If your cat is coughing up worms, please contact your vet immediately. Don’t waste precious time online! Coughing up worms could be a sign of heartworm — one of the most dangerous types of worms in existence today, and the deadliest type of parasite infection for dogs. While heartworm is most common in dogs, it can also affect more than 30 other species of animals such wolves, coyotes, ferrets, sea lions, and yes — cats. Heartworm can affect humans as well.
While heartworm (also spelled “heart worms”) may affect cats, humans, and other species, dogs are the parasites preferred host. It doesn’t matter where the pet lives — heartworm will thrive in just about any area of the country. In fact, heartworm cases have been reported all over the United States in breeds of all kinds. Heartworm is not specific to older or younger animals, male or female animals, or urban or rural animals.
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Dogs (and cats) can become infected with heartworms from insect bites, such as bites from a mosquito. When the mosquito bites the dog or cat, the infection is transmitted through the animal’s skin. The larvae develop in the body over a period of several months during which time they grow and migrate to the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
Symptoms of heart worms
·Abnormal heart sounds
·Abnormal lung sounds
·Enlargement of the liver
·Fluid accumulation in the abdomen
·Temporary loss of consciousness
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In the earliest stages, there are no abnormal signs of infections. In mild cases, coughing is present. In the moderate stage, you may notice coughing, exercise intolerance, and abnormal lung sounds. In the most severe cases, all of the above symptoms may be present. If the infection is severe enough, it can cause death.
Conventional Treatments for Heart Worms
There are many conventional treatments for heartworm that are highly effective. There are also many natural treatments for heartworm that may be effective in the early stages of heartworm infection. The goal for conventional treatments for heartworm is to kill all adult worms with an adulticide and all microfilariae with a microfilaricide. The American Heartworm Society offers the detailed treatment description below. Please read carefully.
Adult Heartworm Therapy (Adulticide Therapy)
There is currently one drug approved by the FDA for use in dogs for the elimination of adult heartworms. This drug is an organic arsenical compound. Dogs receiving this drug therapy will typically have had a thorough pretreatment evaluation of its condition and will then be hospitalized during the administration of the drug. Melarsomine dihydrochloride (Immiticide®, Merial) has demonstrated a higher level of effectiveness and safety than any other adult heartworm treatment previously available. It is administered by deep intramuscular injection into the lumbar muscles. For complete information on the classification and treatment for heartworm infected dogs using this product, consult your veterinarian.
The primary post-adulticide complication is the development of severe pulmonary thromboembolism. Pulmonary thromboembolism results from the obstruction of blood flow through pulmonary arteries due to the presence of dead heartworms and lesions in the arteries and capillaries of the lungs. If heartworm adulticide treatment is effective, some degree of pulmonary thromboembolism will occur.
When dead worms are numerous and arterial injury is severe, widespread obstruction of arteries can occur. Clinical signs most commonly observed include fever, cough, hemoptysis (blood in the sputum) and potentially sudden death. It is extremely important to not allow exercise in any dog being treated for heartworms. Often dogs with severe infections will also require the administration of anti-inflammatory doses of corticosteroids.
Elimination of Microfilariae
The most effective drugs for this purpose are the macrocyclic lactone (ML) anthelmintics, i.e.,milbemycin oxime, selamectin, moxidectin and ivermectin. These drugs are the active ingredients in commonly used heartworm preventives. Although their usage as microfilaricides has not been approved by the FDA, they are widely used by veterinarians as there are no approved microfilaricidal drugs currently available. It is recommended that microfilariae positive dogs being treated with these macrocyclic lactones be hospitalized for at least eight hours following treatment for observation of possible adverse reactions, including those resulting from rapid death of the microfilariae.
Circulating microfilariae usually can be eliminated within a few weeks by the administration of the ML-type drugs mentioned above. Today however, the most widely used microfilaricidal treatment is to simply administer ML preventives as usual, and the microfilariae will be cleared slowly over a period of about six to nine months. – The American Heartworm Society
Natural Cures for Heartworm
While treatments for heartworm are best administered under a vets care, some pets may be too old or too sick to undergo rigorous treatments. They may be too old for preventative medications as well. Preventative care in the form of monthly tablets, chewables, or topicals includes: Ivermectin, Macrocyclic Lactone (ML), Milbemycin, Moxidectin, and Selamectin. Natural cures for canine heartworms are not regulated, so there is literally hundreds, if not thousands, of products on the market that claim to cure or prevent canine heart worms. It’s best to speak with your vet about alternative cures or contact the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association to locate a holistic vet in your area.
About Other Types of Cat Worms
Some symptoms of cat worms are visible to the naked eye while others may be observed through your cat’s behavior. One of the most obvious symptoms of cat worms is the presence of these creatures in your cat’s stool. Your cat might have any number of parasitic worms in its feces such as the half-inch-long hookworm or a tapeworm. The length of the tapeworm may vary, but this worm has the ability to reach up to three feet long if left untreated. It may also have as many as 90 segments at its greatest lengths.
Other types of parasitic worms common to felines include: roundworm, whipworm, and heartworm. Round worms look like spaghetti while tapeworm segments look like grains of rice Hookworms, tapeworms, roundworms, and whipworms live in the cat’s intestines and the heartworm lives in the cat’s heart and in the blood vessels that lead from the heart to the lungs. If left untreated any type of cat worm can be fatal, but the heartworm is the most dangerous of them all.
In addition to finding worms in your cat’s stool, other symptoms of worms in cats include:
·Change in your cat’s appetite
·Coughing and hiccupping (due to heartworm)
·Distended abdomen kittens
·Inability to exercise
Cat worms can be found in your pet’s food, buried in your cat’s fur, around his anus, around his paws (from scratching) and it is not uncommon to find them in your cat’s ears.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent cat worms. One of the most important ways to prevent a serious cat worm infection is to have your cat screened for worms twice per year. If your cat is considered high-risk for worms, you should have him screened more than twice a year. High-risk cats typically live in condensed urban areas and they usually live in a home with more than one pet. Outdoor cats are especially susceptible to worms.
Caring for a cat with worms should be done only under the care of a vet. Most non-prescription medications don’t work. Your vet will have access to a number of cutting edge preventatives that are extremely effective against the most aggressive types of parasites such as roundworm, whipworm, hookworm, and heartworm.
It is important to keep in mind that fleas are a source of certain types of tapeworms. When a cat accidentally swallows an infected flea, the tapeworms can hatch in the cat’s intestines. These types of tapeworms can also be transmitted to humans as well. Animal carcasses such as rodents and rabbits may also contain tapeworms, so if you have an outdoor cat, it will be impossible to keep your cat away from them. You may want to rethink allowing your cat to roam around freely outdoors.
It’s also a good idea to keep your cat clean and well groomed. You should also dispose of cat feces immediately. Never leave it in piles in the litter box. Whipworm and roundworm eggs can remain infectious for years, and hookworm larvae can multiply quickly in dirty litter boxes.
If you notice any of the symptoms of cat worms listed above, please contact your vet immediately.