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Feline Heartworm Infection

In recent years, important research about heartworm disease in cats has uncovered some important and surprising facts.  

1.  Did you know that indoor cats are at significant risk for heartworm disease?

It’s true!  In various studies, between 19% and 27% of infected cats were reported as “indoor only” by their owners.1, 2  Experts in feline heartworm disease advise that living indoors provides cats only partial protection from mosquitoes and the risk for contracting heartworm infection.

2. Did you know that heart disease is not the most important 

manifestation of feline heartworm infection?

Cats with heartworm disease most often have respiratory signs, not heart-related signs, as is the case with dogs.  The most commonly reported signs of heartworm infection in symptomatic cats are coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.  These are the same signs seen with feline asthma, another common respiratory disease of cats.  
Feline lungs may be damaged by immature and mature heartworms, leading to a condition called “heartworm-associated respiratory disease,” or “HARD.”  Respiratory damage and clinical signs may occur even before the worms mature enough to be detected by routine tests.  
    Interestingly, most cats infected with heartworms are without symptoms. Therefore, absence of clinical signs does not mean that a cat is free of heartworms.

‚ÄčIn areas where canine heartworm disease is prevalent, as is the case in middle Tennessee, The American Heartworm Society suggests that all cats be protected with monthly heartworm preventive.


1.  Genchi C, Venco L, Ferrari N, et al: Feline heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) infection: a statistical elaboration of the duration of the infection and the life expectancy in asymptomatic cats. Vet Parasitol 158:177-182, 2008
2. Atkins CE, DeFrancesco TC, Coats JR, et al: Heartworm infection in cats: 50 cases (1985-1997). J Am Vet Med Assoc 217:355-358, 2000

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