VCA Buckhead Animal Hospital
By Dr. Heather Markway
Published: April 19, 2012

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Most pet owners are familiar with the risk and need for heartworm prevention in dogs, but our beloved cats can contract the disease as well. Unfortunately, cats are often at higher risk for a more severe response and outcome once they are infected. Although outdoor cats are at greater risk of being infected, a relatively high percentage of cats considered by their owners to be totally indoor pets also become infected.

Heartworm infection takes place when a mosquito carrying infective, microscopic-size heartworm larvae, bites into a cat for a blood meal. The larvae then actively travel through the cat's body, eventually settling into the arteries and blood vessels of the lungs, where they continue to develop to become mature, 6-12 inch long worms.

Even though cats usually have fewer numbers of heartworms compared to dogs, they tend to have a more intense immune response. Undetected feline heartworm infections can have fairly non-specific clinical presentation such as vomiting, inappetance, anorexia, and weight loss, but cats can present with more severe clinical signs such as asthmatic-like cough, panting, gagging, difficulty breathing, or even sudden death.

Diagnosis can be difficult due to the lower number of worms present in feline heartworm disease, but physical exam, blood testing, and radiographs (x-rays) can help determine your cat’s heartworm status. Unfortunately, once a cat is diagnosed with heartworms, there is no approved medication to treat the disease in cats, so prevention is the key to keeping your cat from becoming infected. A monthly oral or topical prevention that is given year round can prevent the potential fatal disease from affecting your beloved cat.


Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

As part of the VCA family, we have over 83 specialty hospitals across the US and Canada which provide referral specialty care, so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: behavior, cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, integrative medicine, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology, rehabilitation, reproduction, and surgery.

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Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately. If it is an after hours emergency (after 6 pm Mon-Fri , after Noon on Sat or Sunday) , please call VCA Pets Are People Too located at 1510 Piedmont Avenue.  (404) 875-7387