Heartworm is a mosquito born parasite that until recently we thought only
infected dogs in this part of the country. The southern U.S. has had a feline
heartworm problem for years. These parasites grow to maturity in the heart,
lungs and accompanying vessels. They are spaghetti like and 2-5 inches long.
Infected dogs often have dozens. Recently studies have found feline heartworm in
our area. This year, we have found several N.Y.C. cats that had heartworms.
Usually, cats have only 1 to 4 worms, as cats are not a natural host for
heartworms. However, even 1 heart worm can kill a cat precipitously.
The more a cat is exposed to mosquitoes the more likely it is that it could become infected. Therefore, we consider cats that summer in shore areas – Fire Island, Long Island, Jersey Shore or Connecticut to be at increased risk, as well as any cat that has access to the outdoors. We have started to test all these cats and any cats with cardiopulmonary symptoms. It is probably going to be prudent to test all cats as, this disease in cats seems much under-diagnosed at present.
The blood tests require only a small amount of blood. If your cat tests negative
and is at risk, we can start a Preventative drug called “ Heartguard Chewable
for Cats”. This reasonably palatable treat is given once per month for 6 months
during mosquito season.
Remember indoor cats are at risk too. Think of how many times you have heard that familiar buzzing whine in your bedroom at night.