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Cat heart disease

Cat Heart Problems

Cat heart disease is a problem that can occur in some animals due to a genetic predisposition, age, and curiously because of heartworms.

Heartworms are one of the major causes of heart disease in cats and if not treated, is a fatal parasitic infection. The symptoms of heart disease in cats with a heartworm infection are varied but usually cause shock, fainting, vomiting, diarrhea, and even death.

The chronic infections of heartworm usually manifest their symptoms in the respiratory system because the worm can travel to the lungs as well.

The heartworm is a filarial worm that is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito. It is especially problematic for a pet to be afflicted with the disease because it is very difficult to actually diagnose and find antigens for the disease before the worms mature in the body of the animal.

The lifecycle of the worm starts in the gut of a mosquito where the worm eggs hatch into larvae and start developing. An optimal temperature is required for the maturation that basically rules out the spread of the disease during the winter months or anytime that the temperature is below 14 degrees centigrade. When a mosquito then bites a cat, the larvae travel into the blood stream and ends up in the ventricles of the heart after growing at the site of the bite for a few days. This infection can last a very long time and the parasitic infection is sometimes missed during testing because the antigens for the heartworm only develop after six months. The infection itself is contagious, as the worms will mate and send out eggs, which will then be picked up again by a mosquito for further spreading. The course of the disease in some animals like dogs can last for years and they may even be asymptomatic. In cats, the disease is much more pronounced and fatal.

The treatment for cat heartworm involves the use of arsenic based drugs. These are the safest forms of the drug that can kill the worm. Once the worms are killed, the animal needs to rest so that the corpses of the worms are reabsorbed into the body, as any movement and activity can break off pieces of worm and send it to the lungs to cause a pulmonary embolism. It is curious to note that in the rarest of cases, this disease can affect human beings as well.

  Submitted on April 16, 2010  

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