Calicivirus, herpesvirus, FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus), FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis), FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus), and Feline Panleukopenia are serious viral infections particular to cats. Fortunately, some of these illnesses can be prevented with vaccines.
These viral infections of the upper respiratory system can lead to serious complications if not treated. Extremely contagious, they easily spread from one cat to another and are thought to cause 80 to 90 percent of infectious feline upper respiratory tract disease.
- Symptoms: Sneezing, runny eyes and nose, fever.
- What to do: If your cat shows symptoms of calicivirus or herpesvirus, seek veterinary care promptly. Most cases can be treated successfully, though kittens are at greater risk for severe cases. Once infected, many cats carry the virus for life and can infect other cats. That's all the more reason to prevent this disease by getting your cat vaccinated, and keeping it away from unvaccinated cats.
This virus suppresses the immune system, allowing normal bacteria to cause severe infections.
- Symptoms: No early symptoms. Like its human counterpart, HIV, FIV can lie dormant for years before surfacing to cause serious health problems.
- What to do: There is currently no cure for FIV, and no vaccine to prevent it. Kittens and cats can be tested for the virus at any age. The best way to protect your pet is to keep it indoors, and have all cats tested before they join the household, even for a visit.
Similar to FIV, this virus also suppresses the immune system, paving the way for infections and cancers. (Contrary to its name, FeLV is not itself a form of cancer.)
- Symptoms: No early symptoms, as with FIV.
- What to do: FeLV can't be cured, but it can be prevented with a vaccine. Immunization is especially important for pets who are allowed outside or who live in multi-cat homes.
This virus causes severe gastroenteritis (inflammation of the digestive tract). Panleukopenia is highly contagious and can be deadly if not treated promptly.
- Symptoms: Severe listlessness, loss of appetite. Possible diarrhea, vomiting, and fever.
- What to do: Get your cat vaccinated; the panleukopenia vaccine is highly effective and has greatly reduced the incidence of this disease. If an unvaccinated cat -- especially a kitten -- shows any symptoms of panleukopenia, seek veterinary care immediately.
Continued on page 7: Uncommon But Serious