(Possibly Unjustified) Heartworm Concern

Optatus Cleary

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We give Blossom Advantage Multi for protection against fleas and heartworm, as well as a couple other things. In July we went out of town, and our neighbor watched Blossom. We didn’t ask her to apply the medication because we didn’t want to burden her or have her possibly do it incorrectly (we’re very careful about making sure it’s in the exact middle of her shoulders so she doesn’t lick it.)

As a result, we applied it a few weeks late. The other day, Blossom started coughing and looking like she had to vomit. It was the middle of the night, so we took her to an emergency vet. She stopped coughing (and started piteously meowing) as soon as we got her in the carrier.

The vet did not mention heartworm at all: he diagnosed it as a “possible hairball” and did x-rays to make sure there was no blockage. The x-rays were perfect, but I’m not sure if heartworm would even show up on x-rays.
She has not coughed at all since, and has been behaving normally. Her eating seems to fluctuate day by day, with her eating less on hotter days (we’re near Fresno, California where it’s going to be 111F this week.) She has not lost weight nor become lethargic, beyond how she normally is on hot days.

She is one year old and completely indoor, with the exception of our screened “catio.” Occasionally a mosquito gets in the catio or the house, but not often. And this is the first time we’ve been late in giving her the medication.

Any advice, especially if it is reassuring, would be appreciated!
 

Mamanyt1953

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WHAT a gorgeous tortie! As you can see, I'm both partial and a bit biased!

First, this is the season for hairballs! And they make our babies miserable until they're gone...one way or another! I'm willing to bet that the vet was right, and that's your issue. Although cats DO GET heartworms, it is far, far more unusual...even in outdoor cats who do NOT have protection...than in dogs, and is generally less debilitating. Our Jcatbird Jcatbird , who works closely with ferals, just went through this with her BJ, who has only (fairly) recently come inside. He is, I'm happy to say, doing quite well. Hopefully she will spot this, and can give you more first-hand advice!

But now you know...keep that medication updated. I know you don't want to take ANY chances with that beautiful lady!
 

Jcatbird

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I know it’s scary when our babies act different. Out of well over a hundred in the last colony from a swamp filled with mosquitos, only one cat had heart worms. The cats were exposed for a long time too! With the cat that did have them, the symptoms were prolonged coughing. It was a wheezing and extended period of coughing. I had actually noticed him feeling bad before I brought him inside but I attributed it to living a tough life as a feral. He was lethargic and just seemed unwell. Upon learning he did have heartworms, the vet had me give him
Advantage (same thing you are using) and watch him closely. I was to bring him back if be got worse. Over the next moths he had continued bouts of coughing, vomiting and weight loss. The coughing made it seem like he was having trouble breathing. BUT Recently he was retested and he had beaten the heartworms! Yay! I can’t 100% assure you that your cat does not have heart worms but one bout of coughing is really common with hairballs. I take care of a lot of kitties and we live where it is verrrry hot. Some days the kitties don’t feel as hungry or they are not as active. My AC went out and before I got it fixed, we all suffered from the heat. If you are really worried or kitty continues to cough, you can call your vet for a heartworm test. An X-ray might show them but it also might not. There are a couple of blood tests that would indicate Heartworms. It sounds like kitty is okay but a vet check is always the best way to relieve our minds. Please do keep us updated. If you get a hairball as a gift in your bedroom slipper, I want to know. ;)
 

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I'm not positive if heartworm is the same in cats as in dogs, but I'll assume it's pretty similar. It takes 6 months or more for a heartworm to mature. So missing one month won't hurt (some say you can get by giving heartworm meds once every 3 months, they say vets only came up with once a month to make it easier to remember). And even if she happened to be unprotected and was bitten by a heartworm-positive mosquito, it would take many months before you'd see symptoms.

Plus cats have somewhat of a natural immunity against heartworms so they aren't as likely to get them as dogs are.
 

fionasmom

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I have never been told by any vet locally in Los Angeles to be concerned about heartworm in any of my animals and have never treated for it. My gut level feeling is that your tortie baby did have a hair ball.

My ancient and ill GSD suddenly manifested tapeworms last month and his vet, who does not see the cats, insisted on a heartworm test before she would prescribe Interceptor. I would have bet the house on the fact that he did not have heartworms, and I was right. He literally goes outside for about 5 minutes a day now, has an indoor comfort station, and has probably not seen a mosquito (and not many are around here) in years.
 
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Optatus Cleary

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That you everyone for the replies. My wife usually applies the medication, and I asked last night if she had ever applied it after our trip. She sort of suddenly realized she had forgotten, and then started looking up symptoms of the things that it prevents against.

We put the Advantage on last night. Blossom’s behavior is perfectly normal now, except for her dislike of having the medication on (she tries to twist around to groom it off of herself. We watch her closely for about forty five minutes to make sure that doesn’t happen.)
 

Mamanyt1953

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Glad to hear that Blossom is back to normal! I, too, have a cat who despises drops, and will take off as soon as she sees me open the package. Stealth is a good quality to have.
 
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