Protecting Your Cat From Heartworm

Heartworm, as well as flea and tick prevention, are popular discussions when it comes to the family dog, but cats get heartworms too! This parasite affects cats differently than dogs and the dangers associated with heartworm disease in cats are much more significant than previously thought.

A heartworm is a parasite that prefers to live inside a member of the canine family, like dogs and coyotes. When a mosquito bites the infected dog, the larvae are taken into the mosquito while feeding on the dog’s blood and grow into the next stage over a week or so and then the larvae are injected into the next animal bitten by the mosquito. If that animal is your cat, the microscopic larvae enter the blood vessels, usually ending up in the lung tissue or other organs.

Because cats are not the natural host for heartworms, they have an intense inflammatory reaction to these invaders, causing the blood vessels to become enlarged and inflamed. After three or four months, the immature worms usually die, causing another severe inflammatory respiratory response much like an allergic reaction. The respiratory symptoms resemble asthma, bronchitis or other respiratory diseases and are referred to as Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease (HARD).

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