Core feline vaccines:
- Feline calicivirus
- Feline rhinotracheitis
Non-core feline vaccines:
- Feline leukemia
Feline Respiratory Disease (Feline rhinotracheitis, feline calicivirus, chlamydia psittici and bordetella)
Feline rhinotracheitis (FVR) and feline calicivirus (FCV) are the two main causes of upper respiratory tract infections in cats. Although cats of any age can be infected, the young appear to be at greater risk. Clinical signs of infection include sneezing, nasal discharge and discharge from the eyes. Some cats with FVR cough could develop a severe eye condition called ulcerative keratitis. Cats with FCV can develop ulcers in the mouth, pneumonia, diarrhea and joint disease. Although most cats recover within 2 to 4 weeks, it is quite common for cats to become chronic carriers of these viruses, putting other cats at risk. Because these viruses are common in many areas, vaccination is highly recommended.
Chlamydia psittici is a parasite that is thought to be responsible for some upper respiratory tract infections in cats. It can lead to a severe form of lung disease if left untreated. Chlamydia psittici can commonly cause chronic conjunctivitis in cats. Outbreaks of Chlamydia psittici are common when cats are housed together.
Feline panleukopenia is a hardy virus as it is able to survive up to a year in the environment. Clinical signs include fever, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. It most often occurs in unvaccinated kittens most commonly between 3 to 5 months of age. If the virus attacks an unborn fetus, it may cause early death or cerebellar hypoplasia (“spastic kitten”). Most older cats exposed to this virus do not show clinical signs. An infected cat may be infertile. A cat may also abort her litter if infected during pregnancy.
This virus is spread via contact with an infected kitten or by contaminated premises, food or water bowls. Most veterinarians consider vaccination for panleukopenia mandatory. Thanks to vaccination, this disease is now uncommon.
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is capable of causing a number of diseases in cats. Lymphoma (lymphosarcoma) is the most common form of cancer caused by this virus. Although a number of forms of this cancer are possible, the most common ones involves the intestines or the chest. Clinical signs may include vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss (if the intestines are involved) or breathing difficulties (if the chest is involved). Any organ in the body can be affected.
Feline leukemia virus can also cause anemia, and can make a cat more susceptible to other viral and bacterial diseases. Any cat with a history of fever of undetermined origin, or an illness that comes and goes, should be tested for this virus.
The incidence of FeLV is highest in multi-cat households (lots of contact between cats) as the virus is spread via saliva and other body secretions (tears, blood, urine). Cats that mutually groom, share food and water bowls, litter pans, etc. are at higher risk. “Social” outdoor cats that meet and greet other cats, mutually groom or fight are also at risk.
A blood test is available to test for infection with this virus. Not all “positive” cats will become sick with the disease. Some cats are able to produce a good immune response and overcome the virus. Others are not and will develop FeLV associated disease or cancer, usually within 3 years.
If your cat tests positive for FeLV, it is important that your cat not roam free, as the virus is highly contagious. Such a cat is prone to developing serious complications from other viral or bacterial diseases, so any time the cat does not appear well (has a fever, doesn’t eat), you should contact your veterinarian.
If a cat in your household dies of Feline Leukemia, the household should be thoroughly disinfected (especially the litter boxes, food and water bowls, bedding, toys). It is best to wait at least one month before introducing another cat to the household.
If you own more than one cat, if you have a cat that roams outdoors or is very sociable and likely to come into contact with other cats, or if the background of your cat is unknown (adopted from the shelter, etc.) Your cats may be at a high risk for exposure to this virus. Speak to your veterinarian about testing your cat’s blood for this virus.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
Feline Infectious Peritonitis is a Coronavirus. The disease is not common and it occurs most often in cats that are:
- 6 months to 2 years of age and in those that are older than 11 years of age
- in multi-cat households (especially catteries)
- in cats that are infected with Feline Leukemia or Feline Immunodeficiency Viruses
- in cats whose immune system is compromised
The virus is spread by contact with an infected cat (feces, saliva, blood, urine). Prolonged exposure to an infected cat is usually necessary for transmittal of the disease.
Clinical signs of FIP take time to develop. There are two forms of the disease, a wet and dry form. The wet form, results in fluid build-up in the abdomen or chest. The dry form, results in granulomas (lumps of inflammatory tissue) in multiple organs of the body. Infected cats will often exhibit weight loss, fever and loss of appetite.
Although treatment is available to make infected cats more comfortable, the disease is inevitably fatal.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is capable of causing a number of diseases in cats in a similar manner to FeLV virus. It is most common in male and free-roaming cats. Transmission is usually by a bite wound.
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