Heartworms in cats usually manifest respiratory cat worm symptoms such as coughing and wheezing. Cats with heartworms also show signs such of lack of appetite, depression, respiratory difficulty and vomiting. Heartworm disease in cats is very similar to feline asthma that is why it is often misdiagnosed as asthma.
Heartworms in cats take about 8 months to mature to adult worms. Mature heartworms make their way to the heart and other organs of the cat. However, cats have an inborn resistance to heartworms and are usually infected only with a small number of heartworms which is about 1 to 3 worms. It is the dogs that are usually prone to heartworms.
Heartworms in cats are usually spread to other cats like how they are spread to dogs. A bite of mosquito may spread the worms. However, these of kind of worms tend to act differently when in the cat’s body than when dwelling in the dog’s body since cats are not natural hosts for heartworms. Most of the damage done by heartworms in cats takes place in the lungs; this is why heartworms in cats are associated to respiratory disease.
In an infected cat, the adult heartworms reproduce into what is known as microfilaria that swim around the bloodstream. An intermediate host or a mosquito is required by the microfilaria. When the mosquito bites an infected dog, it takes up the microfilaria in the dog. It is in the mosquito that the microfilaria mature within 14 days of its existence in the host. The larvae of the heartworm are injected into the animal when the mosquito feeds from the cat or the dog.
The are still no proven methods of treating heartworms in cats. There may be some treatments but are considered harmful to the cat. A single dead heartworm in the cat can be dangerous and fatal to the cat since this dead worm can block the pulmonary artery. Heartworms live around 2 to 3 years inside the cat, giving the veterinarian a lot of time to monitor the cat for signs of complications.
Supportive therapy may be given to the cat showing signs of heartworm disease. Prednisone may also be given to the infected cat to minimize inflammation and reaction to the worm. Those feline with severe symptoms may require use of additional devices such as bronchodilator to clear the airways, intravenous fluids and oxygen therapy. Adulticide treatment may be required for cats with clinical signs of heartworms and are not responding to supportive care.