Home | A Cats Guide | A Dog Guide | Pet Info | FAQ | Gallery | How You Can Help | Contact


Lungworms in Cats – Symptoms Diagnosis and Treatment


Lungworm is a type of parasite that affects a cat’s respiratory tracts. It afflicts the cat when the cat eats an insect or rodent carrying it or afflicted with it or drinks water contaminated by its larvae. It is more common in younger cats that get seriously infected. The most common kinds of lungworms afflicting cats are Capillaria aerophila & Aelurostrongylus abstrusus. There is another type of lungworm known as lung fluke or Paragominus which is found near lakes and infest crayfish, snails, etc., or the rodents that eat them.

How Cats Become Infected with Lungworms

Both types of lungworm affecting the cats are transmitted in different ways. Capillaria aerophila infests the cats directly when they eat an insect or rodent infected with the larvae of lungworm. Drinking contaminated water can also infest the cat with this parasite.

Aelurostrongylus abstrusus affects the cats indirectly with the help of an intermediate host. This intermediate host may be snails or paratenics such as birds and rodents. The larvae can grow and reproduce only asexually on the intermediate hosts. It is only in the final host (i.e. your cat) that the parasite can reproduce by exchanging genetic materials. Once the cat is ingested by this lungworm’s larvae, it finds home in the walls of the intestine from where it reaches the lungs. Once in the lungs, it grows, reproduces and lays eggs. These eggs are then swallowed and passed out via the feces or coughed up.

These parasites affect the cat by injuring the airways and lung tissues by inflamating them.

Symptoms of Lungworms in Cats

The symptoms of lungworm depends on the type of parasite that ails the cats as well as the intesity of infestation. If the cat has a mild infection, it is likely that it might not show any symptoms at all. However, in case of a severe infection, the cat will be spotted coughing, shortness of breath and being very lazy. In addition, it will also lose weight and exhibit an intolerant behaviour. In case of complications, it could even result in interstitial emphysema, pulmonary edema and secondary bacterial pneumonia.

Diagnosis of Lungworms

While diagnosing lungworms medically, a few tests need to be carried out. The veterinarian will need the medical history of the cat and perform a complete medical check up which will include lung auscultation. Normally the fecal examination is the main diagnosing test which finds larvae of lungworms in the feces. The main symptom of lungworm is coughing, however, coughing can be caused by a number of other ailments. Thus, to make sure, other tests are carried out. These tests include thoracic radiograph, bronchoscopy, complete blood count (CBC), respiratory secretions’ examination and heartworm test.

Treatment of Lungworms

The treatment carried out after the diagnosis will be determined by the veterinarian which will most probably be an anti-parasite drug. Normally hospitalization is not needed and if it is, it will be for a very brief period. In cases of extreme infection, anti-inflammatory medicine may also be prescribed for a period of 3 to 10 days. This will increase the thirst, appetite and also urination of your cat.

Home Care for Lungworms

The only way you can keep your cat safe and away from such worms is to monitor and control their whereabouts if they are allowed to go outdoors. However, during treatment they must be kept indoors and in a hygenic environment. Follow up is also needed to make sure that the parasite has been completely eliminated. This includes a chest X-ray and fecal examination after 2 to 4 weeks of treatment.

In case, the ailment has been ignored, it may result in permanent lung scar tissues. If these scars have changed the lung tissues to a greater extent, then, residual cough will be noticed.