With many new adorable kitties gracing our doors it’s important to consider the importance of testing for FIV/FELUK.
Mrs. Jones stands next to the exam table with an adorable orange tabby kitten named “Tigger” and explains that it has been sneezing for the past few days and not eating as much. While completing a physical exam, I ask if this kitten has been tested for FIV or FeLV? A concerned look crosses Mrs. Jones face as she asks what these are, and how such a thing could affect her “Tigger”. It is important to know what these viruses are and how they can affect not only your cat, but those it comes in contact with. I will start by explaining a little about each virus.
FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) is in the same virus family as HIV, but cannot affect people. About 1.5 – 3% of healthy cats and 15% of sick cats are affected. The virus is most commonly contracted from cat bites and is occasionally passed from a mom to kittens as they nurse. Infected cats may seem normal at first, but immune suppression makes them more susceptible to other viral, bacterial, protozoal, and fungal infections. Fever and enlarged lymph nodes may occur intermittently.
FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus) is in the same virus family as FIV, but acts a little differently. It can affect 2-3% of healthy cats and 13% of sick cats. This virus is shed mostly in saliva and nasal discharge, but also in urine, feces, and milk. It can be transmitted by cat bites, but also by cats grooming each other or even sharing litter boxes or food/water bowls. It can be passed to kittens in the uterus or while nursing. Kittens are more susceptible than adults. FeLV is the most common cause of cancer in cats. It also causes blood disorders and suppresses the immune system.
FIV and FeLV are most often diagnosed with an antibody SNAP test. If an infected cat has kittens, they may test positive when they are young but negative as they get older and maternal antibodies have left their immune system. Further testing can be done to ensure that a positive antibody test is accurate. If one cat in a household if found to be infected, any remaining cats should be tested.
Prevention of FIV and FeLV is primarily by eliminating exposure. This can be done by keeping cats indoors and only adopting cats that have tested negative. There is a vaccine for FIV, but use of this vaccine is controversial because it only protects against certain strains and cats that are vaccinated may test positive in the future. FeLV vaccines are often recommended in cats that test negative, and the FeLV vaccine will not cause cats to test positive.
There is no cure for either of these viruses. Many stray cats that test positive are euthanized regardless of current health status due to the risk of spreading the viruses. Testing cats for FIV and FeLV and vaccinating for FeLV play a major role in overall control measures and protecting cats like “Tigger” from these viruses.
We are pleased to announce our newest Flea & Tick product- Bravecto.
A chewable product for dogs that lasts 3 months!
Vaccines are Crucial for Your Pet’s Health
Almost every pet that goes to the vet gets them. Some are required by law, some are a staple in veterinary medicine, and others may be controversial. Most pet owners accept them as necessary or at least beneficial, but few fully understand how they work. That’s right, I’m talking about vaccines.
This is a topic that has brought much confusion and frustration to pet owners, but it is one that pays to be knowledgeable about. Here I will focus mainly on dogs and cats. Questions about vaccinating horses, livestock, and other species should be directed to your veterinarian.
Puppies start getting vaccines at six weeks, an age when maternal antibodies are fading from blood circulation. Though these antibodies protect young puppies, they also render vaccination before six weeks ineffective and pointless. Puppies commonly get a series of four vaccinations, each three weeks apart, that protect dogs against Distemper, Parvovirus, Adenovirus (Hepatitis), Parainfluenza, Leptospirosis, and Coronavirus. These pathogens can make young dogs go from happy and healthy to severely sick or may even lead to death.
Before vaccinations, kittens are commonly tested for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia (FeLeuk). These are viruses that are transmitted by blood or saliva contact with an infected cat or in the womb, and they can severely suppress the immune system. If a young kitten tests positive, it is recommended to retest at six months of age in case of a false positive from maternal antibodies. Kittens still testing positive at six months are sometimes euthanized due to the risks of illness and transmission. These cats may live healthy lives for a while, but should be isolated from other cats if they are kept and are more likely to succumb to infections. If they test negative they can be vaccinated against FeLeuk as well as Panleukopenia, Rhinotracheitis, and Calicivirus; viruses that commonly affect the respiratory and digestive tract of cats. They get their first shots at 6-9 weeks of age and typically receive a series of three shots, once every 3-4 weeks.
Both puppies and kittens can get their first Rabies vaccine at 12-15 weeks of age. This is the one vaccine that is required by law. In North Carolina, dogs and cats must be revaccinated in one year, then every three years. They start over with a one-year vaccine if there is a lapse. Depending on the region and disease risk, most other vaccines are repeated annually or every three years.
A common misconception is that animals are protected instantly after vaccination. In reality, vaccines introduce a small amount of pathogen that triggers the immune system to design specific antibodies to attack that pathogen if it is encountered again. This process can take up to three weeks, so it is best to keep them away from unvaccinated or sick animals until three weeks after they are fully vaccinated.
I hope this has clarified some of the practices of vaccinating your pets, and that you will help us keep your pets happy and healthy.
Spring is in the air, finally. Days are longer, flowers are coming up, and I have had the privilege of seeing more puppies at the vet clinic for their routine health checks and vaccinations. During a rough day at work, there is nothing that makes me smile like a big ol’ box of healthy puppies. Unfortunately, I have also seen a lot of puppies with parvo, and concerned owners have been asking questions.
A lot of people know about parvo, but few understand how canine parvovirus attacks and how to fight back. There are some simple and inexpensive precautions to prevent puppies from getting it. There are also treatment options that can help a puppy pull through if it contracts the virus.
Canine parvovirus is transmitted by fecal contamination. Whether this involves a healthy puppy waking through an infected dog’s poop or the virus is carried home on someone’s clothing or shoes, the result is the same. Parvo can survive in the environment of seven months (or more if frozen). Signs of illness are typically seen 3-14 days after exposure. Predisposed breeds include Doberman pinchers, Labrador retrievers, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Pit Bulls. The virus can only be killed with bleach or a few select cleaners.
Recognizing the signs of parvo is important to early diagnosis and treatment. Typically, the first sign is lethargy or decreased activity followed by loss of appetite. As the virus takes its course, it starts to damage the intestinal lining, leading to vomiting and bloody diarrhea. This can cause severe dehydration, hypovolemic shock, and even death. If caught early and treated appropriately, these puppies have a good chance of recovery.
Parvo can be diagnosed with a SNAP antigen test using a fecal swab, a process that takes about ten minutes. Once diagnosed, it is recommended that the puppy be hospitalized in an isolated area to receive intravenous fluids, medication for vomiting/nausea, and antibiotics to prevent secondary infection. Careful monitoring and supportive therapy is often successful, but many cannot afford this type of treatment. In these cases, veterinarians and staff can work with owners on an individual basis to design the best possible home care plan.
Prevention really is the best medicine, and the best prevention comes in the form of a series of vaccinations. It is best to have these done by your veterinarian to ensure proper vaccine handling and administration, but they can be purchased elsewhere. Unvaccinated dogs are shown to be twelve times more likely to become infected. It is important to keep young puppies away from unvaccinated or sick puppies until they are fully vaccinated. This includes parks and stores where pets are welcome. If you have come in contact with a sick puppy, be sure to change clothing and wash hands thoroughly before handling another puppy.
Parvovirus certainly takes its toll on many puppies every year, but with the right knowledge, prevention, early diagnosis, and appropriate treatment, I hope we can see many more healthy puppies and far fewer sick ones.