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Yes- cats do get heartworms

1. I thought only dogs can get heartworms.

Dogs are more susceptible to heartworm infection, but cats are also at risk. In general, cats become infected at about 10% the rate of dogs in the area. 

2. If mosquitoes spread heartworms, isn't my indoor cat protected?

No. Approximately one third of the cats diagnosed with heartworms at the College of Veterinary Medicine lived exclusively indoors. 

3. What happens to cats that get heartworms?

The most common signs of heartworm disease in cats are coughing and labored breathing. Vomiting and neurological signs also occur. Sudden death may occur in cats that appear completely healthy. 

4. Can heartworm infection be treated in cats as it is in dogs?

There is no recommended treatment for cats with heartworm disease. The clinical signs of infection are usually treated with supportive care. The adult heartworms only live about two years in cats, in contrast to surviving five to seven years in dogs. If heartworm preventative is started during this time, it will prevent the cat from acquiring a new infection while the older worms age. 

5. Can my cat be tested for heartworm infection?

Yes. There are two tests that are used to diagnose heartworm disease in cats. The initial test shows the presence of antibodies produced by the body when an exposure has occurred. The second test shows whether an adult female worm is detected. However, if a heartworm is immature or a male, it is difficult to detect. Therefore, testing for heartworms in cats cannot always rule out infection. 

6. How common is heartworm infection in cats in our area?

The best information indicates that about 2-5% of cats in this area are infected with heartworms. This is about the same as the rate for Feline Leukemia and FIV, two other fatal feline infections. 

7. Can feline heartworm infection be prevented?

Yes. We have several heartworm preventatives that are available for cats. When properly administered, these preventatives are 100% effective. The products available are Heartgard, Interceptor and Advantage Multi. These medications can be used for cats six weeks of age and older. They are also safe enough to give to pregnant and lactating cats. Please check with a receptionist to see which would be best for your cat.