Heartworm in Cats: What You Need to Know
It’s time to prepare for heartworm in cats when mosquitoes wake up from their winter sleep.
In the same way that dogs can get heartworms, cats can also get them. Because cats are affected differently than dogs, it’s important to understand what heartworm is, what causes it, and what symptoms it can cause so you can protect him.
Heartworms: What Are They?
Through a mosquito bite, Dirofilaria immitis, a parasitic worm, enters a cat’s body and causes heartworm disease. Cats can be infected with heartworm larvae by mosquitoes that pick them up from an infected animal such as a dog.
A cat infected with heartworm larvae typically takes eight months to develop. Cats’ cycles begin under their skin in the subcutaneous tissues, move through the muscle tissue and eventually reach the right ventricle of the heart, as well as the lungs and arteries of their bodies.
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The parasite remains primarily within the pulmonary arteries instead of the heart when it matures. Blood flows from the heart into the lungs through these arteries, so heartworm infection also affects the lungs.
Heartworm Symptoms: What Do They Look Like?
60-100 days after infection, the worms can cause problems even before they are fully grown. A severe inflammatory response occurs in the lungs when the worms enter the small arteries, damaging arteries, alveoli, and brochioles.
In some cases, cats with the disease will clear it spontaneously, but in many other cases, the infection can slowly progress, leading to nonspecific symptoms that can be very similar to those of other diseases. A visit to the vet is the best way to prevent damage and stop this potentially life-threatening infection before it’s too late.
Heartworm disease in cats is characterized by the following symptoms:
Breathing difficulties, attacks similar to asthma
An inability to eat
A reduction in weight
Irritable bowel syndrome
Heartbeats that are rapid
Deficiency of energy
A feeling of faintness, convulsions, and difficulty walking
Inflammation of the abdomen, chylothorax, caused by fluid accumulation
It is possible for these signs to be quite dramatic or very subtle. The sudden collapse or death of some cats is also the first sign that something is wrong.
What Are the Symptoms and Treatments of Heartworm?
X-rays, ultrasound imaging, and blood tests are typically used by vets to assess whether a pet is infected with heartworms.
Feline Pancreatitis: What You Need to Know
In cats who are infected with heartworm, the same treatments cannot be used. The treatment of feline heartworm disease does not currently have an approved medication.
In terms of treatment options, if a cat has heartworm but does not exhibit severe symptoms, he can be monitored closely to see if it will resolve spontaneously.
If a vet suspects the disease is within the lungs and blood vessels, x-rays can be taken to monitor the cat’s condition. In cats with clinically confirmed lung disease, prednisone may also be administered as supportive therapy.
The treatment of felines with apparent symptoms of heartworm may include oxygen therapy, antibiotics, cardiovascular drugs, and fluids.
In theory, the cat could outlive the worms by treating the symptoms, which can survive in the body for roughly two to three years. In order to treat it effectively, it is necessary to continue treatment for a long time.
Can cats be protected from heartworm?
Heartworm prevention medications for cats can be applied routinely by pet owners. Keep your cat indoors at all times to reduce the risk of him contracting heartworm, as this will prevent him from being exposed to mosquitoes.
It’s important to prevent heartworm infection, as well as to treat symptoms promptly, since heartworm affects dogs as well as cats. You can discuss the best heartworm prevention medication with your veterinarian.
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