What the Hell is Heartworms and How You Can Prevent It In Your Cat

Posted: March 26, 2020 by Anita

best heartworm prevention in cats

Cats were thought to be resistant to heartworm disease.  A few years back, researchers found that not to be true.  Heartworm disease is hazardous to cats.  It can kill them.

And there is no cure for it.

Scary, right?

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t realize heartworm disease was that serious.  Hell, to be honest, I didn’t know much about the condition.  Our new Vet asked us when was the last time the cats been given heartworm prevention treatment.

Say what??!!

Thank God we had their medical records because I had no idea.

Let me take a moment here to remind every cat owner how important it is to have copies of your pet’s medical records, especially when you change vets or move (which we had).

Who wants to pay for those shots all over again?

(Note: there are health plans for pets that will help with the cost of preventative treatments.  Take a look at Pets Best Insurance Plans by clicking here.)

After I got home from the Vet, I decided if I’m going call myself the “Cat Mama,” then mama got to know what the hell heartworm disease is.

So, I decided to read up on the heartworm disease and share what I found out with you.  This article will discuss:

  • what is heartworm disease
  • signs of heartworm disease in cats
  • best heartworm prevention for cats

What is heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease in cats is a blood-borne parasite that lives in the heart or the adjacent large vessels of an infected cat.  It is most common in dogs, but the incidence of heartworm in cats is increasing.

Cats are relatively resistant to heartworm infection.  Most times, when a cat becomes infected with heartworm, they can fight the infection off.

How do cats get heartworms?

Mosquitos transmit heartworm.  The mosquito is the carrier.  The mosquito bites an infected cat, dog, or wild animal such as a coyote.

Then that mosquito bites a healthy cat and deposits a few heartworm larvae.    They set up house on the right side of the heart or in the pulmonary arteries.

After about six months the larvae are fully grown and begin wreaking havoc on the cat’s respiratory system.  Heartworm disease can lead to lung disease, heart failure, and damage to the central nervous system and other organs.

Signs of heartworm in cats

The symptoms of heartworm in cats are:

  • coughing
  • asthma-like attack
  • vomiting
  • lack of appetite
  • weight loss
  • sudden death

The risk of cats being infected

Heartworm in cats has shown up in all 50 states.  Stray and neglected dogs and certain wildlife such as coyotes, wolves, and foxes can be carriers of heartworms.

Multiple factors from climate to the presence of wildlife carriers cause the rate of infection to change from year to year.

What kind of test is used to diagnose heartworm disease in cats?

It’s harder to diagnose heartworm disease in cats.  In dogs, veterinarian tests for the presence of a protein (antigen) that is produced by the female heartworm.  In cats, the number of heartworms present is usually small, and there might not be any female heartworms that produce the protein.

In cats, the Veterinarian must use both an antibody and an antigen test.  The antigen test checks for the presence of the female’s heartworm protein.  The antibody test checks for the cat’s immune response to the presence of heartworms.

If the Veterinarian suspects heartworms in your cat, an x-ray or ultrasound might also be ordered to confirm the diagnosis.

Do cats need heartworm prevention?

Yes.

There’s no treatment for heartworm in cats.  The heartworm medication used to treat dogs, melarsomine dihydrochloride, is toxic for cats.

When a cat gets heartworms, the symptoms are treated to alleviate the difficulties that the cat might have.  Hopefully, the heartworms eventually die off, and the cat makes a full recovery.

Thus, the prevention of heartworm disease is critical for cats.

The best heartworm prevention for cats

Preventing your cat from getting heartworms by using a year-round preventative medicine is the key.  Whether your cat is an inside cat or you allow her to go out, you must protect her from infected mosquitos.

What is the best heartworm prevention for cats?  Any heartworm prevention medicine should contain either ivermectin or selamectin.  The heartworm prevention medications kill off heartworm larvae before they grow into adult size.

There are two forms of the medications; topical and a chewy pill.

Our cats, Gigi and Sylvia, are on Revolution Topical Solution for cats.  We live in Florida, which is crazy with mosquitos. It works!  I highly recommend it.  Click here to be taken to Chewy.com to check out prices.

If you want to try out the chewy pill for your cat (a cheaper option than the topical), I recommend Heartgard Chewable Tablets for cats.  Click here to be taken to Chewy.com to check out prices.

Unfortunately, my cats are picky eaters, so Heartgard wasn’t an option for me.

You must have a prescription from your Veterinarian to purchase any heartworm prevention medications.  Chewy collects information about your cat and verifies the order by contacting your Vet before the drug is shipped.

During these times, where you might be confined to the house due to the outbreak, using Chewy is a great way to get what you need for your cat.

 

When to start heartworm prevention

Once you get your cat tested for heartworm (and she’s negative), you can begin heartworm prevention medication.  It is safe to get your cat started on heartworm prevention as early as six weeks old.  It should be continued year-round for the life of your cat.

I recommend writing the date of application on the heartworm medication box.  Your cat mustn’t miss a dosage.

Conclusion

For a long time, cats were thought to be resistant to heartworm disease.  A few years back, researchers found that not to be true.  Heartworm disease is hazardous to cats.  It can kill them.

Heartworm disease in cats is a blood-borne parasite that lives in the heart or the adjacent large vessels of an infected cat.  It is most common in dogs, but the incidence of heartworm in cats is increasing.  Mosquitos transmit heartworm.

There’s no treatment for heartworm in cats.  The heartworm medication used to treat dogs, melarsomine dihydrochloride, is toxic for cats.

Preventing your cat from getting heartworms by using a year-round preventative medicine is the key.  Whether your cat is an inside cat or you allow her to go out, you must protect her from infected mosquitos.

What is the best heartworm prevention for cats?  Any heartworm prevention medicine should contain either ivermectin or selamectin.  The heartworm prevention medications kill off heartworm larvae before they grow into adult size.

I recommend Revolution Topical Solution for cats.  Click here to be taken to Chewy.com to check out prices.  If you prefer using the chewy pill, I recommend Heartgard Chewable Tablets for cats.  Click here to be taken to Chewy.com to check out prices.

Once you get your cat tested for heartworm (and she’s negative), you can start heartworm prevention medication.  It is safe to get your cat started on heartworm prevention as early as six weeks old.  It should be continued year-round for the life of your cat.

 

 

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