"Taking Your Cat Abroad? Are They Protected Against Heartworm Disease?

"Taking Your Cat Abroad? Are They Protected Against Heartworm Disease?

Health & Safety

Cats are glorious creatures and they are pretty resilient when it comes to fending off infections, but only as long as they are well cared for and fed a well balanced diet that suits their age. However, just like people, when a cat's immune system is compromised in any way, it puts them more at risk of developing all sorts of health disorders.

The key to keeping a cat healthy and happy is to ensure they are protected against as many nasties as possible. One condition which can be life threatening to our feline friends is called feline heartworm disease and although it is rare for a cat to contract this disorder in the UK, if you are thinking about taking your four-legged friend abroad with you, it's important they be protected against heartworms.

Countries Where Cats Are More at Risk

Anywhere in the world where there are mosquitoes puts cats more at risk of being infected with the heartworm larvae because these are transmitted via a mosquito bite. The larvae travel through blood vessels before eventually settling in a cat's lungs or heart. It has to be said that cats are less susceptible to heartworm disease than dogs, but they are still at risk of contracting what often proves to be a life threatening condition.

It is only infected mosquitoes that can pass the larvae onto a cat and all too often the condition goes unnoticed. Even if a cat is kept indoors when you are away in a country where there are mosquitoes, there's no guarantee they would not be bitten by an infected mosquito that manages to fly indoors.

The Symptoms to Watch Out For

The common symptoms to watch out for include the following:

  • Excessive coughing
  • A marked loss of weight
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • A difficulty in breathing

The problem is that many of the above symptoms are often associated with other health disorders which includes asthma which means it can be quite hard for vets to correctly diagnose heartworm disease. If you have taken your feline friend abroad with you on holiday, you should always let the vet know where you went so they are aware of the fact your pet may have come into contact with infected mosquitoes and been bitten by them.

A vet would need to carry out certain tests to establish to make a correct diagnosis, but often the amount of worms are so great it is more usual for it to be done when a vet performs an autopsy and finds there are large numbers of worms in both a cat's lungs and heart.

Prevention is a Whole Lot Better Than Cure

Because heartworm disease in cats can be so difficult to first diagnose and then effectively treat, if you are thinking about taking your cat abroad, whether on holiday or as a permanent move, it is crucial you take preventative measures to reduce the risk of your pet contracting the disease.

There are two options available which includes an oral treatment that contains Ivermectin which is extremely effective when it comes to preventing heartworm infections in both cats and dogs. Another very effective option is to use a 'spot on' treatment that would need to be applied to your cat every month. The bonus being that it would also prevent them from catching fleas and ticks as well as any other intestinal parasites.

If your cat does contract heartworm disease, a vet might recommend treating the symptoms before giving your pet an antibiotic called doxycycline which has been seen to be effective at killing off the worms. The downside being that when the worms die, it can adversely affect a cat putting them at risk of experiencing an acute reaction which often leads to their sudden and unexpected death.


If you are thinking about taking your cat abroad with you, whether it's a holiday to some exotic country or a trip around Europe, you need to make sure your little feline friend is protected against heartworm disease. This is a life threatening condition that vets often have a hard time diagnosing. There is no effective treatment for cats when they contract the disorder either. In short, if you are going anywhere in the world where there are mosquitoes, you need to make sure your cat is protected by either using a spot on"" treatment or giving them an oral medication during the time you are away.


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