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dr. kim smyth: 10 facts about heartworm disease in cats

  • Dr. Kim
  • Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on
    Staff Veterinarian and Pet Health Writer of Petplan



1. Heartworm disease is not as common in cats as it is in dogs, but it isn’t a rare disease. In heartworm endemic areas, feline heartworm disease is more common than both feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)


2. Infected dogs may have 25-50 heartworms at any given time; cats have one to six. However, because of the small size of their heart and blood vessels, those one to six worms really pack a punch!


3. Symptoms in cats are caused by the inflammatory response of hosting heartworms. This translates to lung disease in cats. Clinical signs are very similar to asthma—respiratory distress, chronic coughing, and gagging.


4. Another heartbreaking symptom of heartworm disease in cats? Sudden death.


5. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitos, but they’re not a disease of outdoor cats only. A whopping 27% of cats with heartworm disease are indoor cats!


6. Ten to twenty percent of cats with adult heartworms will die from this disease.


7. Heartworm disease in cats is difficult to diagnose.


8. Heartworm disease in cats is difficult to treat. We cannot kill the worms. We can only try to manage the symptoms.


9. Heartworm disease in cats is EASY to prevent with monthly oral and topical preventives available from your veterinarian.


10. All cats who live in areas prone to mosquitoes should be on a monthly preventive!
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Chris AshtonCo-Founder and Co-CEO of Petplan Pet Insurance
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