Cat Diseases: Two Infectious Illnesses You Should Know About
Felines are vulnerable to a variety of infectious illnesses, some of which are synonymous with the common cold that people deal with, while others can be deadly. Even though genetics, stress, a poor diet, and toxins in the environment can all work against a cat’s immune system and make him more susceptible to infections, many cat diseases are transferred from one feline to another through direct or indirect contact. Keeping your cat isolated from sick animals, as well as vaccinating your cats whenever necessary with the safest and most reliable vaccines, are important steps you should take to ensure he won’t become infected.
Below are two deadly infectious diseases that felines can suffer from. Understanding the symptoms and severity of these conditions is important if you are a cat owner or you plan on bringing a cat into your home.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, also referred to as FIV, is a lot like the HIV virus that afflicts people. It attacks the immune system, weakening it to the point that other bacteria and viruses can take hold to make a cat very ill. These secondary infections, not the virus itself, are what often cause a cat’s death. Cats with FIV may live for years when given appropriate treatment and ideal living conditions, but infected felines should be kept only with other FIV-positive cats or in homes that have no other cats at all, as this disease is contagious and it does cut their lives short.
FIV is primarily spread through bite wounds. This is why male cats who live outside are the most commonly infected felines. After infection, you may notice that the lymph nodes become enlarged, the coat begins to deteriorate, and the cat may suffer with persistent fevers, loss of appetite, and inflammation of the mouth, gums, skin, upper respiratory tract, and bladder.
Related: Understanding Asthma In Cats
To diagnose FIV, all your vet will need to do is run a blood test. Because the symptoms associated with it can mirror those of other conditions, a blood test is necessary to get an accurate diagnosis. Once diagnosed, there are remedies, both conventional and holistic, that can be given to a cat to try to boost the immune system and protect the body from secondary infections, but there is no cure for this disease and no remedies are guaranteed to work.
Feline Leukemia (FeLV)
Feline Leukemia Virus is also known as FeLV. Along with FIV, all cats who enter shelters are tested for this disease before they are adopted out, as these animals should not be housed with other healthy, uninfected felines.
This virus is spread primarily through saliva, but it can also be shed through the urine, feces, and nasal secretions. A mother cat can infect her kittens through her milk as well. Because it can be spread through saliva, care should be taken that cats who are infected do not share food bowls, though grooming sessions and fights that result in bites could also lead to transmission of this disease.
Typical symptoms associated with FeLV include diarrhea, constipation, anemia, enlarged lymph nodes, lack of appetite and energy, a weakened immune system, and infertility. There is also the chance that an infected feline may develop malignant masses or lymphosarcoma. Some cats, however, may not exhibit any symptoms yet still be carriers. They may be positive for the disease according to blood test results, but they can live out normal lives and still infect other cats.
There are many other cat diseases and infectious illnesses, including Herpes, Calicivirus, and Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), but FeLV and FIV are two that can be tested for easily through a blood sample. Before adopting your first cat or introducing a new cat into your established feline family, be sure you have him tested so that you can determine whether or not he can live with healthy cats.
Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. An advocate for better treatment of all animals, she enjoys producing content that educates others, helps them understand animals better, and inspires them to help, whether that means volunteering at a shelter, fostering strays, or simply giving their own pets a safe and happy home to live in.
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