Discovering that your cat has a heartworm is never fun. While it is treatable, recent studies have found that heartworms in cats are more common than previously thought. Heartworms are roundworm parasites (called Dirofilaria immitis) that travel through the blood, living in the right side of the heart. The worm itself is a slim worm that completes its life in mammals as its host. Cats are less likely to get heartworm than dogs, but they are more likely to have the heartworms migrating other areas of their body, which would make for more problematic symptoms.
There is no drug that is approved for treating heartworms in cats and treatment can be pretty problematic. You could use the drug used to treat the disease in dogs, but those come with pretty significant side effects, including death. You could treat the symptoms and just hope your cat outlives the worms – but the possibility of sudden death is also a factor. One other treatment option is surgical removal of the worms, which currently only happens in Japan and parts of Europe.
Heartworms can be fatal in cats if dying worms make their way to felines’ pulmonary arteries. Because cats hardly ever get heartworm, the disease often gets misdiagnosed as a respiratory issue, appearing like a cat has asthma or even bronchitis. In order to prevent further problems and to go for treatment as soon as possible, it’s important for you as a cat owner to be aware of the symptoms that heartworms can bring about in a cat.
Here are some common heartworm symptoms in your cat you should be mindful of:
- Lack of energy
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Sudden death
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