Has your cat been coughing or having trouble breathing lately? If so, and especially if Kitty spends a lot of time outside and has also been vomiting, he or she may have heartworm.
Feline heartworm is caused by a parasitic nematode, Dirofilaria immitis. The severity of this disease is dependent on three things:
- the number of worms present in the body
- the duration of the infestation
- the response of the host (the infested cat is the host)
Heartworms are spread through mosquito bites carrying infective heartworm larvae. This puts outdoor cats at increased risk of contracting heartworm disease. They are, in fact, twice as likely to contract heartworm disease as indoor cats.
Your vet may administer a variety of tests including a urine analysis, heartworm antigen and antibody tests, x-rays which may reveal the enlargement of certain veins or arteries associated with heartworm disease, and an electrocardiograph (ECG). An ECG can also exclude or confirm other diseases of the heart that may exhibit similar symptoms.
Depending on the severity of the infestation, your cat may need surgery to extract the adult worms. Since heartworms in cats have a short lifespan, however, a spontaneous cure is more likely to occur. Medication can help assist in this process.
Since symptoms of heartworm mimic other feline ailments including heart disease, it’s important that you get Kitty seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. At Austin Pet and Bird Clinic, we’ll give your cat a full nose-to-tail exam to pinpoint the exact problem. Don’t let heartworms, or possible heart disease, make your cat miserable. Contact us today!