A study was conducted to assess the duration and the outcome (self-cure or death) of feline heartworm infection and the life expectancy of infected cats. To be included in the study, cats had to be positive for heartworm antibody (Ab) and heartworm antigen (Ag) and had to demonstrate the presence of worms by echocardiography. Self-cure was defined as (1) negative for heartworm Ag and (2) no further visualization of worms by echocardiography. Of the 1962 eligible cats, 364 (18.5%) were positive for heartworm Ag and 131 were positive for heartworm Ag and for echocardiography diagnosis (prevalence 6.7%). None of the cats was microfilaremic. Of 43 asymptomatic cats included into the follow-up study with owners' consent, 34 (79%) self-cured and nine (21%) died. Eleven (26%) cats remained asymptomatic and self cured within 21-48 months, 23 (53%) showed symptoms but self-cured within 18-49 months, 6 (14%) died within 8-41 months of follow-up and 3 (7%) suddenly died after 38-40 months, which was related to heartworm infection. The probability for death or sudden death increased significantly with age at diagnosis, but no difference was detected by gender, survival time after diagnosis, or the presence or absence of symptoms. The presence/absence of symptoms showed significant interaction with the age at diagnosis (i.e., symptomatic cats showed increasing duration of heartworm infection along with age at diagnosis compared to that for asymptomatic cats. Heartworm-infected cats survived significantly longer than heartworm-negative cats affected by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, chronic renal failure, or neoplastic diseases.
Feline heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) infection : a statistical elaboration of the duration of the infection and life expectancy in asymptomatic cats / C., Genchi; L., Venco; N., Ferrari; M., Mortarino; Genchi, Marco. - In: VETERINARY PARASITOLOGY. - ISSN 0304-4017. - 158:3(2008), pp. 177-182. [10.1016/j.vetpar.2008.09.005]