Heartworm Disease Can Also Affect Cats


Most dog owners are aware that heartworm disease can affect their dogs, but it seems to be lesser known that the disease can also occur in cats. Fewer than 4% of cats use a heartworm preventative.

Symptoms of heartworm disease in cats can be respiratory problems, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing. Dr. Thomas Nelson, president of the American Heartworm Society, says that these symptoms can be sometimes misidentified as feline asthma when the problem is actually caused by heartworms in the lungs. This syndrome is called Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease or HARD. Other symptoms are weight loss, coughing, lethargy, and for some cats, sudden death.

Some cats with HARD show no symptoms because their immune system is able to effectively deal with the heartworm, but there is now way to figure out which cats have the immune systems that can fight off the disease.

More on heartworm disease in cats after the jump.

From Steve Dale’s Pet World:

In fact, veterinarians are still attempting to figure out how many cats are infected in the first place. Nelson, who is in Anniston, AL says that around a decade ago, he was a non believer, thinking heartworm in cats wasn’t a “big deal.” Then, his own research revealed that 26 per cent of the cats he looked at were positive for antibodies for heartworm disease. Complicating matters, it turns out that a positive antibody for heartworm disease doesn’t necessarily mean the cat is actively fighting off the disease.

Since it’s mosquitoes that spread the disease – the more mosquitoes, the greater the potential for heartworm in a community. Heartworm disease in both dogs and cats is more common in places like the Carolina’s and in Southern states. However, Nelson adds, “You’d be surprised at how often heartworm occurs in Northern states.” The bottom line is that if heartworm disease is prevalent in dogs where you live, considering protection for cats – or at least having that discussion with your veterinarian - could save your cat’s life.

Nelson says in one study 25 per cent of the cats with heartworm were described by their owners as indoor only. “How many of us have seen a mosquito indoors?” Nelson asks.

2 Responses to “Heartworm Disease Can Also Affect Cats”

  1. Tiff says:

    I had the heartbreak of watching my kitty, Pedro, die from heartworms. He had been the bottle fed runt of the litter but was still a spunky 10 year old cat. Even though he loved to play, he always got out of breath quicker than other cats so I did not think much when he started getting out of breath sooner. I just thought he was getting older. After just a few very expensive test, the vet decided that he had heartworms. He had always been an inside cat since birth! Where did he find a mosquito to give him heartworms! Treatment wasn’t an option because his heartworms were so severe. The vet thought that the treatment would probably kill him. I hope noone else ever has to watch their kitty die from heartworms like I did. My cats now get preventative for heartworms.

  2. Heartgard for dogs fan says:

    Heartworm prevention is just so important, and certainly a lot easier than trying to treat a dog that is already infected!

    I like Heartgard for dogs, and feel that it has a history of being very reliable etc.

E-mail It