Dirofilarioses in cats: European guidelines from the ABCD on prevention and management

Maria Grazia Pennisi, Séverine Tasker, Katrin Hartmann, Sándor Belák, Diane Addie, Corine Boucraut-Baralon, Herman Egberink, Tadeusz Frymus, Regina Hofmann-Lehmann, Margaret Hosie, Albert Lloret, Fulvio Marsilio, Etienne Thiry, Uwe Truyen, Karin Möstl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


OVERVIEW: Dirofilaria immitis and Dirofilaria repens are the most important filarial worms, causing heartworm disease and subcutaneous dirofilariosis, respectively. D repens is currently considered an emerging zoonotic agent in Europe.

LIFE CYCLE AND INFECTION: Filarial worms infect mainly dogs, but also cats, ferrets, wild carnivores and humans. The life cycle involves an intermediate mosquito host. Compared with dogs, cats are imperfect hosts for dirofilarial worms. After inoculation, only a low number of L3 larvae develop to the adult stage in a small percentage of cats. Heartworm disease in cats may be associated with severe pulmonary thromboembolism and an eosinophilic inflammatory response in the lungs, potentially leading to sudden death. Otherwise self-cure occurs in most cases after 18-48 months. Subcutaneous dirofilariosis may present as subcutaneous nodules or dermatitis.

DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT: Diagnosis in cats is more difficult compared with dogs and needs a multistep approach (antigen and antibody tests, as well as diagnostic imaging). Cats with acute heartworm disease require stabilisation within an intensive care unit. Cats with respiratory signs or suggestive radiographic changes should receive prednisolone and follow-up with a similar multistep approach. Adulticidal therapy is not safe in cats.

PREVENTION: In endemic areas cats should receive year-round chemoprophylaxis from 2 months of age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)442-451
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Feline Medicine and Surgery
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Animals
  • Cat Diseases/prevention & control
  • Cats
  • Dirofilaria immitis
  • Dirofilaria repens
  • Dirofilariasis/prevention & control


Dive into the research topics of 'Dirofilarioses in cats: European guidelines from the ABCD on prevention and management'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this