What is it?
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition caused by parasitic worms living in the arteries of the lungs and occasionally in the right side of the heart
Who is susceptible to it?
Cats, dogs and other species of mammals, including wolves, foxes, ferrets, sea lions and (in rare instances) humans
How does it spread?
By bites from infected mosquitoes
Time line from exposure to signs?
Very gradually over a period of months and sometimes years.
What are the symptoms?
Cats may exhibit clinical signs that are very non-specific, mimicking many other feline diseases. Chronic clinical signs include vomiting, gagging, difficulty or rapid breathing, lethargy and weight loss. Signs associated with the first stage of heartworm disease are often mistaken for feline asthma or bronchitis when in fact they are actually due to a syndrome newly defined as Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease (HARD).  The #1 symptom appears to be sudden death.
Is there a test for it?
Heartworm infection is usually detected with a blood test to identify the adult worms.  Baby worms are identified through a different blood test.  In cats these tests are more elaborate and must be sent out to the laboratory. 
How is it treated?
There is no effective treatment for heartworm disease in cats, so it is imperative that disease prevention measures be taken for cats.
Heartworm prevention is safe, easy and inexpensive   There are a variety of options for preventing heartworm infection in cats, including monthly tablets and chewables, and monthly topicals.  All of these methods are extremely effective, and when administered properly on a timely schedule, heartworm infection can be completely prevented. These medications interrupt heartworm development before adult worms reach the lungs and cause disease.
Is there a vaccine?
Risk for humans?
Only in very rare instances.
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