Heartworm Test for Cats

Heartworms are parasites that can affect felines at any age; the heartworm larvae are transmitted through mosquito bites. The disease will show no or very subtle symptoms in the early stage and when the symptoms are visible, it may be too late. A heartworm test is available to detect the presence of the Dirofilaria immitis parasites in the cat’s blood. The typical symptoms of disease include coughing, vomiting, lack of activity, loss of appetite and weight loss.

There are 2 main types of heartworm tests used in pets, but one can show a clear result in felines.

The Antigen Test

The heartworm tests can be performed on any cat at any age and there are no contraindications. If the result is negative, this means that the cat is not infected.

The antigen test is the test that can be used in cats and show conclusive results. The antigen is derived from the adult female heartworms. However, the antigen test may also have false negative results.

The antigens will not be present in the first 6 to 7 months. So, if your cat is suspect of heartworms, x-rays or ultrasounds need to be performed to detect the presence of the heartworm larvae.

The Microfilaria Test

The Microfilaria test will detect the presence of the heartworms that have not reached maturity. These may be absent in some cats, even if the cat’s are infected with heartworms. The cat may only have adult worms in the blood flow or there is only one worm that cannot mate; also, the test may also be negative when there are only worms of a single gender present in the blood stream or if the immune system of the cat destroys the microfilaria as soon as they occur.

How Is the Heartworm Test Done?

The heartworm test will be done in a lab; a blood sample from the cat is needed. The blood will be stored in a glass container with an anti clotting agent. If the heartworm antigen is detected, the cat is positive for heartworms. The results can be obtained in 1 to 2 days.

The cat doesn’t need an anesthetic when the test is performed.

Heartworm Treatment Options

The treatment will depend on how advanced the disease is. If the heartworm infection is detected in the pre-parent stage (i.e. first 6 to 7 months after the mosquito bite), the larvae can be eliminated with no complications. However, the detection at this stage is rare, as the cat presents no symptoms.

The most efficient treatment for feline heartworms includes the administration of an arsenic based compound.

If the infection is severe, surgery may be required.

Prevent Heartworms in Cats

Heartworms can be prevented in cats. Consult your vet about a preventive medication that will have to be administered on a monthly basis.

Heartworm may be fatal in cats if not detected in a timely manner, so it is better to prevent the disease.