Frequently Asked Questions

How does a cat get heartworm?

Answer Heartworm infection takes place when a mosquito carrying microscopic-size heartworm larvae bites a cat. The larvae enter through the bite wound where they develop in the tissues. The immature worms then enter a blood vessel and are carried to the arteries in the lung where they cause an inflammatory reaction. Most worms die at this stage, causing even more inflammation. The worms that progress to the adult stage may live undetected for a couple of years. But, when the adult worms die, the inflammation can be severe enough to cause death. The respiratory signs associated with these reactions are called Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease (HARD).

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How can I tell if my cat has heartworm?

Answer Look for signs of Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease (HARD). They include anorexia, blindness, collapse, convulsions, coughing, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, fainting, lethargy, rapid heart rate, sudden death, vomiting and weight loss.

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What should I KNOW about heartworms?

Answer One study conducted in the Texas Gulf region in the late 1990s revealed heartworm antibodies were present in 26 percent of the cats examined, indicating the cats were infected at some point in their lives. Adult worms were present in 10 percent. The rate of heartworm infection was significantly higher than that of feline leukemia virus infection at 5 percent, and feline immunodeficiency virus infection at 6 percent.

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What can I do about heartworms?

Answer Heartworm disease is harmful, even fatal, but very preventable. Ask your veterinarian for current recommendations regarding year-round, broad spectrum heartworm preventives for your cat. Even if doses are accidentally skipped, by giving preventives year-round the retroactive effectiveness is increased, and it is possible to actually stop most worms from developing into adults.

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How can I tell if my cat has parasites?

Answer Some parasites are easier than others to recognize. If you see changes in your cat’s grooming habits, notice your cat consistently scratching or observe patches of hair loss, it is possible your cat has fleas or mites. Intestinal parasites are usually only diagnosed with a veterinary exam and analysis of your cat’s feces. Heartworm disease can be particularly devastating and is difficult to diagnose. This is why it’s so important to have your cat examined annually for parasites and place your cat on year-round prevention.

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How does a cat get a parasite?

Answer Parasites can attack your cat in many different ways. Heartworm is contracted when an infected mosquito bites a cat. Roundworms are contracted when your cat ingests worm eggs that have been passed through the feces of an infected cat or dog. Tapeworms can be contracted if your cat eats fleas or other hosts (such as rodents) that carry tapeworm larvae. Other intestinal worm larvae can be passed through the mother cat’s milk to her kitten. Another unique parasite is a hookworm, whose larvae thrive in moist soil. Your cat can simply step on a larva and it can pass through the skin of its paw. Still other parasites, mites, for example, can be contracted if your cat has direct contact with an infected cat. Considering all of the ways your cat could become infected, it would be impossible for you to make sure your cat avoids all the possible situations. Therefore, it is necessary to give your cat preventive medication. There are many options available that will protect your pet from the most common parasites.

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Can my cat give me a parasite?

Answer Yes, there are many different parasites that can be shared between cats and humans. The most common is roundworms; 3 to 6 million people in the United States are infected with roundworm larvae each year.

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What parasites can cause disease in humans?


  • Fleas
  • Heartworms
  • Hookworms
  • Roundworms
  • Sarcoptic mange
  • Tapeworms
  • Ticks
  • Toxoplasma

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What can I do to prevent parasites?

Answer Any parasite can have a negative impact on the relationship between you and your pet. There are things you can do to prevent your cat from getting a parasitic infection. Some important preventive measures include practicing good personal hygiene, regularly cleaning your cat’s litter box, only feeding your cat cooked or prepared food and not allowing your cat to hunt. Many parasites can be easily prevented by giving your cat broad spectrum preventive medication. See your veterinarian for more information on products that prevent parasites.

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