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Published: Dec 20, 2011

Heartworm disease is much more common in dogs, however cats are not safe from this devastating, potentially fatal disease.  VCA Animal Hospitals reports recent studies of cats with heart and respiratory disease have found many of these cats to be actually suffering from heartworm disease.

Heartworms are parasites that reside in the heart and large blood vessels of their host animal. They are transmitted to animals through the bites of infected mosquitoes.  As it is impossible to eliminate exposure to mosquitoes (even in indoor pets), it is crucial that all pets are protected by monthly heartworm preventative medication.

According to VCA, diagnosing heartworms in cats can be difficult, as there are a variety of vague clinical signs.  Some cats will cough or breath heavily and many cats with heartworm disease are incorrectly diagnosed with asthma or bronchitis.  Other cats may simply lose weight or vomit.

If owners notice any changes in their cats, they should bring them to a veterinarian clinic for testing. A vet will most likely perform blood tests, including a heartworm antibody test to see if a cat's immune system has been exposed to heartworms. VCA reports this test is very sensitive therefore is typically performed first. If the results are positive, additional tests will be performed to determine the severity of the infection.

Heartworm disease affects both dogs and cats and outdoor and indoor pets.  Talk to your veterinarian about the best preventative medication for your pet.