Educational Articles

Infectious Diseases

  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a virus specific to the cat family. It was first recognized in the mid 1980's and it has been found in cats worldwide. Although widespread, it is not a common infection in cats. Only 1-5% of cats show evidence of exposure to the virus. In some cats exposure to the virus leads to clinical signs and symptoms that result in deficiency in the immune system.

  • FIP is associated with a viral infection called feline coronavirus. There are many different strains of feline coronavirus, which differ in their ability to cause disease. Feline enteric coronavirus strains can mutate to the more harmful type of virus and cause FIP disease. Many of the clinical signs of FIP are vague and occur with other diseases found in cats. Most cats will develop the wet or effusive form of FIP, which refers to the accumulation of fluid in body cavities; fluid may accumulate in the abdomen. Unfortunately there are no laboratory tests available that can distinguish between the enteric coronavirus and the FIP-causing strains.

  • Feline leukemia virus is a virus that infects cats and can cause a variety of diseases in addition to leukemia. It suppresses the immune system and makes cats susceptible to infections and disease, including causing cancers. It is transmitted between cats through the exchange of bodily fluids, although usually an extended period of contact is necessary. It is easy to diagnose, but there is no cure for it. There is a vaccine available that is recommended based on a cat's lifestyle and risk factors.

  • The term panleukopenia means a decrease in the number of all of the white blood cells in the body. Feline panleukopenia virus is present in all excretions, particularly the feces, of infected cats. Cats typically experience depression or listlessness which may progress to collapse. Vomiting and diarrhea are frequent and the diarrhea may contain blood. Dehydration and secondary infections can easily occur. Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses, but are helpful in controlling the secondary bacterial infections that commonly occur. Vaccination is important to protect cats from this destructive virus.

  • Giardiasis is an intestinal infection in humans and animals, caused by a microscopic protozoan parasite. The parasite occurs worldwide and is a common cause of "Traveler's Diarrhea" in people. Outdoor enthusiasts who inadvertently consume contaminated water may develop "beaver fever", which is another name for giardiasis in people.

  • Heartworms are a blood-borne parasite called Dirofilaria immitis that reside in the heart or adjacent large blood vessels of infected animals. Recent studies of cats with heart and respiratory diseases have found an incidence of heartworms that is far greater than previously thought. Veterinarians now strongly recommend that all cats receive year-round monthly heartworm preventives in areas where mosquitoes are active all year round.

  • Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease. It is caused by a blood-borne parasite known as Dirofilaria immitis. Adult heartworms may live up to five years and, during this time, the female produces millions of offspring called microfilaria. You can prevent your dog from getting heartworms by using a heartworm preventive.

  • Hepatozoonosis is a disease caused by a protozoan (a small, microscopic organism) known as Hepatozoon. There are two species that cause hepatozoonosis, Hepatozoon canis and H. americanum, and there are differences in the course of disease and treatment depending on which species is the cause of the disease. Both species are spread by ticks; the most effective method to prevent hepatozoonosis is the regular use of an effective tick prevention.

  • Canine herpesvirus or canine herpes is a systemic, often fatal disease of puppies caused by canine herpes virus. It may remain latent in tissues after a dog is infected and may be passed on to other dogs, particularly to fetuses developing in the mother's uterus. Clinical signs in puppies include difficulty breathing, nasal discharge, anorexia, soft stools, crying, seizures, and sudden death. Symptoms in adult dogs include coughing and sneezing, miscarriage, lesions on the external genitalia, conjunctivitis, and corneal ulcers. Disease may be prevented by avoiding contact with infected dogs. Pregnant dogs should be isolated to prevent infection.

  • Feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR) is an infectious disease caused by feline herpesvirus type-1. It is a major cause of upper respiratory disease in cats, and is the most common cause of conjunctivitis. The typical symptoms of FVR involve the nose, throat, and eyes, and include sneezing, nasal congestion, conjunctivitis, excessive blinking, squinting, and discharges from the eyes and nose that range from clear and watery to thick and purulent (containing yellow/green pus). Treatment consists of supportive care, hydration of the environment, and control of secondary bacterial infections with antibiotics and antibiotic eye medications. An effective vaccine exists and is recommended for all cats.