Heartworms are caused by mosquitoes, or more specifically when your cat gets bit by a mosquito. That is when a heartworm can take up residence in the heart or in a heart adjacent blood vessel. The worms can be from 3 inches to 14 inches long and studies have now shown that the disease is far more prevalent in cats than was previously thought.
There are many methods a vet clinic in Albany Park can use to diagnose heartworm, but unfortunately none of them are hundred percent dependable. That is why it generally takes a combination of tests in order to get a positive diagnosis such as:
* Blood tests including positive results from both the heartworm antibody test and the heartworm antigen test,
* X-rays can be taken and used to determine the size of the heart and the arteries. If the heart appears too large, or the arteries appear blocked, this can be an indication of the disease, and/or
* A cardiac ultrasound can be used and in some cases this test allows the worms to actually be seen.
Is There Any Treatment?
Unfortunately, at this time there is no drug approved for treatment in cats. In Japan and in some parts of Europe, veterinarians have been performing surgery to remove the heartworms, but the technique is not advanced enough to have been approved for use in the United States. At this time, there are two options:
* You can treat with a medication that has been approved for dogs, but severe side effects show up in cats. These include lung failure and even death in a small percentage of animals.
* Another option is to treat the symptoms, but since the worms will generally live inside a cat for two or three years, you will need to treat consistently for several months. If your cat is in crisis, they will need oxygen and corticosteroids, as well as a drug regime to remove fluid from the lungs. Once they are stable, they will need to be treated on a consistent basis with the corticosteroids.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding heartworms, do not hesitate to contact the friendly and knowledgeable staff at Portage Park Animal Hospital and Dental Clinic.
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