Heartworm Disease in Cats

Recent studies have shed new light on the question of whether or not cats can get heartworms. In the past , we have said that cats rarely contract this mosquito-borne parasite. We now know that it is more common than previously thought. Incidence of heartworms in cats is as high as 8% in Texas.

Heartworm disease in cats can look very different than it does in dogs. This is because it still is an “accidental disease” in cats, that is, cats are not the normal host. Signs are not very specific: coughing, pneumonia, vomiting, listlessness, weight loss, and rarely seizures, are some of the symptoms. As you can see, many diseases can show these symptoms. Oddly enough, chronic vomiting seems to be a common sign of heartworms in cats. Heartworms in cats can produce coughing that looks almost exactly like feline asthma.

The diagnosis of heartworms in cats is very difficult. Perhaps that is why the disease has been “under-diagnosed” in the past. Diagnosis often requires special antibody testing and often radiographs (x-rays). The typical test we use in dogs often does not work as well in cats. Of the cats that contract the disease, it is estimated that as many as 40% experience sudden death. In addition, even though indoor cats are not as likely to get heartworms, they are much more likely to die if they do. In those cats that do show symptoms and are diagnosed, treatment proves very difficult and many times deadly. Treatment to kill adult heartworms (adulticide therapy) is currently not recommended in cats. Rather the respiratory symptoms are treated in order to stabilize the patient when possible.

It is for these reasons that Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine now recommends that ALL cats (even indoor cats) be placed on a monthly preventive for heartworms. Unlike dogs, cats do NOT have to be TESTED before being placed on the preventive. The combination heartworm preventive/flea control product, Revolution, comes in a cat form, is a TOPICAL liquid applied onto the skin. It is very easy to apply monthly to your cat.

We strongly encourage all of our cat owning clients to use monthly Revolution to protect their cats from heartworm disease. In addition, Revolution has the added benefit of killing fleas and ear mites.
Please call us at 903-839-7235 to receive more information and set up an appointment for your pet.