Oh, you're a vet?!?!

-ramblings from a cranky vet.

Archive for the tag “cat”

Think of it like this… #3

Think of it like this:

Is your cat not using the litter box? How often do you clean it? Litter boxes should be scooped daily & emptied/cleaned weekly. Would you want to use a toilet that is only flushed once a week? I didn’t think so.

Think of it like that.

*”think of it like this” (TM) is a regularly irregular purely opinion-driven piece of thought about pets and their owners pointing out the seemingly obvious*

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The Feline Upper Respiratory Infection: It snot an easy fix

Over the last few months, I have received multiple questions related to feline upper respiratory infections. Rather than address them separately, I decided to give you a nice summary here, so pay attention. It’s a complicated and frustrating problem for vets and people owned by cats alike. Here’s why.

What are the common symptoms of feline upper respiratory infections?
-sneezing
-coughing
-discharge from eyes and nose
-conjunctivitis
-oral and nasal ulcerations
-fever
-loss of appetite
-loss of energy

What organisms cause these infections?
– there are several, which is part of the reason they are so difficult to manage
feline herpes virus (rhinotracheitis)
– only survives for 18 hours outside host
– many infected cats remain carriers for life
– carriers may intermittently shed later in life at times of stress/illness
– carriers are sources of infections for other cats
– since it is a virus, antibiotics are not effective
– some say approx 1/3 of all cats are carriers of feline herpes virus
calici virus
– most cats do finally clear the virus after several months
– many do remain contagious for months even though the illness has improved
– some remain carriers for life
– the virus can remain active for up to 10 days outside the host cat
– only bleach, not normal laundering, will kill it
– since it is a virus, antibiotics are not effective
– these two viruses account for a majority of infections, close to 90%
– don’t worry- these viruses are only infectious to other cats

Other possible causes of feline upper respiratory infections include:
– mycoplasma
– chlamydophila (formerly known as chlamydia)
– bordetella
-these account for generally less than 10% of feline upper respiratory infections
-these can be responsive to antibiotics, such as doxycycline, however, doxycycline can not be safely used in young, growing animals (such as kittens), complicating the treatment even further

More crappy news:
– infections may be caused by multiple organisms, which can obviously complicate treatment/recovery
– to further complicate it, there is no simple test to determine which organism is causing the illness, and some cats are infected simultaneously with multiple organisms

OK, so how do these illnesses spread?
-airborne (sneezing, coughing)
-fomites (objects carrying the organism such as bedding, toys, grooming utensils, and your clothes and hands that have been contaminated)
-crowded conditions (such as shelters and breeders) increase the likelihood of outbreaks
-stress or illness may induce a carrier cat (herpes virus) to show signs or begin shedding again

So, why are these illnesses so common?
– they are highly contagious
– 90% are viral, so there is no direct treatment available except for time
– carrier cats with no symptoms of illness can shed the infectious organisms for months
(calicivirus) or years (herpesvirus)
– stress (changes in household including new people, pets, construction, or moving) or other
illnesses may cause carrier cats to begin intermittently shedding for weeks (herpes virus)
– some organisms (calicivirus, remember?) can last for days outside of the host on bedding, toys,
etc, and aren’t deactivated by non-bleach detergents

Why are they so hard to treat?
– weren’t you paying attention?
– 90% of them are caused by viruses so like the common cold or flu, there is no effective direct treatment other than nursing care and time
– there is no simple testing to determine what is causing the infection, so treatment has to be aimed at the most likely causes and the symptoms
– there is no easy way to determine if and when a cat has ceased shedding the organism and is no longer contagious
– generally the time of exposure to illness is 2-7 days, so in crowded situations, many cats can get sick very quickly
– active illness generally lasts 7-10 days regardless of treatment
– upper respiratory infections can result in secondary pneumonia, which can be life threatening

Well this sucks. How can I prevent an upper respiratory infection in my household?
– short answer, you can’t
– many cats become carriers (therefore infected and/or contagious) before they reach your house
– many cats that are carriers/contagious are not showing any symptoms of illness at the time of
adoption
– many cats that are carriers/contagious remain so for weeks, months, or even a lifetime, even in
the absence of obvious symptoms of illness
– there is no simple test to determine if your cat is infected, contagious, or a carrier of an
upper respiratory infection

Well that sucks too. So what can I do to prevent infection?
– short answer, again, you really can’t (have you been paying attention?)… but…
– vaccinate- herpes and calicivirus are part of the feline “distemper” vaccination and vaccinated cats are less likely to develop illness if exposed or may have less severe symptoms if they do become sick
– isolate new cats (not just obviously sick ones)- just remember, some cats are carriers for months or for life, and do not show obvious signs of illness, so this will not be 100% effective
(this is also a good idea in general- intestinal parasites are also very contagious, so until you have had an exam by a veterinarian and a stool check for parasites, you should never allow new cats to come in direct contact with other cats in the house, especially sharing litter boxes)
– wash all materials in bleach that have come into contact with a sick cat (not entirely practical or possible, considering your carpet, furniture, and hands are likely included in that)
– try to minimize stress and be aware stress or illness may cause a carrier cat to become sick again and/or begin shedding the infectious organism again, for weeks or months

Well crap. My cat has an upper respiratory infection… what should I do?
– If you have multiple cats, separate the sick cat as soon as you notice symptoms. Even though this will not likely prevent the spread of infection at that point, it may help minimize it.
– Make sure all other cats’ vaccinations are up to date.
– Have the sick cat examined by a veterinarian, especially if there is lethargy, loss of appetite, severe congestion or conjunctivitis, or coughing. While the underlying organism may not be directly treatable, many of the symptoms can be managed with medications such as anti-histamines, decongestants, eye medications, immune supplements, and appetite stimulants. Your vet may also be able to give you tips about home care (such as steamy shower therapy for congestion.) It is also smart to determine if there are signs of secondary pneumonia, which may require antibiotic treatment to prevent severe or even fatal infections. Kittens, due to their immature immune systems, are especially susceptible to severe complications due to upper respiratory infections.
– Never give any over the counter medications to your cat without a veterinarian’s recommendation. Many over the counter medications are toxic to cats. Also, cats and esp kittens require very small doses of the medications they can safely take.

So it sounds like there really isn’t any way to be positive my cat will never be exposed to an upper respiratory infection… is there any good news?
– Yes! Most cats with upper respiratory infections are able to successfully overcome the signs of illness and do not have any obvious long term health problems. But remember, some may remain carriers for months or even a lifetime. So, although respiratory infections are almost impossible to contain and prevent, in otherwise healthy cats, they are usually nothing more than annoying outbreaks (much like a common cold or flu in people) that do not impact the cat’s overall quality of life in the long run. What makes them different from the common cold and flu is the fact that many cats remain chronically infected carriers for months or years even after recovering from the signs of the infection.

I told you. It snot fun.

Mapping of the Cat Brain

Summer Dangers for Cats

While summer is often a fun time for us, it can pose some increased
risks for our pets, including our cats.  A little knowledge and
prevention can help ensure your summer is enjoyable for everyone in
your family, including your pets.
Heatstroke is a very common and deadly problem for our pets.  Cats are
more sensible about regulating their body temperature when it is hot
outside than dogs, but underlying medical conditions such as heart
disease, which may not be apparent in normal circumstances, can be
exascerbated by heat and result in obvious symptoms of distress such as
open mouth breathing.  A regular exam by your vet each year can help
detect such problems early.  Never leave your pet unattended in a car
on hot summer days because the temperature rises quickly to levels that
can be fatal.  Even more temperate weather (70 degrees) can become
dangerous in enclosed cars in very short periods of time.  If you
suspect your cat is having difficulty with heatstroke, use cool, not
cold, water to help lower the body temperature and seek veterinary care
immediately.
There are many summer activities such as gardening that also pose
increased risks to pets.  Fertilizers and insecticides may contain
ingredients that can be deadly if ingested.  Many foods grown in
gardens such as tomato plants can also pose risks if ingested.  Plants
such as lilies cause kidney failure if ingested, even in small amounts.
For a complete list of common toxic plants and foods, visit the ASPCA
website.
Many people travel more in the summer to visit friends and family.
Always be careful that your pet cannot escape and get lost during
travel.  Having a microchip implanted can also help ensure if you do
become separated from your pet that you will be more likely to be
reunited since most shelters and vet offices scan all stray animals
they encounter to determine if the owner can be located.
Cats that are allowed to roam outside have increased risks for injury
including fights with other animals and getting hit by vehicles.  In
the summer, more animals are out roaming and the likelihood of a
danerous encounter is also higher.  If your cat does go outside, make
sure it is up to date on all recommended vaccines, including the rabies
vaccine and feline leukemia vaccine to help reduce the risk of deadly
disease transmission.
White cats and cats that have been groomed/shaved are at an increased
risk of sunburn.  Even indoor cats that spend time near windows
sleeping in the sun are at risk.  Besides being uncomfortable,
increased exposure to the UV rays may also pose a greater risk of
certain types of skin cancer developing in these cats.  The ears and
nose are common areas for potential problems.  Always monitor these
areas for any changes in the skin’s appearance, including changes in
pigment color and appearance.  Sunscreen for human babies is safe for
daily use on cats and may be used in lotion or spray form.  The
waterproof varieties tend to be more resistant to grooming.
Keeping these potential risks in mind can help prevent common but
dangerous health problems in your cats so that everyone can have a safe
and enjoyable summer.

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