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Heartworm Disease is a Threat to Both Dogs and Cats

heartworm dog and cat blogMost dog owners know the danger that heartworms present to their pups, but the risk to cats is often misunderstood and underestimated. To help cat owners make an informed decision about heartworm prevention, some of the similarities and differences in how heartworm disease affects dogs and cats are listed below:


  • Transmission: the bite of an infected mosquito
  • Severity:  potentially fatal
  • Prevention: simple with safe and effective heartworm prevention 


  • Possible Symptoms:

Dogs- coughing, weight loss, lack of energy, difficulty breathing, a pot-bellied appearance

Cats- variable, sometimes including vomiting, poor appetite, weight loss, coughing, and difficulty breathing

  • Primary Cause of Symptoms:

Dogs- large numbers of adult worms in the lungs and heart disrupt cardiac function directly.  Immature worms can also cause damage throughout the body.

Cats- immature worms in the lungs and throughout the body incite a strong immune response.  A few adult worms can sometimes also be found in the heart and lungs.

  • Diagnosis:

Dogs- easy with a simple blood test

Cats- difficult, may require a combination of blood tests, chest x-rays, cardiac ultrasound, and ruling out other potential causes of a cat’s symptoms

  • Incidence:

Dogs- common when preventatives not used regularly

Cats- difficult to determine due to difficulties with diagnosis and vague symptoms

  • Treatment:

Dogs- expensive and potentially dangerous but often successful except in severe cases

Cats- limited to symptomatic treatment and medications to control inflammation and prevent additional worms from developing.  Surgical removal of adult worms in the heart may be an option.

Heartworms can be deadly for both dogs and cats so it’s best to protect your pet with a monthly heartworm preventative like Heartgard Plus all year long.


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