Educational Articles

Cats + Infectious Diseases

  • 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.

  • Flea and tick prevention consists of a variety of products used to control flea and/or tick infestations on your pet and to prevent infestations inside the home. Fleas and ticks can be found worldwide. Fleas can live in many climate zones, but they prefer humid and shady areas, such as under leaf litter. Ticks can also live in many climate zones, and prefer humid and shady environments, especially areas with woods, shrubs, weeds, and tall grasses. Prevention is key to avoid infestations in your home, severe allergic reactions (in both pets and people), and to prevent disease. Many flea and tick preventives are available. Your veterinarian will help you find an appropriate product that works best for your and your pet.

  • Heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) are a blood-borne parasite 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.

  • Heartworms are a blood-borne parasite called Dirofilaria immitis that reside in the heart or adjacent large blood vessels of infected animals. There is no drug approved for treating heartworms in cats. Veterinarians now strongly recommend that all cats receive year-round monthly heartworm preventative in areas where mosquitoes are active all year round.

  • 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.

  • Histoplasmosis is an infection caused by histoplasma, a fungus found in moist soils and especially prevalent around the Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, and St. Lawrence Rivers, as well as the southern Great Lakes. Fungal spores are inhaled or ingested and cause infection in many sites including the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, eyes, joints, and spleen. Clinical signs can include fever, lethargy, anorexia, weight loss, coughing or trouble breathing, diarrhea, and straining to defecate. Diagnosis includes routine bloodwork, urinalysis, X-rays antigen testing, and cytology or histopathology. Treatment requires long term anti-fungal medication such as itraconazole. Prognosis is guarded depending on the severity of the symptoms. This disease is transmissible to humans, especially if they are immunocompromised.

  • Hookworms are intestinal parasites of the cat and dog. Their name is derived from the hook-like mouthparts they use to anchor themselves to the lining of the intestinal wall. In general, cats tend to harbor relatively few hookworms when compared to the large numbers found in dogs.

  • Vaccinations are important to prevent serious illness in cats. Even cats that spend 100% of their time indoors should be vaccinated. Some viruses can be carried into your home on inanimate objects such as shoes and clothing, therefore infecting your cat without her coming into contact with another animal. Rabies is deadly for both cats and humans and can be transmitted by a rabid bat that makes its way into your home. Your veterinarian is your most important resource in determining what vaccinations need to be given to your cat to keep her protected.

  • This handout is designed to give you an overview of some of the internal parasites that can infect your cat. Intestinal worms can be a serious problem in young kittens. Heartworm disease is a major life-threatening problem in dogs, and is increasingly recognized as a threat to cats. Speak to your veterinarian about the most appropriate parasite control program for your cat.

  • The Ebola virus is very contagious and is transmitted through blood, body fluids and tissues, but not through air, water, or food. Ebola affects humans, non-human primates, and is carried by fruit bats. Other species do not appear to be affected although there has been evidence of exposure to the disease in dogs, cats, and other domestic animals. Domestic animals are not believed to transmit the virus; however, there is a risk that they could transmit body fluids such as saliva on their fur to other humans. Any potential exposure to Ebola should be reported to your veterinarian who will contact the Center for Disease Control (CDC).