Managing Feline Heartworm Symptoms with Prednisone

Feline heartworm larvae are picked up by mosquitoes, from contaminated sources in the environment. Infected mosquitoes transmit heartworm infections to cats by biting pets. Once the heartworm larva enters the cat's skin, it migrates to the cat's heart to thrive and multiply.

Although heartworms are commonly known to exist in the arteries surrounding the pet's heart, feline heartworm disease causes damage to the pet's respiratory system. This condition is known as heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD). It's important to know the symptoms of feline heartworm disease before treating pets with medication such as Prednisone.

Symptoms of Feline Heartworms

  • Coughing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Difficult breathing
  • Convulsions
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Sudden death

Although the symptoms differ in pets, some pets don't show any symptoms even though their lungs are seriously affected with heartworms. Most heartworms that migrate to the lungs die and cause sudden inflammation. Feline heartworms may also develop into adult worms in the pet's lungs, before dying.

Treatment of Feline Heartworm

Before starting any medication to treat heartworms, a proper diagnosis that establishes heartworm disease is necessary. Specific and detailed tests are important for a confirmation of heartworms. The treatment of feline heartworm involves supportive care and control of heartworm related symptoms. Prednisone is a drug that's prescribed for ailing pets when there is a high level of fluid buildup in the lungs.

Prednisone can control the symptoms of heartworm disease. Many vets prefer to allow the worms to die without medical intervention. During this period the vet will closely monitor the cat with radiographs. Adulticides are drugs that are used to kill adult heartworms in dogs. This treatment option isn't generally followed for cats. It's important to also know that heartworm preventive medication does not kill adult heartworms but only prevents adult heartworms from forming.

Prednisone as a Drug

Prednisone is a catabolic steroid. Catabolic steroids enable the body to break down fats and proteins to boost the body during stressful conditions. Another drug like prednisone is cortisone. It performs the same function as catabolic steroids. If adult heartworms die suddenly, they could create an emergency situation. Pets suffering from heartworms have to be carefully monitored for any sudden changes.

Prednisone is used to treat conditions including:

  • Lymphoma
  • Inflammation
  • Trauma
  • Brain or spinal cord disease
  • Immune system disease
  • Shock

Side Effects of Prednisone

Although prednisone controls the symptoms that involve pain and discomfort, it has certain side effects. Prednisone administration leads to the conservation of salt in the body. This in turn causes excessive thirst and excessive urination. The dose and course of prednisone medication has to be carefully monitored as it may be prescribed over several months at a time. The vet may also choose to change the type of catabolic steroid used if the pet has prolonged side effects.

Since heartworm infection is rare in cats, most vets recommend a monthly feline heartworm medication that protects against both heartworms and intestinal parasites. Interceptor and Revolution are the two most commonly used feline heartworm preventive medicines.