Ask Hopeful Henry: Give your cats monthly heartworm vaccinations |

Ask Hopeful Henry: Give your cats monthly heartworm vaccinations

Dear Hopeful: Do cats get heartworm? Thanks. — Mary

Dear Mary: Yes, cats as well as dogs can get heartworm. Heartworm is caused by Dirofilara immitis. Heartworms can be a potentially fatal illness. Heartworms live in the pulmonary arteries, lungs and hearts of cats. Heartworms are nematodes, a type of roundworm, and are several inches long, thin and white.

Heartworms are a common parasite in dogs. While cats are more resistant to heartworm infestations than dogs, cats are extremely vulnerable to heartworm and even a small number can cause death.

The disease is spread from mosquitoes to animals when the mosquito feeds from its host. After the cat is infected it takes about 8 months for the heartworms to mature into adult worms. When they have reached maturity they make their way through the blood stream to the heart, however other organs can be infected. Because cats have a high resistance, they usually are only infected by a small number of heartworms (1-3) whereas a dog will generally be infected with a higher number. Cats however do not tolerate heartworm infection as well as dogs and even one heartworm can prove fatal to our feline friends.

Symptoms of heartworms in cats are often nonspecific but symptoms include: Coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, heart murmur, panting, anorexia (loss of appetite), vomiting, lethargy and weight loss.

As always if your cat has any of these symptoms they should be taken to vet as soon as possible. In all cases, no matter what the disease is, it is always better to get it diagnosed sooner rather than later.

As far as treating heartworm, it is very tricky as there are no approved methods to treat heartworm in cats. The treatments that are available are dangerous themselves. A single dead worm can be fatal in cats as it can break away and cause a blockage of the pulmonary artery otherwise known as a pulmonary embolism. If there are no clinical symptoms your vet may decide not to treat and let the worms die and pass in it’s own time (heartworms live 2-3 years in cats). If this is the case your veterinarian will want to monitor your cat every 6 months for signs of complications. There are some supportive therapy’s that can help a cat that is showing symptoms. Also in some cases surgery can be used to remove the worms.

Heartworm can be prevented, there are several products on the market which can be used to prevent heartworm. These are administered monthly. I always recommend that you contact your veterinarians and get their advice on these products and to see if you should have your cat tested for heartworms prior to starting any prevention treatment.

Hoping your kitty is heartworm free.

Hopeful Henry.

Now that we’re done with our serious conversation, I thought I would lighten things up with some with some fun facts about world record holding cats.

The oldest cat living is Pinky, she was 24 years old as of 2013. The oldest cat to have lived was Creme Puff of Austin, Texas. She was born in 1967 and passed away in 2005, making her 38 years old.

The worlds heaviest cat, 46.8 pound Himmy, died of respiratory failure at age 10. Thankfully the Guinness World Records have closed this category and will no longer accept entries as they do not wish to encourage pet owners to overfeed their animals. Good job Guinness!

Cat with the most toes: 18 toes is the normal number for cats however 5-year-old Jake from Ontario, Canada holds the world record with 27 toes.

The largest pet litter came from a 4-year-old Burmese called Tarawood Antigone from Oxfordshire, UK. She gave birth to 19 kittens, of which 15 survived (14 males and 1 female)

The worlds best mouser was a tortoiseshell, Moggy Towser. In her lifetime 1963-1987 she caught 28,899 mice. A statue has been erected in the distillery grounds to honor Towser.

Submit your questions or letters via email to or by mail to P.O. Box PET, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. Visit the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and SPCA on Facebook at You can also become a Facebook friend of Hopeful Henry at

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