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Some pet owners are not aware that cats can also get heartworms


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POSTED: Thursday, November 13, 2008

Question: Our new veterinarian is recommending heartworm preventative for our cat. I thought only dogs could get heartworms. Is my vet trying to sell me stuff I don't need?

Answer: While many pet owners still regard heartworms as a dog's disease, they are a serious threat to your cat's health, too.

Cats are infected in the same way: Mosquitoes bite the animal and transmit heartworm larvae, which mature in about eight months.

The good news is that cats are resistant hosts, and it's estimated that the number of worms developing into the adult stage is relatively low (up to 25 percent) as compared with dogs (up to 90 percent).

But less mature heartworms can still cause significant heart and lung damage in cats, and consequences can be serious.

It is not uncommon for this initial phase to be misdiagnosed as asthma or allergic bronchitis, but in actuality it is part of a syndrome now known as heartworm-associated respiratory disease.

  Q: What can I do to protect our cat?

A: Heartworms are completely preventable. Outdoor cats are at greater risk of infection, so keeping your cat inside is a start. Ensuring your cat is on a preventative program is your best bet.