Feline Heartworm Diagnosis

Feline heartworm is caused by the parasite worms known as Dirofilaria immitis which will affect the heart of the cat. Heartworm is a less common disease, but can affect cats of any ages. Cats that spend more times outdoors are more exposed to contracting the worm. Cats in areas populated by mosquitoes have a higher incidence of infection, as mosquitoes spread the worms.

Cats with heartworm may easily develop respiratory and heart complications, so it is best if the worms are detected in a timely manner.

About the Heartworm

The heartworm is caused by Dirofilaria immitis, a parasite which typically affects the right side of the heart and the blood vessels in the area.

The parasite may cause respiratory and cardiac failure, resulting in sudden death.

Cause of Heartworm

The heartworm disease can be contracted from mosquitoes, which transfer the heartworm larvae by injecting it in the blood of the cat. So, outdoor cats are more exposed to the infection. Also, in areas where mosquitoes are more common, there will be a higher incidence of heartworm disease.

Symptoms of Heartworm

Unfortunately, the heartworm infection may be asymptomatic in most cats. Some cats may show symptoms such as vomiting or respiratory problems.

The disease may be either acute or chronic.

Acute heartworm will show lung and respiratory issues. The cat may also have behavioral problems such as irritability and aggressiveness.

Chronic heartworm may display respiratory problems, vomiting or diarrhea. The cat may also be lethargic and in some cases he can have heart failure or strokes.

Cats with heartworms may also show some atypical symptoms such as:

  • Coughing
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Apathy
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive meowing
  • Weakness
  • Pulmonary embolism

The symptoms of heartworm disease may be met in other diseases such as asthma, lung infections or pleural effusion disorders, making the diagnosis problematic.

Diagnosing Heartworm in Cats

If a cat is suspect of heartworm disease, he will need a physical exam. However, diagnosis is difficult, as the cat may show no symptoms at all.

The vet may detect heart murmur, respiratory problems or an irregular heart beat. The vet may send you to a cardiologist vet for a more precise analysis and evaluation.

Blood tests will reveal the presence of a parasite, but will not indicate that the cat has heartworm. A serology test to identify the heartworm antigens may also be needed. The ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) can be a conclusive test in detecting heartworm antigens.

The cat may need x-rays, but these may not be conclusive.

Typically, a vet may detect the presence of a heartworm by performing an echocardiography, which is an ultrasound of the heart and the adjoining vessels.

Treatment for Feline Heartworm

Heartworm disease treatment includes adulticidal heartworm drugs. However, these drugs should be administered with caution; as even if the drugs kill the parasite, may also be fatal for the cat. If the cat is not positively diagnosed with heartworm, he shouldn’t get medication.

Cats living in risk areas with numerous mosquitoes should get preventive medication.

If the disease is undetected, it may cause sudden death.