August 2011 Issue

Diagnosis: Lungworm Infection

Routine deworming can prevent the occurence of this respiratory condition, which resembles asthma.

Each year, numerous cats are brought into to veterinary clinics throughout the U.S. showing the telltale signs of respiratory distress: labored breathing, chest constriction, wheezing and coughing. In most cases, the animal will be diagnosed with asthma, a mechanical constriction of the airways, or bronchi, the narrow network of tubes that lead directly from the trachea to the lungs. The narrowing of the airways occurs when a cat’s immune system overreacts to the presence of an allergy-producing substance, such as cigarette smoke, dusty kitty litter or pollen and responds to the presence of the allergen by releasing stimulants that cause a swelling of the tissue (mucous membrane) lining the bronchi. But while asthma is by far the most common cause of feline respiratory difficulty, veterinarians will often refrain from diagnosing it definitively until they have reviewed the results of a microscopic examination of the patient’s feces. Why? Because such a procedure could reveal the presence of lungworms in the animal’s respiratory tract — a situation that would produce asthmalike clinical signs but would require a significantly different approach to treatment.

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