Feline Heartworm Disease: It's More Common Than You Think

About the Course:
Feline heartworm disease is a significant risk to the health of cats throughout the United States. Although Dirofilaria immitis has traditionally been regarded as a parasite of dogs, recent research has demonstrated that feline infections are far more common than veterinarians once thought. These infections often remain undiagnosed, however, given the wide variation in clinical signs of feline heartworm disease and the challenges of obtaining an accurate diagnosis with currently available diagnostic tests. If feline heartworm infection is detected or suspected based on tests, treatment is similarly challenging. There is no single “best” treatment for heartworm disease in cats; most cases are treated symptomatically, with a guarded prognosis.

Learning Objectives
  • Describe the current range of feline heartworm disease, discussing changes in range that have occurred as a result of urbanization and climate change.
  • Identify whether or not a cat is at risk of feline heartworm disease.
  • Explain the pathophysiology and clinical signs of heartworm-associated respiratory disease in cats.
  • Compare the incidence of feline heartworm disease to other well-known feline infectious diseases, such as feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus.
  • Compare and contrast the diagnostic tests currently available for feline heartworm disease, including heartworm antigen tests, heartworm antibody tests, microfilaria tests, and imaging modalities.
  • Convince clients of the importance of feline heartworm disease and the need for consistent, year-round, monthly heartworm prevention.
  • Design a monitoring protocol for a cat with asymptomatic heartworm disease. 
  • Create a treatment protocol for a cat with clinical signs of heartworm-associated respiratory disease.