Your cat is a constant source of entertainment and companionship, and you want to ensure they are not stricken by any infection that could cause distress. Our team at Urgent Pet Care Omaha wants to educate you on infectious diseases that could affect your cat, and measures you can take to protect your four-legged friend.

#1: How does feline leukemia virus affect cats?

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is a highly contagious viral infection that is transmitted through an infected cat’s saliva, nasal secretions, urine, feces, and milk. All cats are susceptible to FeLV, but kittens, cats who are suffering from another illness, and cats living with an infected cat are at higher risk. A cat who is infected by FeLV can be affected in several ways. FeLV is the most common cause of cancer in cats, who may develop a blood disorder or an immune deficiency that inhibit their ability to fight off other infections. Signs exhibited by cats affected by FeLV include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Poor coat condition
  • Fever
  • Inflamed gums and mouth
  • Diarrhea

No cure is available for FeLV, and treatment focuses on managing signs and secondary infections. Cats suffering from FeLV can live relatively normal lives for prolonged periods.

The best way to prevent your cat from infection is to ensure they are not exposed to potentially infected cats. Keep them indoors, and supervise them if they go outdoors. Test any new cats for FeLV before bringing them home. An FeLV vaccine is available, but protection is not 100 percent, and preventing your cat’s exposure is still their best protection.

#2: How does feline immunodeficiency virus affect cats?

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is a viral infection that attacks an infected cat’s immune system. This makes the cat susceptible to other infections from bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi that would not typically cause problems. Transmission usually occurs through a bite by an infected cat. Affected cats can go months or years without showing signs, but all will eventually suffer from immune deficiency. Cats with FIV will go through three stages:.

  • Acute phase — This phase typically occurs one to three months after infection. The virus goes to the lymph nodes, resulting in temporary enlarged lymph nodes, fever, decreased appetite, and depression. Signs may be subtle, and owners often miss this phase.
  • Latent phase — During this phase, which can last months to years, the virus replicates slowly in the immune system cells. No outward signs will be exhibited during this time.
  • Progressive phase — As the disease progresses, the cat will become immunocompromised, resulting in chronic or recurrent infections targeting the skin, eyes, urinary tract, and upper respiratory tract. Severe dental disease is common in affected cats, who are also at a higher cancer risk. Weight loss, behavior changes, and seizures may be observed. Once the cat begins showing significant illness, they usually will live only a few months.

No cure for FIV exists, and treatment focuses on preventing and managing secondary infections. Also, no FIV vaccine is available, so ensuring an infected cat does not bite your cat is the only way to prevent infection.

#3: How does feline infectious peritonitis affect cats?

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a viral disease caused by certain feline coronavirus strains. Usually, feline coronavirus is found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and results in only mild disease. However, in about 10 percent of cats infected by the GI feline coronavirus (i.e., feline enteric coronavirus), the virus mutates and infects white blood cells, which spread throughout the cat’s body. This condition is feline infectious peritonitis. An inflammatory reaction occurs around the vessels in tissues where infected cells settle, usually the abdomen, kidneys, and brain. Two FIP forms affect cats.

  • Effusive form — Also known as the wet form, cats affected by this form typically first exhibit general signs, such as decreased appetite, weight loss, lethargy, and fever. As the disease progresses, fluid accumulates in the abdomen and chest cavity. Your cat may develop an obvious pot-bellied appearance, and may have difficulty breathing. 
  • Non-effusive form — Also known as the dry form, cats affected by this form also typically first show general signs, such as decreased appetite, weight loss, lethargy, and fever, and may exhibit incoordination and seizures. The non-effusive form tends to progress more slowly than the effusive form.

Currently, no Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved treatment is available. FIP is managed through supportive care, including fluid therapy, drainage of accumulated fluids, and blood transfusions. Since no vaccine is available to prevent FIP, infection from the feline enteric coronavirus must be prevented. This can be difficult because the virus is pervasive and can live in your cat’s intestine for years before mutating. Kittens and cats living in high density catteries are at higher risk. Keeping your cat healthy by ensuring they are current on their vaccines and they do not contact sick cats decreases their likelihood of FIP infection.

Your cat deserves protection from these debilitating illnesses. Preventing them from contacting sick cats, or cats whose health status is questionable, can help safeguard your pet from becoming sick. If your cat is experiencing an emergency, do not hesitate to contact our team at Urgent Pet Care Omaha.