Feline Leukemia Virus (FLV) Explained

Most cat owners have heard of feline leukemia virus or seen the acronym, FELV.  Perhaps you have had a new kitten tested for the virus, maybe you have discussed the leukemia vaccination, but few have had the chance to discuss the gravity and prevalence of this incurable disease states Deborah Karpf, Hospital Manager at Galveston Animal Hospital in Galveston, TX.

Graycat_jpg_jpgViruses attack the body by taking over their cells and turning them into virus producing machines.  This can kill the cell, or potentially cause it to become cancerous by changing the cell’s genetic makeup.  “The feline leukemia virus has a particularly devastating effect to the cells that make up the immune system and help produce blood cells,” explains Dr.Christina Guillory at Galveston.  This destruction to the immune system causes the infected cat to be less able to fight off disease and infection than a healthy cat, and more likely to experience harsher symptoms and longer recovery time before being well again, if at all.  The cat’s health will become progressively worse due to persistent illness, and possible cancer or anemia.  Even with the best of care, the life expectancy of the patient is usually no more than 1-4 years from the time of infection.

The feline leukemia virus is fairly easily spread through close contact among cats because the virus can be found in the saliva, feces, blood, milk and urine of infected cats warns Dr. Guillory.  Sharing litter boxes and bowls, mutual grooming, fighting, and sexual activity can all lead to the transmission of the virus.   The incidence of this virus is rather alarming; according to the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 2.3% of the feline population in the United States is infected, with higher concentrations in areas that have large stray populations.

However, there is a bright side to this disease; the feline leukemia virus is preventable through vaccination!  The leukemia vaccine has been available for years and is very effective in stopping the virus from infecting our four-legged friends.   The American Association of Feline Practitioners advises vaccinating all kittens and at-risk adult felines, such as outdoor cats and group housing feline foster families.  Discuss with your veterinarian what the recommended preventive care plan is for your feline family.

Why all the Feline Wellness Talk?

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Feline Wellness Exam

“Each veterinarian’s primary goal is to allow your pet to have the best quality of life feasible for as long as possible.”

As the practice of medicine, both human and veterinary, has evolved over time, physicians increasingly share a philosophy of promoting wellness. But what does wellness really mean? This mindset of wellness and prevention means that doctors are looking to provide care for their patients before the worst has already happened, and put into play supportive measures that can delay, if not completely prevent the onset of illness and disease, especially those related to aging and the environment states Bush Animal Hospital in Eugene, OR. Each veterinarian’s primary goal is to allow your pet to have the best quality of life feasible for as long as possible . The tools a veterinarian has available to achieve this can range from simple regular routine examinations and vaccinations to more complex nutritional and pharmaceutical support.  Wellness examinations do not necessarily mean that your pet is going to be subjected to a barrage of complicated medical tests and treatments.

Some animals may need close monitoring of blood work, x-rays or other tests or many pets benefit simply from being physically examined, having their heart and lungs listened to and their general health assessed. Thus preventing a health issue from developing undetected. A general health assessment before surgery can help prevent complications and assure a speedy recovery. Ask your veterinarian for guidance in developing a plan for your cats health care to give you as many years as possible with your cat companions.

From Frisky to Risky: Detecting Feline Diabetes

Spotting feline diabetes is not easy. Why? If human beings with diabetes often overlook their own symptoms, imagine how difficult it can be noticing the signs your kitty may be diabetic. When it comes to noticing symptoms of diabetes in cats, recognition is even more difficult as pets lack the ability to effectively communicate how they are feeling. Any delay in diagnosis can allow the disease to advance to the point where it can cause extensive physical damage. Knowing the potential symptoms of feline diabetes is a proactive approach, ensuring your pet gets the help he or she needs before it’s too late.

Excessive Thirst

It is natural for cats to act thirsty in the hot summer months or after rambunctious exercise. However, excessive drinking throughout the day that continues for a number of days may be a sign of feline diabetes. If you notice you are fillingcalicocat_jpg the water dish more often, you should have your pet tested for diabetes. Spotting excessive thirst can not only help with early detection of diabetes, but many other diseases as well.

Excessive Urinating

If your pet is drinking more water, he or she will likely need to use the litter box to urinate more frequently. You may not recognize excessive water intake right away, as it tends to increase gradually. However, you should notice when you are changing the litter box at a greater frequency, or they may be coming in and out of the house as if through a revolving door. These are great indications that a trip to the veterinarian is warranted.

 “Sweet Breath”

Most every pet owner is accustomed to the unappealing odor of warm kitty breath. If you notice that your pet’s breath has sweetened, it may mean that his or her blood sugar levels are off. Although you may appreciate the appealing change in your pet’s breath, it could be a sign that something is amiss.

Shivering

If you notice your cat shivering even though temperatures are relatively warm, it could be a sign of hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar. This could potentially be a medical emergency. Your pet may require an insulin injection to stabilize blood sugar levels. Seek professional help as soon as possible, or your pet may suffer serious, permanent injury.

Lethargy

Cats suffering from feline diabetes may appear very tired and weak most days. If your normally active pet suddenly develops lethargy symptoms over the course of several days, take him or her to your holistic veterinarian to have their blood sugar tested.

Loss of Weight

Too much weight loss can lead to feline diabetes. If your pet is rapidly losing weight, he or she could have diabetes or a more serious illness. Take your cat to the veterinarian without delay.

Anorexia in cats

Anorexic CatAnorexia, which is a very reduced or complete lack of appetite, can be very serious in cats states Dr. Amanda Maus, at Catalina Pet Hospital in Tucson, Arizona. Decreased appetite can have many causes including fever, intestinal disease, organ disease, or cancer. In addition to whatever the primary cause of the anorexia may be, several days of not eating well can cause what is called fatty liver disease or hepatic lipidosis. Even a few weeks of just eating 25-50% less than usual can lead to this state.

Fatty liver disease, although more common in obese cats, can happen in any cat suffering from anorexia and weight loss, and is the most common type of liver disease seen in cats. Jaundice or yellowing of the skin is commonly seen with this disease. This disease can also cause significant nausea leading to more anorexia and vomiting. Affected cats are often lethargic and dehydrated as well.

Quick veterinary intervention is needed for this disease and most cats will recover with appropriate treatment. The main objective is to remedy the underlying cause as well as to control the nausea and vomiting and to provide proper nutrition. Advanced cases often require the placement of a tube from outside the neck, into the esophagus, so that adequate feeding can be provided without trying to perform oral force feeding. Daily oral force feeding can not only lead to resentment of the caretaker, but also causes worse food aversion. The feeding tube may need to be left in place for up to 2 months in severe cases. In addition to antinausea medication, the cat may also require hydration therapy, electrolyte and vitamin supplementation, and liver support medications.

As you can see, anorexia in cats can be very serious and lead to severe consequences. Daily monitoring of your cat’s food intake can make a huge difference in catching diseases early on. Unexplained weight loss in cats is never acceptable. Early intervention is not only better for the cat’s health, but also can be less costly for the owner.

The dangers of Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a serious bacterial disease that infects dogs, horses and small wildlife.  It is a life threatening zoonotic disease, or a veterinary disease that can also infect humans.  When an infected animal urinates or salivates on their environment, which may include your lawn, they leave enough bacteria to be infectious if ingested by your pets, states Mary Jean Calvi, LVT, at Pawling Animal Hospital in Pawling, NY.

Often referred to as “Lepto,” it is most often acquired through accidental ingestion of infected urine. However, the bacteria can also enter the body through open wounds, abrasions or mucus membranes in the eyes of nose.  The signs and symptoms of Lepto mimic signs of many other diseases which is why immediate diagnosis is important.  These symptoms include fever, lethargy, GI upset, loss of appetite, joint pain, nausea, excessive drinking, general malaise, jaundice, yellow foamy vomit, dark or bloody urine or unusual “accidents” in the house.

Prevention is the best medicine. Vaccinating your pet against Lepto can make a difference.  Make sure you talk to your vet about this important vaccine.