When most people hear heartworms, they think of dogs, but cat’s in Broward can get heartworms as well.
A parasitic worm, called Dirofilaria immitis, gets into an animal’s system through a mosquito bite. The sometimes footlong adult worms make their home in the heart, lungs, and other blood vessels in your animal.
While cat’s are an atypical host of heartworms, they can still have serious effects. Most heartworms don’t survive to adulthood in cat’s, and if they do, there are only a few. While you may think this means they aren’t really a problem, the fact that they have no adults, or very few, often leads to cat’s not being diagnosed or being diagnosed improperly.
Veterinary staff will first take into account your cat’s history, complete a physical exam, get a chest x-ray, and draw blood. Specific tests help to determine the proteins and antigens of adult heartworms, as well as heartworm antibodies.
The staff may also wish to perform an EKG to see if there are adult heartworms in or around your cat’s heart and lungs. As an EKG is non-invasive, it is a great tool to determine if your cat has heartworms, as well as checking on the overall health of your cat’s heart.
Even with the tests listed above, heartworms can still be hard to diagnose in cat’s and several tests may need to be performed.
One of the other reasons heartworms are so hard to diagnose is that the symptoms mimic other maladies. Feline asthma, chronic respiratory diseases, and even allergies, can produce many of the same symptoms.
In most cases, severe symptoms aren’t present in cat’s with heartworm infection. If diagnosed, the best course is usually to monitor your cat to see if the issue is able to resolve itself.
When the problem is more severe, feline heartworm disease can be a potentially life-threatening condition. When there is evidence of the disease in the lungs, your cat’s blood vessels and lungs will need to be regularly monitored with chest x-rays. Prednisone may be recommended and additional treatments of intravenous fluids, oxygen therapy, heart medication, or antibiotics may be prescribed.
Many drugs that are prescribed for other animals can’t be used for cat’s, and the cost of treatment for severe cases can be exorbitant.
As with most external maladies that affect our cat’s, heartworms can be prevented. The veterinary staff will take a blood sample and provide heartworm prevention medication for your friendly feline.
If your cat is showing any of the symptoms listed above, or if you want to make an appointment to talk about preventative treatment, give us a call at (305)515-MEOW.