Can cats get heartworms?

Generally, cats do not get heartworms - their bodies are not suited to their survival and they're not a good host. BUT - sometimes it does happen. It is very hard to diagnose because the symptoms are unpredictable - if heartworms do actually survive in a cat they usually cause vague symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, vomiting, or sudden death. There isn't any consistency just because cats are not a natural host body for the worms. However, there will be some cases of heartworm inside cats in any area where dogs tend to get them. Usually the rate is about 1/20th of the rate in dogs. Because it's so hard to diagnose in cats though, it is very hard to be sure.


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There is no cure for feline heartworms, and most vets think that even if there were it would be a bad idea. Again, because heartworms are not evolved to survive in the bodies of cats, there really isn't a way for the dead heartworms to get out. There has been testing to kill off heartworms in the body of a cat, but the problem is that while they sometimes absorb the dead heartworms, they also often die of allergic reactions to them or get little pieces of them stuck in their arteries which cause clogging of the blood and death. The current treatment approach is to try to control the symptoms and prevent new heartworms from getting into the cat. In some cases vets have tried ultrasound as a way to identify the worms and remove them surgically, but that is very hard to do. You can use Heartgard Plus for cats as a way of preventing your cat from getting them in the first place.

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