Lungworms in Cats

Lungworms in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Most common symptoms

Anemia / Coughing / Depression / Lethargy / Loud Breathing / Noisy Breathing

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Rated as moderate conditon

9 Veterinary Answers

Most common symptoms

Anemia / Coughing / Depression / Lethargy / Loud Breathing / Noisy Breathing

Lungworms in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Jump to section

What are Lungworms?

The worms enter the cat by being ingested. Once in the intestines, the worms find the cat’s bloodstream and travel to the lungs. This journey takes approximately 8 or 9 days. The worms mature in the lungs and lay their eggs in lung tissue and airways. After the larvae hatch, they travel up the trachea, where they are swallowed by the cat and flushed through the digestive tract. About 40 days after the initial infection the larvae exit the cat through its feces. While in the lungs, these worms have a tendency to cause infection and damage tissue, primarily in the lower respiratory tract. Veterinary assistance is needed to eradicate a lungworm infestation.

Lungworms are hair-shaped worms that generally range from one to four centimeters in length. The females are significantly longer than the males. Two species of this worm are able to infect cats. Aelurostrongylus abstrusus , also known as Feline Lungworm, is the most common lungworm found in cats.Eucoleus aerophilus (sometimes called Capillaria aerophila) is a lungworm found in both cats and dogs. These worms were at one time thought to rarely affect cats, but after recent study, it is believed over five percent of all cats carry lungworm. 

Lungworms Average Cost

From 506 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

Symptoms of Lungworms in Cats

Many cats show no symptoms when infected with lungworms. In young cats, cats with weakened immune systems, and in cases of extreme infestation, the following symptoms may be seen: 

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Mouth breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Bronchitis
  • Tracheitis
  • Bacterial pneumonia
  • Emphysema
  • Nasal discharge
  • Rapid heart rates
  • No interest in play
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Anorexia
  • Emaciation
  • Fever
arrow-up-icon

Top

Causes of Lungworms in Cats

Cats contract lungworm mainly from hunting and exploring outdoors. Adult worms can live for over 9 months in a hospitable environment. Both types of lungworm have different ways of entering the cat.

Aelurostrongylus abstrusus

These worms infect slugs and snails. Cats come in contact with the worms by eating any small animal (birds, rodents, amphibia or reptiles) that feed on affected slugs and snails. 

Eucoleus aerophilus

  

This type of worm mainly infects earthworms and rodents. The larvae spread from these hosts and live in small water pools. A cat can contract these worms from eating infected rodents or drinking contaminated water. 

arrow-up-icon

Top

Diagnosis of Lungworms in Cats

Upon arrival at your veterinary clinic, the vet will request your cat’s full medical history. Then, a physical exam will be performed. The vet will take note of any symptoms that match signs of lungworm. The most common way to confirm an infection of lungworms is to test the cat’s feces for the presence of larvae. As it takes over a month for the larvae to pass through the cat, sometimes multiple fecal exams may be required. 

In some cases, a tracheal wash may be done to find larvae that have traveled to the trachea from the lungs. X-rays can be done to evaluate the condition of the lungs and to rule out any other causes of lung problems. A bronchoscopy may be used to get a visual on the cat’s airways. Often, the diagnosis may be made after a round of antibiotics has had no effect on the condition of the cat. It is important to note that in the case of kittens, a diagnosis needs to be made fast as the infection can be life-threatening. 

arrow-up-icon

Top

Cannanine

Treatment of Lungworms in Cats

Lungworms can generally be eliminated through extensive treatment with medications. Your veterinarian will recommend the best type for the cat’s specific infection.

Deworming Medication 

Many deworming medications are available for prescription through a veterinarian. To ensure all lungworms are exterminated, often the medication will be needed for up to two months. 

Antibiotics 

If the cat has developed a secondary infection from the lungworms, such as bacterial pneumonia, antibiotics will be prescribed for 2-4 weeks.

Corticosteroids 

If any inflammation has occurred due to lungworm infestation,corticosteroids may be used to decrease it. 

If the infestation is not severe and the cat is in good condition, the vet may suggest to monitor the cat and allow it to naturally eliminate the worms. 

arrow-up-icon

Top

Recovery of Lungworms in Cats

Most cats make a full recovery from a lungworm infection. Kittens are at a higher risk for developing complications from lungworms that can become life threatening. If secondary infections have progressed, they need to be managed immediately before they become a threat to the cat. 

If at all possible, keep your cat indoors to prevent the possibility of infection. If a cat cannot hunt, the chance of it contracting lungworms is almost nonexistent. Maintain a regular deworming schedule through your vet. Clean the cat’s litter box daily, and disinfect it often. It is rare that lungworm can spread to humans, but not impossible. 

arrow-up-icon

Top

*Wag! may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Items are sold by the retailer, not Wag!.

Lungworms Average Cost

From 506 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

arrow-up-icon

Top

Lungworms Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

question-icon-cta

Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

Dewey

dog-breed-icon

domestic short hair

dog-age-icon

4 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

We have been feeding a male feral cat for about 3 years. He is very shy and cannot be approached except when feeding we can stand by him. He has recently developed a cough, and his coat looks unhealthy, and his eyes look somewhat bleary. He is probably 3 or 4 years old. He is still eating, although his appetite seems a little less. We could probably trap him in a cage, although at this point it would be very traumatic. Is there any way we could get anti-biotics or Revolution possibly to treat him without catching him?

May 5, 2018

Dewey's Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

1611 Recommendations

Without having a veterinary examination to see what is wrong with him, you won't be able to get medications, no. There are over the counter flea medications available without a prescription, but for medical treatment, we can't treat animals that we don't see, unfortunately. Antibiotics and Revolution may not be what he needs. If you have a mobile veterinarian in your area, that may be an option to have him seen and determine what is wrong with him. I hope that he is okay.

May 5, 2018

dog-name-icon

Zephyr

dog-breed-icon

Domestic shorthair

dog-age-icon

7 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

thumbs-up-icon

1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing
Wheezing
Coughing And Wheezing

My 7 year old formerly feral cat has developed a constant cough that produces nothing. I thought it was a hairball problem when it started months ago but now it is throughout the day. Her breathing is fine otherwise. No weight loss, no vomiting, no stool issues, nothing being spit up, no eating issues (she is a little overweight.) He stays inside but was on my small back porch for 5 minutes with me once in the Fall. She used to have some type of mild, short seizures but the vet thought that they were mild and infrequent enough to be considered Well Managed. She also had a Calici infection when her colony was rescued (25 cats living along the Chicago River) and brought to a shelter. Other than that, no issues. She is not current on vaccinations.

Feb. 9, 2018

Zephyr's Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Without examining Zephyr, I am not sure what might be causing the cough. Cats can be affected by bronchitis, asthma, and tumors in their chest. It would be best to have her examined by your veterinarian, as they will be able to assess her breathing, determine what the source of the cough may be, and prescribe appropriate medications. I hope that everything goes well for her.

Feb. 9, 2018

dog-name-icon

Petey

dog-breed-icon

Cat

dog-age-icon

6 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing
Coughing
Rapid Breathing

My cat has been breathing rapid and shallow. It’s kind of noisy too & when you pick him up it sounds bad like he is loudly sighing. Sometimes he has a little cough. He is 6 months old. He has previously been treated for worms... intestinal and lung. I’m wondering if it’s lung worms or he has an URI.

Jan. 30, 2018

Petey's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Without examining Petey I cannot say whether there is a recurrence of lungworms or if there is another cause like respiratory tract infection or another cause; in this instance given the rapid shallow breathing and apparent discomfort when being picked up you should have your Veterinarian examine him to determine a cause so that treatment can be given. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Jan. 31, 2018

dog-name-icon

cezar

dog-breed-icon

dog

dog-age-icon

6 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

thumbs-up-icon

1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Rapid Heartbeat
Panting
Shortness Of Breath
Lythargic

my chiquaqua has the symptoms of lungworms that are described in cats. i took him to the vet and was given chlorpheniramine for allergies and theophylline and was told he has bronchitis but its not getting any better. could it be lungworms

Dec. 3, 2017

cezar's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Lungworms in dogs is becoming a bigger problem than it was in the past and should be considered along with other causes; allergies, infections, heart failure, parasites among other causes should also be considered in these cases. Speak with your Veterinarian about lungworms and the use of fenbendazole (effective against the common lungworms in dogs). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Dec. 3, 2017

dog-name-icon

Sirius

dog-breed-icon

chinchilla x ragdoll

dog-age-icon

6 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing
Loud Breathing
Coughing
High Temperature
Rapid Breathing

I've taken my cat to the vet with a cough, high temp and rapid breathing, he was diagnosed with a upper respiratory infection. I was given a week of antibiotics and anti inflammatories however we have finished the course and his symptoms have returned. Nevertheless I do not believe that it was a URI as he does not have runny eyes/nose, he is not lethargic and still has an interest in his his food. Personally I believe it to be feline lungworm and we have had an infestation in our garden and he often drinks from puddles ect. I cannot afford xrays for him but want to treat him for this, what can i do?

Nov. 26, 2017

Sirius' Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Lungworm should be considered in cases of respiratory distress in cats; treatment is relatively straightforward with a variety of different products, selamectin is a good product to give and should be part of your parasite control program in your home. Please see the links below. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM http://veterinarymedicine.dvm360.com/gasp-why-worry-about-feline-lungworms www.msdvetmanual.com/respiratory-system/lungworm-infection/overview-of-lungworm-infection

Nov. 26, 2017

Lungworms Average Cost

From 506 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

Cannanine