Lungworms are the unseen danger for cats

Cats love the great outdoors and many pet parents give their feline friends the best of both worlds. Basking in the sun by day and staying warm by the fire at night.    

However, this idyllic lifestyle can expose them to a dangerous parasite – The Lungworm.   Your cat can contract lungworm from eating contaminated infected prey - devouring part of a bird, mouse, lizard or rat that is itself infected with lungworms. Lungworm is more common in younger cats due to their inquisitive and playful nature.

But, I hear you protest, you’re so careful with what your beloved feline feasts on! That may be. Regardless, the fact is, cats prowl – even if you monitor their diet, they can still become infected with lungworm. For example, cats can even pick up lungworm by licking the trails of common garden snails infected with lungworm.

So what do lungworms do? Let us break it down for you. Infected cats shed microscopic lungworms in their droppings, which are eaten by snails and slugs.  Other small animals such as birds or rodents become infected with lungworm after eating infected snails or slugs. After a cat eats an infected animal, microscopic lungworms are released inside the cat’s stomach and then penetrate the gut wall to enter the bloodstream to be carried with the blood to the cat’s lungs. Once in the lungs, they set up shop and develop into adult lungworms that reproduce and lay eggs, which hatch and are coughed up by your cat, re-swallowed and then shed in their droppings ready to infect another snail or slug so that the cycle can begin all over again. Problem is, as the adults grow to up to 1 cm long inside your cat’s lungs, they do serious and sometimes permanent damage to their lung tissue and can even lead to death from pneumonia. How do you tell if your cat has lungworm? Well, that’s the problem – because the parasite is internal, it’s very hard to know that they’re infected until your cat’s lungs are already badly damaged. However, there are signs to look out for… As your cat’s immune system desperately tries to rid itself of the parasite, an accumulation of mucus builds up which in the end can cause blockages inside the airways of the lungs. This will often be preceded by coughing, wheezing, sneezing and nasal discharge. You may also notice that your cat might be short of breath, or struggling to breathe. Other signs such as lethargy, depression and weight loss are common.

If you notice any of the above, please consult a vet straight away. Your cat may already be suffering from a bad case of lungworm and if so, immediate treatment is vital.  Luckily, protecting your cat from lungworm is easy and effective with Advocate, once per month all year round.