Heartworm infection takes place when a mosquito carrying infective, microscopic-size heartworm larvae, bites into a cat for a blood meal. The larvae then actively migrate into the new host and develop further as they travel through the subcutaneous tissue in the cat’s body. At about 3-4 months, they usually settle into the arteries and blood vessels of the lungs, where they continue to develop to sexual mature male and female worms.
The average time from when the microscopic parasites enter the host until the females develop into mature worms and produce offspring is approximately eight months and is referred to as the prepatent period. This is about one month longer than in dogs.
Heartworms do not need to develop into adults to cause significant pulmonary damage in cats, and consequences can still be very serious when cats are infected by mosquitoes carrying heartworm larvae. Newly arriving worms and the subsequent death of most of these same worms can result in acute pulmonary inflammation response and lung injury.
In addition, did you know …
The clinical signs of heartworm infection in cats can be very non-specific, and may mimic many other feline diseases. Diagnosis by clinical signs alone is nearly impossible, but a cat may exhibit generic signs of illness, such as vomiting intermittently, lethargy, anorexia (lack of appetite), weight loss, coughing, asthma-like signs (intermittent difficulty in breathing, panting, open-mouthed breathing), gagging, difficulty breathing or rapid breathing .
Call us today at (614)888-4050 to schedule your cat’s next wellness exam and to talk with our doctors concerning the importance of prevention of illnesses such as heartworm disease.