Cats are prone to a wide range of illnesses. But with advancements in veterinary medicine coupled with well-informed cat parents providing optimum care and attention, pet cats now live longer, healthier lives.
Taking a proactive approach to your pet’s health and well-being is very important. This can help protect your cat from serious health issues and save you money on veterinary bills down the road.
One of the best ways to safeguard your pet’s health and well-being is having a comprehensive pet health program that you and your veterinarian should work on together. This would include specific measures that should be undertaken to protect your pet from internal and external parasites, infectious diseases, and other important health issues not only during certain seasons but throughout the year.
Two of the most important health issues that affect pet dogs are Canine Parvovirus and Lyme Disease. Because of the severity of Canine Parvovirus and Lyme Disease being zoonotic (meaning it can affect both humans and dogs), many cat parents can’t help but voice out their concerns with these questions– Can cats get Lyme Disease? Can cats get Parvo?
Can Cats Get Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-borne diseases in the world. It is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. Ticks can get the bacteria when they feed on infected dogs and other hosts. Tick carriers can then transmit the bacteria when feeding on susceptible animals. Lyme disease is an important zoonotic disease, meaning it could also affect humans.
While cats can be infected by Lyme Disease, cases are more common among dogs. According to The Cornell Feline Health Center of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, “although the bacteria that cause Lyme disease is capable of infecting cats, the disease has never been seen in a cat outside of a laboratory setting.”
Global warming has resulted in tick populations migrating and spreading to many geographical locations and eventually causing more infections. The possibility of infections in pet cats is very imminent; unfortunately, the available vaccine can only protect dogs against Lyme disease. Undertaking measures to protect pet cats against tick bites remains to be the best way to protect them against infection.
Can Cats Get Parvo?
Cats and dogs are susceptible to parvovirus infection, however, they differ in the causative virus because each is species-specific. In cats, parvovirus infection is called “Feline Panleukopenia”.
What is Feline Panleukopenia?
Feline panleukopenia (FP) is a viral disease that is highly contagious and life-threatening. It’s commonly referred to as ‘Feline Distemper’, which is actually a misnomer because the causative virus is closely related to the one causing Canine Parvovirus and not Canine Distemper Virus. The virus attacks the rapidly dividing cells of the body, primarily those that are in the bone marrow, intestines, and skin. The attack on the blood cells can lead to anemia. The lack of white blood cells can eventually pave the way for secondary bacterial or viral infections. White blood cells (leukocytes) play an important role in the body’s defense mechanisms.
Which cats are susceptible to Feline Panleukopenia?
Feline Panleukopenia can be fatal in cats that are unvaccinated against the disease. Because of their developing immune systems, kittens 3-5 months old are highly susceptible to a more severe form of the infection. This is also true with cats that are pregnant and those whose immune systems are compromised. The causative virus is known to be resilient and can survive for years in the environment. Thus, the best way to protect cats against infection is by vaccination.
How do cats get infected by Feline Panleukopenia?
Infected cats can shed the virus in their urine, feces, and nasal secretions. Susceptible cats acquire the infection when they come into contact with these secretions. Fleas that fed on infected cats may also get the virus and become a carrier of the infection. Shedding of the virus by infected cats occurs within a relatively short period of time, which is about 1-2 days. Unfortunately, the virus is very hardy and can survive for up to a year in the environment. This means that susceptible cats can also become infected even if they don’t have direct contact with an infected cat. They can be exposed to the virus on contaminated surfaces and even from people who handle an infected cat.
Quarantine and isolation of infected cats are very important. Proper hygiene and sanitation should strictly be observed to prevent the spread of infection. Also, the Panleukopenia virus is very resistant to many types of disinfectants, thus, any unvaccinated cats should not be allowed into an area that has been previously occupied by an infected cat, even if thorough disinfection of the premises has been conducted.
Kittens can also get infected while they are still inside the uterus or from the breastmilk if their mother is infected. There have also been many cases in which the infection was acquired by cats that spend time in catteries, shelters, pet stores, and boarding facilities.
Symptoms of Feline Panleukopenia
Infections in adult cats are relatively mild while the more severe forms are manifested in young kittens. The common symptoms associated with Feline Leukopenia include:
- Gastrointesintal problems — Vomiting and diarrhea (which may be bloody)
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Unkempt hair coat
- Incoordination and other neurological symptoms
How Feline Panleukopenia is diagnosed?
If you notice any signs of illness exhibited by your cat, a visit to your veterinarian should be made sooner rather than later. Aside from a thorough examination, your vet may also ask you about your pet’s recent activities, such as recent contacts with other cats, if your pet is an indoor-outdoor cat, or whether your pet has spent some time in places where he can be exposed to the virus.
Your veterinarian may also find it necessary to perform certain diagnostic tests to confirm the initial diagnosis. There is a need to eliminate other potential health issues that have similar symptoms to Feline Panleukopenia, such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), Feline Leukemia (FeLV), pancreatitis, and poisoning, to name a few. Arriving at an accurate diagnosis is very important so the appropriate treatment can be given ASAP.
How Feline Leukemia is treated
Infected cats will require immediate medical intervention. Most cases will need hospital confinement. The treatment protocol will depend on the severity of the illness but the first major goal of treatment is to correct fluid and electrolyte balance.
Optimal supportive care and attention can spell the difference between life and death of infected cats. Even if your cat has recovered, there is a need to isolate him from other cats. There is a possibility that he could still be shedding the virus. You have to wait for your veterinarian’s thumbs-up before the cat can mingle with other cats in the household.
What is the best way to protect cats against Feline Panleukopenia?
Vaccination against Feline Panleukopenia is the most important way to protect cats. Early detection of signs of illness and seeking immediate veterinary attention can go a long way in improving the prognosis.