When people think of heartworm disease they generally picture dogs as the victims of infestation. However, heartworms, which live in the heart and are spread by mosquitoes, also can infest cats.
Cats with heartworm infestations may show symptoms of heart failure including coughing, inability to exercise, shortness of breath and sudden death. They may vomit chronically. Heartworm disease is fatal in a stunning proportion of cases.
Historically, treatment options for feline heartworm patients have been extremely limited. Cats generally do not tolerate the drugs that are used to treat canine heartworm patients. Veterinarians generally find it impossible to offer any real help to feline heartworm victims.
However, a paper in the November 1, 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) discussed a technique that successfully treated two heartworm-infested cats in Texas.
The authors of the paper passed a special type of catheter into the heart through the jugular vein. They used the catheter to snare and remove worms from the heart. Both cats’ symptoms resolved within four weeks.
Sadly, this is not a treatment that will be available at your local vet any time soon. This sort of procedure requires specialists with very sophisticated equipment and skilled intensive care nursing. But I am very happy to know that a viable treatment option for feline heartworm patients may finally be out there.
The study cited in this post is Small, et al J Am Vet Med Assoc 2008;233: 1441-1445.
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