April is National Heartworm Awareness Month, and with our health being on our minds now more that ever, it is just as important that we are keeping our furry family members healthy as well. While heartworm prevention isn't at the forefront of most cat parent's minds, it is important to know the facts.
Heartworms are parasitic worms, formally known as Dirofilaria Immitis, and are transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. Although dogs are the only definitive host of heartworms, making them more susceptible to both the contraction and progression of the disease, cats are still at risk for various complications due to heartworms.
Cats are an atypical host of heartworms, meaning that heartworms have difficulty surviving in cats and typically do not make it to adulthood. For this reason, heartworm disease often goes undiagnosed in cats.
Signs of heartworm disease in cats vary from extremely subtle to outright dramatic. If infected, symptoms may include coughing, asthma-like attacks, periodic vomiting, lack of appetite, weight loss, difficulty walking, fainting, seizures, or fluid accumulation in the abdomen. With that being said, it is not uncommon for the first sign in some cases to be sudden collapse or death.
Due to the much lower risk of cats being susceptible to heartworms as opposed to dogs, most cat parents don't see the need for heartworm prevention to be crucial. Especially if your cat is indoor-only and not exposed to mosquitoes. However, this way of thinking could be very dangerous for your feline family members for a number of reasons.
Prevention of heartworm disease comes in the form of oral or topical treatments and can even be paired with your cat's monthly flea and tick preventative. Topical preventative options include, but are not limited to, Revolution, Advantage Multi, Bravecto, and Centragard. Oral preventative options include, but are not limited to, Interceptor and Heartgard. Before starting a preventative, be sure to talk to your vet and determine together which option is best for your cat.
Taking this extra step in your cat's care could really make all the difference in ensuring that they are healthy and happy for years to come! Although consulting with your vet is always the best option to determine any preventative care plan for your cat, we hope that this guide will help you start the conversation and make a more informed decision.
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