmonary arteries and obstructing the flow of blood to the lungs.

B) Blood Tests

Several blood tests are used for heartworm diagnosis, but the heartworm antibody test and the heartworm antigen test are proving to be most helpful in diagnosing heartworm disease in cats.

In summary, a diagnosis of feline heartworm infection is confirmed when both the antibody and antigen tests are positive, but not all infected cats will test positive on both tests.

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Why Is Early Detection And Diagnosis Of Heartworms In Cats So Important

Early detection and diagnosis of heartworm is so important because the earlier you detect it, the better the prognosis is for treatment. Kitty cats, again, it can be very difficult to detect. Its much, much better to keep them on prevention. Even if they’re indoor that one mosquito gets in, or they go outside just for a brief moment. I have so many people say, “Oh, we have an indoor-only kitty,” and I start asking them more questions, and the response is, “Well, he goes outside once in a while in the backyard, but comes right back in.” Remember, these are all areas where a mosquito can bite them, even inside. So make sure you keep them on prevention, please. It’s becoming more of an issue and a lot of cats are asymptomatic and will have sudden death due to it.

How To Treat Heartworm Disease In Cats

Heartworms in Cats  Important Things You Can Do to ...

This article was co-authored by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS. Dr. Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years of experience in veterinary surgery and companion animal practice. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1987 with a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery. She has worked at the same animal clinic in her hometown for over 20 years. This article has been viewed 11,408 times.

Until recently, it was thought that heartworm disease was very rare in cats. It turns out that, while cats are more resistant to heartworm infection than dogs, they are not immune to it.XResearch source Heartworm infections are caused by the parasite, dirofilaria immitis, which is carried by mosquitos and transferred into the cat’s circulation with a mosquito bite. Because cats are at risk of infection, it’s important to know the symptoms and signs and to understand the treatment if you are a cat owner.

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Is There A Way To Prevent Heartworms

Veterinarians now strongly recommend that all cats receive year-round monthly heartworm preventative in areas where mosquitoes are active all year round.

“There are excellent heartworm preventatives now available for cats, making prevention of heartworm disease safe and easy.”

Cats that live in colder areas, where mosquitoes are seasonal, should be on monthly preventives for at least 6 months of the year. There are excellent heartworm preventives now available for cats, making prevention of heartworm disease safe and easy.

The reasons that heartworm prevention is now recommended for all cats are:

1. Diagnostic difficulty. Diagnosing heartworms is not as easy in cats as it is in dogs.

2. Unknown incidence. Heartworms are not nearly as common in cats as they are in dogs. However, they are probably more common than we realize. As we look more aggressively for heartworms in cats with better tests, we expect to find that the incidence is greater than previously thought. University studies have shown that up to 15% of all cats in certain locations, regardless of whether they are indoor and outdoor cats, have been exposed to heartworms.

4. Prevention is safe and easy. Cats given heartworm prevention drugs have not shown signs of toxicity. There is a wide margin of safety, even in kittens as young as six weeks of age.

Contributors: Catherine Barnette, DVM Ernest Ward, DVM

How To Prevent Heartworm In Cats

âThere are a lot of different prevention products that your veterinarian can prescribe,â says Dr. Lenox. âSome of these products also help prevent intestinal parasites. For cat heartworm prevention, ensure that the product is specifically labeled for use in cats.â Otherwise, heartworm medications labeled for dogs can cause serious health problems for your cat.

You can try collars, which cannot prevent heartworms but they can keep fleas and ticks off of your cat so they are more comfortable. You can also try drops: You can remove tapeworms and roundworms with an over the counter drop, but heartworm can only be removed in-office.

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Interceptor Heartworm For Cats

Interceptor Heartworm For Cats. Before giving heartgard to cats they must have a negative heartworm test. It often goes undiagnosed in cats.

Interceptor protects your feline from heartworm disease and effectively treats hookworm and roundworm. Interceptor flavor tabs for cats are indicated for use in the prevention of heartworm disease caused by dirofilaria immitis, and the removal of adult ancylostoma tubaeforme and toxocara Before giving heartgard to cats they must have a negative heartworm test.


No, you cannot give interceptor to a cat. Milbemycin oxime interferes with nerve transmission in invertebrates, which helps protect against heartworm, roundworm, hookworm and whipworm (minimum dose rate:


Can i give interceptor to a cat? Like all of the mls, milbemycin works at different dose rates against different parasites.


In the preparations used in dogs for heartworm prevention, the doses are also effective against heartworm larvae, roundworms, hookworms in cats and dogs, as well as whipworms in dogs. You should have your dog tested for heartworm infection before using interceptor.


Sentinel combines lufenuron with milbemycin to provide protection against flea eggs, helping. Heartworm affects cats, too, but unlike with dogs, there is no available heartworm treatment for cats.

Source: www.valleyvet.comSource:

How Significant Is My Cat’s Risk For Heartworm Infection

Diagnosing Heartworm Disease in Cats

Many factors must be considered, even if heartworms do not seem to be a problem in your local area. Your community may have a greater incidence of heartworm disease than you realizeor you may unknowingly travel with your pet to an area where heartworms are more common. Heartworm disease is also spreading to new regions of the country each year. Stray and neglected dogs and certain wildlife such as coyotes, wolves, and foxes can be carriers of heartworms. Mosquitoes blown great distances by the wind and the relocation of infected pets to previously uninfected areas also contribute to the spread of heartworm disease .

The fact is that heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states, and risk factors are impossible to predict. Multiple variables, from climate variations to the presence of wildlife carriers, cause rates of infections to vary dramatically from year to yeareven within communities. And because infected mosquitoes can come inside, both outdoor and indoor pets are at risk.

For that reason, the American Heartworm Society recommends that you think 12: get your pet tested every 12 months for heartworm and give your pet heartworm preventive 12 months a year.

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How To Help Prevent Heartworm In Cats

Because cats are infected via mosquito bite, cats who spend a lot of time outdoors are at a higher risk, but indoor cats aren’t completely safe either. Kleypas says that roughly one in four cats diagnosed with heartworm disease is an indoor-only pet. The Companion Animal Parasite Council also notes that heartworms have been found in cats in all 50 states.

That means the best way to prevent your cat from being infected with heartworms is with preventative drugs. “The same class of drugs used to prevent heartworms in dogs is available as a monthly treatment for cats,” Kleypas says. “And as an added bonus, many of these products will also prevent fleas, intestinal parasites, and ear mites.” Your cat’s veterinarian will work with you to find the best option for your pet.

Kleypas cautions that while dog and cat heartworm preventative drugs contain the same compounds, you shouldn’t give what’s meant for your cat to your dog . “The effective and safe dose for dogs is vastly different than for cats,” she explains. “For instance, there are preventatives that require four times as much drug per pound of body weight for cats versus dogs, while another preventative requires only half the amount of drug per pound of body weight for cats versus dogs.” It’s important to talk with your veterinarian to be sure the right preventative heartworm treatment is used for your cat to help keep them safe from infection.

How Do I Prevent My Cat From Getting Heartworms

Heartworms are found in cats in all 50 states, so all cats are at risk, even those animals that live indoors. However, heartworms are preventable.

Ask your veterinarian about heartworm prevention. Preventive treatment should begin after a blood test has been conducted to determine if your cat has already been exposed or is infected.

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What Is Heartworm In Cats

Heartworm infection is a serious and potentially fatal disease that affects cats, dogs, and other mammal species including ferrets, foxes, wolves, coyotes, sea lions, and humans.

Heartworm disease is caused by the parasitic species Dirofilaria immitis, commonly known as heartworms because these foot-long organisms live in the heart, lungs, or adjacent large blood vessels of the affected host.

The severity of disease caused by heartworm in cats will depend on:

  • The number of worms in the cats body
  • How long the parasite matures and develops
  • How the animals body responds to the infection

How Are Heartworms In Cats Diagnosed

How to Treat Heartworm Disease in Cats: 9 Steps (with ...

Heartworms are diagnosed with a simple blood test. If your cat is diagnosed with heartworms, she will need to be closely monitored by your veterinarian. Supportive treatment can help prolong your cats life. According to the American Heartworm Society, some infected cats might even experience spontaneous clearing of their heartworm infection, although permanent damage to the respiratory system may have occurred.

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How Can Heartworms Be Prevented In Cats

Keeping your cat indoors helps lower the chance of heartworm infection, but both indoor and outdoor cats are still at risk of contracting heartworm disease since mosquitoes frequently make their way indoors.

To prevent heartworms in cats, pet owners should give them a monthly preventive. Whether topical or chewable, all heartworm preventives work to get rid of larval heartworms in the pet left by a mosquito. This keeps larval heartworms from developing into older heartworms that can cause heartworm disease in cats. It’s important to give your pet heartworm preventives on schedule setting an alert on your phone is an easy way to remind yourself.

Heartworm disease is more common in cats than people realize and if your cat does become infected, it can be fatal. Protecting your cat from heartworm infection by using a monthly preventive is easy and could save their life.

Can Cats Get Heartworms As Easily As Dogs

The prevalence rate of heartworm disease in unprotected cats is significantly lower than that of unprotected dogsapproximately 5-15 percent the rate of dogs in the same geographic region.

Most infected cats have only a few heartworms present, and the worms are smaller and have a shorter lifespan than those infecting dogs. But heartworm disease is still a serious health condition that can have fatal consequences for cats.

The risk of infection in cats is not known to be affected by age, sex or even indoor/outdoor status. In fact, indoor cats are just as likely to become infected as outdoor cats.

Thats why all cats should be protected. Here is everything you need to know about heartworm disease in cats, including

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How Heartworm In Cats Is Diagnosed

Cats keep their issues to themselves, unlike dogs. This makes it harder to detect and subsequently diagnose heartworm disease in felines. Cats are not the best of hosts to these parasites, but they are still susceptible. In cases of feline heartworm infections, the actual worm count is much smaller compared to the canine infection counterparts, however, just one or two worms can be fatal due to the smaller body size of cats.

Another factor that contributes to the difficulty of diagnosing heartworm disease in cats is that they are significantly less likely to contract adult heartworms. This means that feline heartworm infections are often limited to single-sex infections, where female worms may not even be present and are, therefore undetectable.

Veterinarians utilize both antibody tests and antigen tests to successfully diagnose feline heartworm disease. The antibody test reveals whether or not your cat has had an immune response to the parasite while also checking for heartworm larvae exposure. Antigen tests are used to detect specific types of worm proteins that are released into the bloodstream by adult female heartworms.

If the vet receives results that indicate a positive infection, an ultrasound, radiograph, or X-ray may be elected as the final step before confirming the diagnosis. A good cardiologist might even be able to see heartworms during an ultrasound, in some cases.

What Is A Sign My Cat Has Heartworm

Cat Care: Fleas & Parasites : Heartworm Treatment for Cats

So here’s a trickier question than some people may think, 80% of cats are asymptomatic from showing signs of heartworms. So basically what that means is that they will not show any clinical symptoms. So remember eight out of 10 cats won’t show symptoms, but the ones that do show symptoms, they’ll usually have more breathing air issues kind of almost sounds like asthma, like wheezing or dyspnea. It can be very subtle sometimes, sometimes not, a little bit more aggressive, any panting. Anytime you see a cat pant, bring them in. Cats do not pant normally so you have them examined if they do.

Other things that are more extreme, it’s rare, but they could have a pretty aggressive nosebleed. Sometimes some cats can get something called thromboembolism, where they throw a blood clot and almost their back legs go cold and they can’t really move them too much. So these are just some of the signs, but more respiratory signs you would see in a kitty cat.

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My Cat Has Been Diagnosed With Heartworm Disease Can She Be Treated

There is no drug approved for treating heartworms in cats. One of the drugs for treating dogs has been used in cats, but it causes significant side effects.

“There is no drug approved for treating heartworms in cats, and the reaction to the dead and dying worms can cause sudden death.”

To complicate things further, when the adult heartworms die during this treatment, they pass through the pulmonary arteries to the lungs where the reaction to the dead and dying worms can cause sudden death. Thus, there is a dilemma when a cat is diagnosed with heartworms. One of three choices must be made:

1.Treat with the drug designed for dogs. However, this drug can have serious side effects in cats including acute pulmonary failure and death. For this reason, this approach is not recommended.

2.Treat the symptoms of heartworm disease and hope that the cat outlives the worms. Since heartworms live in a cat for about two to three years , several months of treatment are needed. When cats are in a crisis, they are treated with oxygen and corticosteroids to relieve the reaction occurring in the pulmonary arteries and lungs, and, if needed, drugs to remove fluid from the lungs . When the cat is stable, it is treated continuously or periodically with corticosteroids. In many cats, this treatment will reduce clinical signs and improve their quality of life. However, the threat of an acute crisis or sudden death always exists.

Causes Of Heartworm In Cats

Heartworms are spread through mosquito bites.

Mosquitos can carry infective heartworm larvae that enter a cats body when a mosquito feeds. The larvae migrate from the bite wound through the body and mature until they reach the heart and blood vessels of the lungs as adults.

Here, the larvae reproduce, releasing immature heartworms, known as microfilaria, into the cats blood. These microfilariae can then infect the next animal through a mosquito bite.

It is important to note that the presence of microfilaria in the blood is in fact uncommon in cats and has been seen in less than 20 percent of infected cats.

Cats have a very robust immune response to heartworm infection, so more than 90 percent of the infective larvae do NOT make it to adulthood.

For those that do, they tend to be single-sex, which means they cannot reproduce. This can make the detection of heartworms in cats very difficult.

One important thing to know about heartworms in cats is that the worms do not need to reach adulthood to start affecting a cats health.

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