1. Transmission: All cats, both indoor and outdoor, are exposed to mosquitoes year round. It only takes one bite for the transmission of heartworm disease.
2. Prevalence: Heartworm disease is present throughout the continental US, including cold climates. Dogs and wildlife are an unprotected reservoir, in which the disease is impossible to control. Additionally, the movement of pets from warmer climates (through relocation and adoption) has increased in recent decades making heartworm disease endemic in all fifty states.
3. Treatment: Unfortunately, once a cat is infected with heartworm disease, it is very difficult to treat. The medication used to remove adult worms in dogs is unsafe for use in cats. Therefore, the best treatment for cats is prevention, using an approved monthly preventative.
Heartworm disease is a parasite infection spread by mosquitoes that was once thought to only infect dogs. However, the parasite is known to cause disease in cats as well! The heartworm life cycle is complicated and begins with development of larvae within mosquitoes, which are then transmitted directly into the bloodstream of cats through bites. Heartworm larvae travel through blood vessels and the lungs over a period of several months. Adult worms will develop in the heart and can live for two to four years. It is during the larval migration when an inflammatory response, called “heartworm associated respiratory disease” (HARD), can occur in cats. A cat with HARD can experience a wide range of signs from general malaise to coughing and wheezing to sudden death. Therefore, it is very important to prevent this serious, potentially fatal, disease process through heartworm prevention.