April is Heartworm Awareness Month. Heartworms are very dangerous parasites that inhabit pets’ hearts, lungs, and arteries. Although heartworm infestations are more common in dogs, our feline friends can also get them. Read on as a Fort Collins, CO vet discusses heartworms in cats.
Heartworms aren’t spread directly from one pet to another. They are actually transmitted by mosquitos. There are actually over 30 types of mosquitos that can transmit heartworm. Because mosquitos are everywhere in North America, pets can get infected anywhere, and at almost any time. After the initial infection, it takes the worms about six months to reach their adult size. Once they are fully grown, they can start interfering with your furry friend’s vital organs. Needless to say, this is extremely dangerous. In fact, left untreated, heartworm infestations can be deadly.
Heartworm infestations in cats are a bit different than those in dogs. Because of their body shape, our feline friends aren’t as hospitable to heartworms as dogs are. Most worms in cats die before reaching their full size, and therefore don’t reproduce. It’s also rare to find more than a few adult worms in a kitty. This means that sometimes heartworm infestations in cats will resolve themselves naturally. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous. Heartworms can cause serious, permanent damage to cats’ heart and lungs. They can also move within the body, and can cause other problems, such as blood clots.
Some signs of heartworm infestations in cats include vomiting, coughing, weight loss, lack of appetite, and respiratory issues. More serious signs include trouble walking, lethargy, fainting, and seizures. Heartworms can also cause sudden death, even in cats that haven’t show any signs of infestation. Call your vet immediately if you see any red flags.
There are heartworm treatments available for dogs, but the medication used to kill live worms in our canine pals can’t be used for cats. Fortunately, kitties can overcome heartworms with proper veterinary care and treatment. However, the best way to keep your furry buddy safe is to protect her from contracting heartworms in the first place. That’s why parasite control is so important. This should start when Fluffy is still a kitten, and should continue year-round. Ask your vet for specific advice.
Do you have questions about heartworms or parasite control? Please contact us, your Fort Collins, CO vet clinic, any time.