Coughing is the most common sign of a lungworm infection, however, it can be difficult to diagnose and symptoms are similar to those seen with other lung conditions or hairballs. Lungworm infection can cause severe coughing, weight loss, lethargy and sometimes death, especially in kittens, older cats and cats with weakened immune systems, and can be extremely debilitating if left untreated. Infected cats can shed infective larvae for up to two years, contaminating the environment and increasing the risk of infection to other cats.
An Australian study¹ found that 16% of cats from a Melbourne shelter were infected with lungworm. But unfortunately, this is a parasite that often goes undiagnosed, with a recent survey² revealing that only 16% of vets felt confident diagnosing and treating feline lungworm. In addition to this low awareness of lungworm amongst vets, many cat owners are not aware of the effects of lungworm or how dangerous it can be.
What are the signs of lungworm infection?
Symptoms of lungworm are typically most severe between 6 and 13 weeks after infection when large numbers of eggs are produced by the adult female worms in the lungs. Common symptoms include:
- Coughing – persistent cough, often with bouts of intense coughing
- Wheezing, sneezing
- Open-mouthed abdominal breathing
- Nasal discharge
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
How to prevent lungworm
- The key to preventing lungworm is to prevent hunting behaviour in cats – ensure they have plenty of mental stimulation, a complete and balanced diet, fit bells on their collar, and keep cats inside when possible, especially between dusk and dawn.
- Regularly clean up cat faeces in the environment to reduce infection of snails, slugs, mice and rats, frogs, lizards or birds, which act as hosts for the parasite.
- Use a preventative product, like Advocate, regularly and as directed.
How do cats get lungworm?
Cats typically become infected with lungworm when they eat an animal infected with microscopic lungworm larvae, such as a snail, slug, mouse or rat, frog, lizard or bird. However, they may also become infected from the mucus trail left behind by a snail or slug crawling over their water or food bowl. After swallowing contaminated food or water, or an infected anima, lungworm larvae arrive in the cat’s gut, burrow through the gut wall and migrate to the lungs. In the lungs, the larvae mature into adult worms, reproduce and the females lay eggs that hatch into microscopic larvae. These larvae are coughed up, swallowed and shed in the faeces of the cat.
How to treat lungworm
Treating and preventing lungworm in cats is easy with Advocate, Australia’s most thorough all-in-one parasite protection.
- Advocate is the closest thing to a vaccine against Australia’s most common parasites
- Protects against intestinal worms as well as deadly heartworm and lungworm
- Also provides fast relief from fleas and protects against ear mites
- Easy-to-use spot-on treatment applied monthly
- For cats and kittens from 9 weeks old
1. JAVMA, Vol 235, No. 1, July 1, 2009, p48
2. The Advantage Family Feline Lungworm Survey – July 2015, 86 participants