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 wasnâ€™t a â€œbig deal.â€ 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 doesnâ€™t necessarily mean the cat is actively fighting off the disease.
Since itâ€™s mosquitoes that spread the disease â€“ 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 Carolinaâ€™s and in Southern states. However, Nelson adds, â€œYouâ€™d be surprised at how often heartworm occurs in Northern states.â€ The bottom line is that if heartworm disease is prevalent in dogs where you live, considering protection for cats â€“ or at least having that discussion with your veterinarian - could save your catâ€™s life.
Nelson says in one study 25 per cent of the cats with heartworm were described by their owners as indoor only. â€œHow many of us have seen a mosquito indoors?â€ Nelson asks.