How to Protect Your Senior Cat from Heartworms
Protecting your cat from disease is undoubtedly one of the first and foremost priorities of any responsible feline owner. Unfortunately, there are a whole host of illnesses that can affect our cats, with many of them being infectious diseases. This means that they are passed from infected insect or animal to other, unprotected creatures with ease. These diseases can be bad news for any cat that contracts them, but this is especially the case for older animals. This is because as they get older, their immune system, as well as many other bodily functions, become compromised, not working as well as they used to. These age-related changes are normal, but it can make it particularly difficult for older cats to fight off infectious illnesses.
One of the most serious infectious diseases that can threaten the health and even life of your senior cat is heartworms.
What are heartworms?
While dogs make the most natural host for heartworms, your cat is unfortunately not immune to this type of parasitic infection. This internal parasite is spread through the bite of a mosquito that is carrying heartworm larvae. These larvae then enter your cat’s bloodstream and make their way to her heart and lungs, settling into the blood vessels where, around 6 months later, they mature and begin to reproduce. They can grow up to 12 inches in length and live for years unless treatment is provided.
Reproduction means that their numbers can quickly swell, causing the flow of blood to be restricted and triggering irreversible damage to your cat’s organs. Eventually, the numbers of heartworms can become so large that the blood vessels become completely blocked, causing premature death.
How do I know if my senior cat has heartworms?
Cats are mighty good at hiding any signs of illness as they do not want to appear vulnerable. Unfortunately, heartworms are particularly difficult to diagnose regardless. Symptoms often do not become apparent for at least 6 months after infection, since this is when they become adults and actually start to cause serious damage to your cat’s health. At this point, they can be detected using a blood test. However, first you will need to recognize the symptoms of heartworms and arrange to get your feline tested. Since the early signs of the condition are subtle, this presents another challenge in getting a prompt diagnosis. Nevertheless, there are some symptoms to look out for, including:
- A soft cough that eventually becomes more persistent
- Coughing up blood
- Respiratory distress
- Unwillingness to exercise
- Weight loss
Protecting your cat from heartworms
Fortunately, there are plenty of products available that can protect your senior cat from heartworms and potentially save her life. These are usually administered in the form of oral medications on a monthly, semi-annual or annual basis. These drugs work by targeting the heartworms and killing them before they have time to mature into adults. This prevents the reproductive cycle from occurring and prevents serious infestation.
Since there are so many different heartworm preventatives available, we strongly recommend that you obtain the advice of our veterinarian to discover which is going to be the most suitable for your cat. Take note of how long your chosen preventative is effective for as you will need to ensure that you re-administer the drug before your kitty becomes at risk of contracting heartworms again.
Heartworms are a dangerous and even deadly disease that can easily claim the life of a senior cat. However, with the right preventative care, you can protect your furbaby from heartworms for the remainder of her life. For more advice, or to schedule an appointment at our clinic, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.