Frightening Facts About Feline Heartworm Disease
Feline heartworm disease is often overlooked by cat owners, as many cats are considered indoor only cats. Unfortunately, the disease is transmitted by mosquitoes, which can come inside our homes. According to the American Heartworm Society, “Although outdoor cats are at greater risk of being infected, a relatively high percentage of cats considered by their owners to be totally indoor pets also become infected.”
Feline heartworm disease, caused by the parasite Dirofilaria immitis, was first reported in 1921 in Brazil.
Studies indicate that less than 5 percent of U.S. households with cats regularly administer heartworm prevention. In contrast, 59 percent of dog-owning households regularly use a heartworm prevention product.
Several of the monthly preventives have activity against zoonotic intestinal parasites, which infect 3 to 6 million people every year.
Cats typically have fewer worms than dogs, and the life span of the worm is shorter in cats, but the consequences can be much more serious.
Heartworms do not need to develop into adults to cause significant pulmonary damage in cats.
A cat contracts heartworm disease when a mosquito carrying microscopic-size heartworm larvae bites a cat. The larvae enter through the bite wound where they develop in the tissues.
The immature worms then enter a blood vessel and are carried to the arteries in the lungs where they cause an inflammatory reaction. Most worms die at this stage, causing even more inflammation.
The worms that progress to the adult stage may live undetected for a couple of years. But, when the adult worms die, the inflammation can be severe enough to cause death.
The respiratory signs associated with these reactions are called Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease (H.A.R.D.).
Chronic signs of feline heartworm disease include difficulty breathing, coughing or gagging, heavy or fast breathing and vomiting.
More acute signs can be anorexia or weight loss, lethargy, seizures, fainting and loss of coordination.
Many cats with heartworm infection may exhibit no signs of disease.
So, how do you protect your cats from heartworm disease? The easiest and most effective way to prevent heartworm disease in cats is monthly application of Revolution. This monthly, topical, spot-on treatment is the first-ever FDA-approved medication for cats that:
Kills adult fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) and prevents flea eggs from hatching.
Prevents heartworm disease caused by Dirofilaria immitis.
Treats and controls ear mites (Otodectes cynotis).
Treats and controls roundworms (Toxocara cati) and hookworms (Ancylostoma tubaeforme).