Heartworm Infection – Information for Cat Owners
Until recently, most people didn’t realize heartworm infection in cats was such a serious health issue that can pose potentially severe long-term health consequences. New research reveals that contrary to common belief, cats are at greater risk from heartworms than many pet owners realize.
Pets get heartworm infection through the simple bite of an infected mosquito. Once an animal is bitten, immature heartworms are transmitted and the heartworm lifecycle begins. The worms then develop into larvae and start their journey through the body, ultimately affecting the heart, blood vessels and lungs.
Because testing methods are inconclusive, it’s difficult to determine how common heartworm infection is in cats, but experts think that cases are severely under reported. Most veterinarians would agree that if heartworm is affecting dogs, it’s also affecting cats in the area.
Cats are resistant hosts to heartworm infection, and the cat’s own immune response will likely kill the migrating heartworm larvae before they develop into adults. However, the cat’s aggressive immune response can cause inflammatory reactions that result in damage to the lung tissues. This disease state is clinically recognized as Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease, or H.A.R.D. Cats with H.A.R.D. generally show asthma-like signs or other similar respiratory ailments. The lung changes can be sub-clinical and therefore difficult to detect, but the bottom line is cats with H.A.R.D. can’t breathe or function normally.
H.A.R.D. can be difficult to diagnose and expensive to treat, however, it is easy to prevent with a year-round parasite preventive medicine. Please discuss the proper preventative to use with your veterinarian.