The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : Can Cats Get Heartworm? Yes, They Can The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : Can Cats Get Heartworm? Yes, They Can

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Can Cats Get Heartworm? Yes, They Can



You may have thought heartworm disease only affects dogs, and it’s true that the infection is less common in cats. The cat is not a natural host for the heartworm parasite, Dirofilaria immitis, and so the heartworm is not likely to complete its entire life cycle. That means that fewer and smaller worms survive, and many do not reach a cat’s heart. The worms that do survive—and the resulting immune reaction that the cat’s body sets up to kill the developing worms, can cause severe health problems.


What Is Heartworm?

Spread by infected mosquitoes, heartworm is increasingly being recognized as an underlying cause of health problems in domestic cats. Despite its name, heartworm primarily causes lung disease in cats. It is an important concern for any cat owner living in areas densely populated by mosquitoes, and prevention methods should be discussed with a veterinarian.


How Are Heartworms Transmitted To A Cat?

The life cycle of the heartworm is complex and requires two host animals in order to complete it. Heartworms require the mosquito as an intermediate host and as many as 30 species of mosquitoes can act as this host and transmit heartworms. Mosquitoes ingest immature heartworm larvae, called microfilariae, by feeding on an infected cat or, more commonly, an infected dog. The microfilariae develop further for 10 to 30 days in the mosquito's gut and then enter its mouthparts.

When an infected mosquito bites a cat, it injects infective larvae into the cat. The larvae migrate and mature
for several months, ending up in the right side of the heart and the pulmonary arteries.

There they mature into adult heartworms capable of reproduction about six months from the time they enter the cat. Shortly thereafter, at around eight months after infection, they begin to produce a new crop of microfilaria that will live in the cat's blood for about one month. Cats are resistant hosts, and few circulating microfilaria are generally found.

How Can Heartworm In Cats Be Treated?

There are currently no products in the United States approved for treating feline heartworm infection. The good news is that many heartworm-infected cats are able to fight the infection themselves, and can be monitored with radiographs every few months, while waiting out the worms’ lifespan. If an infected cat shows symptoms of lung disease, the cat can be given a cortisone-like medication as needed. Medication can also be given to help control coughing and vomiting.








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