Vet Blog

Yes, Even Cats Get Heartworms

July 11, 2018

Most people are familiar with heartworm infections in dogs, but did you know cats can get heartworms.

In fact, 1 in 4 cats get heartworms - whether they live indoors or outdoors.

Cats are not the typical host for heartworms, but they can get active infections and it's very different than heartworms in dogs. The infections in cats tend to be light meaning that less than six make it to the adult stage. But even one adult heartworm can cause significant damage.

It is difficult to diagnose heartworm disease in a cat because the sign and symptoms tend to be subtle (lethargy, vomiting, chronic respiratory disease). Occasionally, the signs are more drastic such as difficulty walking, fainting, or seizures among them. And in some extreme cases, the first sign is sudden collapse or death.

Unfortunately, a good laboratory test for heartworms in a cat does not exist. Multiple diagnostic tests along with bloodwork will sometimes diagnose the infection. But, cats have an advantage. Because they are not ideal hosts for heartworms, sometimes the infection will resolve itself, and the cat will be cured of the infection. The downside is that, because they are not ideal hosts, there is no medical cure.

The key take-away to protect your cat from heartworm is prevention - whether (s)he lives indoors or outdoors. Topical preventatives like Revolution and Advantage Multi for cats are a few that are available. The best thing to do Is speak with your veterinarian to look at what the best option will be for your kitty.