Snail It Isn’t So?

When you think of young cats you think fluffy, cute, and mischievous. So when we saw Scout, a 1-year-old cat, who did not want to play or run we knew something was wrong.

After being placed on a special diet her original symptoms of lethargy and vomiting seemed to wax and wane over the next 2 months. When she presented 2 months later she was thin, vomiting frequently, dehydrated, and was breathing rapidly. Radiographs of her chest looked like a snow storm from all the inflammation in her lungs. Possibilities where asthma, cancer, or a fungal infection but an ultrasound ruled out signs of a primary tumor in the abdomen.

Chest Radiograph

The next diagnostic procedure was a transtracheal wash. Scout was anesthetized and a small tube was put down her endotracheal tube (the tube we place to carry anesthesia and oxygen to her lungs). A small amount of sterile saline was put into the tube and sucked back out. This picks up the cells and mucous that is down the airways so it can be examined under the microscope and cultured for bacteria. The sample was sent to our diagnostic lab. It was quite a surprise when the pathologist called the next day and told us there were lung worms in the sample!


Lungworms in cats are very rare in Colorado. The cat needs to ingest an infected snail or bird/rodent who has eaten an infected snail.

Scout was treated with the appropriate medication, along with steroids to reduce the inflammation in her lungs. Within one week she was feeling much better. At her most recent check-up, Scout was running around the house playing and she was no longer vomiting. The follow-up radiographs are about 75% improved and we are hoping for a complete recovery. Scout is now a happy and mischievous kitten.