Does My Coughing Cat Have Heartworms?

Karen writes: My 8 yr old indoor Siamese has had a tiny, tiny cough only in the mornings the past six months. In the morning, she just gives out a tiny one-time-cough and it doesn’t bother her at all. Would heartworm produce more coughing throughout the day? I have taken her to the veterinarian twice and X-rays of her heart look fine. I am worried that she could have a heartworm. The veterinarian tells me its very unlikely that she has a worm because we live in California and because she is primarily indoors. They did say I could give her Revolution if I wished. When trying to get it filled veterinarians are giving me different stories: it could hurt or kill my cat if she DOES have a heartworm. I am confused and am panicking because I was also told Revolution could only kill a non-adult worm. So, if Revolution could kill a worm in the early stages, I need to act fast!Actually, Karen, if your kitty does have an adult heartworm(s), the last thing you want to happen is for the heartworm to die. It is the death of the heartworm that triggers the worst, and often fatal, reactions.

That said, there are myriad conditions that could cause your cat to cough other than heartworm disease.

She is off to a good start with a healthy, problem-free physical examination. The next step is a minimum database, which starts with a Complete Blood Count (CBC), Chemistry Profile and Urinalysis. Along with those tests she should have both an antigen and antibody test for heartworms. If those results are good, but don’t give your pet’s doctor an answer, and there is no other reason not to, she should be anesthetized for a transtracheal wash/bronchial lavage. There is a very good chance that the results of this battery of procedures will give you an answer to the exact cause of her cough.

These procedures should be performed soon, before her symptoms become worse. Often, chronic coughs result in damage that is irreversible.

As for your Revolution question, I would proceed with the guidance of Pfizer Animal Health’s Technical Service Veterinarians. Your veterinarian can call Pfizer and obtain specific advice for your cat’s case. By doing so, her risk of complications may be minimized.

Unless otherwise contraindicated by your veterinarian, all cats, regardless of where they live, must be on heartworm preventive, and here’s why.

Let us know about her test results and how her cough treatment proceeds.

See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.

All cats, including Edie, need to be on a monthly heartworm preventive.
All cats, including Edie, need to be on a monthly heartworm preventive.

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