Respiratory distress associated with lungworm infection in a kitten.
Case summary: A 5-month-old feral kitten developed worsening respiratory signs, including tachypnea, coughing and wheezing after standard anthelmintic treatment with fenbendazole at a local shelter. The kitten was referred to the University of California, Davis, William R Pritchard Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital for further evaluation. Thoracic radiographs revealed a severe diffuse bronchointerstitial pattern with bronchial cuffing, ill-defined nodules and lymphadenomegaly. Differentials included infectious etiologies such as toxoplasmosis, feline infectious peritonitis and cryptococcosis. Parasitic infection was considered less likely, owing to previous anthelmintic treatment. Bronchoalveolar lavage revealed marked neutrophilic and eosinophilic inflammation, and parasitic larvae were observed in a swab of trachea mucus. PCR confirmed the larvae as Aelurostrongylus abstrusus. The kitten recovered with two more rounds of anthelmintic treatment. Relevance and novel information: Parasitic pneumonia should be considered as a cause of respiratory distress in kittens and cats. Lungworm infections have been more commonly reported in free-roaming young and adult cats, but cannot be excluded as a differential diagnosis in cats from varied environments and in kittens. Kittens appear to be especially sensitive to lungworm infections, manifested by the development of more severe clinical signs; thus lungworm infection should always be considered when presented with a kitten in respiratory distress. In the absence of cytologic confirmation of infection via bronchoalveolar lavage or oropharyngeal swab, PCR provides a valuable means for identification of lungworms, such as A. abstrusus and Troglostrongylus brevior.