Heartworm infection in cats: causes, symptoms and treatment

Heartworm infection in cats: causes, symptoms and treatment

Heartworm infection in cats

Heartworm infection in cats is a potentially fatal disease that affects the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. It is caused by foot-long worms that live in the mentioned organs. This condition causes heart failure, lung disease, and serious damage to other organs of the body.

Fortunately for cats, this disease is not very common in them and most worms do not survive to the adult age. If there are any adults within a cat’s system, there are usually two or three. However, you should know that even immature worms can cause damage to your cat. Moreover, the treatment used with dogs cannot be used in cats. So, the best way to go here is to prevent your cat from getting infected.

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How does a heartworm infection in cats happen?

Heartworm infection is spread through infected mosquitoes from one animal to the other. The life cycle of a heartworm larva is not as complex as the one that takes place in a dog. In the case of our canine friends, the larvae travel from the site of the bite until they reach the heart and lungs, where they mature and reproduce, releasing immature larvae, known as microfilaria.

In cats, the presence of microfilaria is very uncommon. In fact, it has been found only in about 20% of infected cats. Also, considering that heartworms have a much shorter lifespan in cats than in dogs, healing in cats happen almost spontaneously instead of through a treatment.

Symptoms of heartworm infection in cats

Even though rare, your cat can still get infected by heartworms, especially if they have the habit of going out for a walk where it will come in contact with other pets. Some of the signs to look for are:


Treatment for an infected cat becomes complicated and faces a dilemma. This is because there is no specific treatment for heartworm disease in cats. There is not even an accurate way to diagnose it. Some tests can still be run to help come to a diagnosis.

There is no approved treatment for a heartworm infection in dogs. The same drug used in dogs has been tried in cats but it has some significant side-effects. The best way to go then is the surgical removal of the worms from the cat’s system. However, since the lifespan of the worms is relatively short, spontaneous recovery may occur.

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