Lungworm is a parasite, just like fleas or intestinal worms. The most common type of lungworm in cats (aelurostrongylus abstrusus) affects their lung tissue.
Usually lungworm is not life-threatening for cats, but elderly cats and kittens are more at risk of serious illness if they get lungworm especially if it causes a secondary infection.
Cats commonly catch lungworm from infected prey (such as birds and mice), from drinking water contaminated with lungworm or from snails and slugs. It is less common than intestinal worms in the UK. Read more about intestinal worms in our guide.
If your cat has lungworm, you may notice the following symptoms:
The symptoms for lungworm are similar to a number of conditions common in cats, so it’s best to see your vet if your cat seems unwell. They will be able to confirm the cause.
In mild cases of lungworm, your vet will be able to give your cat a worming treatment specifically aimed at lungworm which should kill the infestation.
Your cat will only need antibiotics if they have developed a secondary infection, such as pneumonia. Antibiotics alone will not kill worms.
While there’s not much you can do to prevent your cat getting lungworm, make sure you keep on top of the de-worming treatments your vet prescribes.
You can also make sure to play with your cat a lot at home, so they are less likely to go out hunting and catch animals which may give them worms. Take a look at our top tips on playtime with your cat.
If you have more than one cat and one has lungworm, speak to your vet about getting them both treated as it may have passed between them. Make sure you dispose of any soiled cat litter quickly and properly, washing your hands thoroughly afterwards. Wash any of your cat’s bedding on a high temperature to kill any lungworm eggs that may be in it.
Feline lungworm (aelurostrongylus abstrusus) cannot be passed to humans. This is the type of lungworm cats are most likely to get.
There is a much rarer type of lungworm cats can get (capillaria aerophila) which can be passed to humans, but there are very few cases of this happening.
Dogs cannot catch feline lungworm from cats.
The rarer type of lungworm, capillaria aerophila, can pass between dogs and cats so if your cat gets lungworm keep an eye on your dog and contact your vet if you think they are unwell.