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Four Fatal Feline Diseases

Four Fatal Feline Diseases By Dr. Bethany Hsia, Co-founder of CodaPet

Cats are unique creatures who’s idiosyncrasies never seem to end. It’s no wonder cat memes and videos are such a welcome reprieve from a stressful day. Unfortunately, our feline friends can suffer from some pretty serious illnesses; illnesses that often eventually result in euthanasia. Here are four fatal feline diseases: 1. Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) FeLV is a retrovirus and one of the most common infectious diseases affecting cats. It is spread through saliva, urine, and other bodily fluids and young cats seem to be more at risk for FeLV infections than their older counterparts. Cats who are infected with FeLV may not show signs for months or even years. However, FeLV is the leading cause of feline cancer and it can also lead to anemia. When cats begin to show signs of an FeLV infection they may be quite severe and include progressive weight loss, recurrent infections, lethargy, and persistent diarrhea among others. Unfortunately, there is no cure for FeLV, but there are good tests and vaccination can prevent cats from contracting the virus. Rarely, some cats are able to clear the infection from their system completely, but most continue to carry the virus and may pose a risk to FeLV negative cats. If your cat has been diagnosed with FeLV, it is important to speak with your veterinarian to determine whether or not further testing is needed as well as the best course of action to prevent spread to other cats and how to vigilantly monitor for illnesses. 2. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) FIV is another common retrovirus that attacks the immune systems of cats. FIV has commonly been referred to as “feline AIDS” due to similarities to HIV; but the viruses cannot be spread between cats and humans. FIV is spread through bite wounds and scratches from infected cats and so requires close cat to cat contact. Cats who are infected with FIV progress through three stages with varying clinical signs. First is the acute phase and is characterized by mild signs such as fever, lymph node enlargement, depression and inappetence. Because this phase is transient and mild it is often unnoticed. Next is the latent or asymptomatic phase in which the virus replicates but not much is seen outwardly. This phase can last for months to years. The third stage is characterized by immunocompromise and signs can vary widely depending on what and where secondary infections occur. There is no cure for FIV, but many infected cats can live long and happy lives in the absence of co-infections and the presence of vigilant monitoring and access to veterinary care. Testing for FIV should be done upon acquiring a new cat before introducing them to existing feline family members. 3. Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) FIP is a condition resulting from the mutation of feline coronavirus after it has infected a cat. Feline Coronavirus (FeCV) has several strains, many of which do not cause any serious illness. Approximately 1 in ten cats infected with FeCV will experience mutation(s) of the virus leading to FIP. Young cats are at greater risk for contracting FIP with an increased risk for cats in shelters or others living in high density situations. Signs of FIP usually start nonspecific such as, lethargy, inappetence, fever, etc. The condition progresses into either the “wet” form or “dry” form of FIP and can switch between the two. Dry form FIP often progresses to neurologic signs such as seizures or ataxia while the wet form leads to fluid accumulation within the chest and abdominal cavities. There is no cure for FIP, and treatment options are limited to supportive and symptomatic care with most cases resulting in euthanasia to prevent further suffering. Although, a potential new treatment using an antiviral drug is being explored and has yet to be approved by the FDA. 4. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) Adequate kidney function is important for many of life’s processes; from filtering waste products out of the blood to creating urine, and even playing a role in making hormones that stimulate the production of red blood cells. CKD occurs when a cat’s kidney function declines over time and sadly, it is a common condition among senior cats. Signs of kidney disease can include a general unkempt appearance, increased thirst and urination, anemia, and inappetence with subsequent weight loss. There is no cure for CKD so treatment options are pointed at management of the disease and support of the kidneys; these may include dietary changes, fluid therapy, and medications to mitigate hypertension, protein loss, and anemia. In most cases, the disease eventually progresses to a point where euthanasia is recommended to prevent further suffering, although the time frame it takes to reach this point can vary greatly. In-home cat euthanasia is an option for providing a peaceful passing Euthanasia is not an easy decision for any pet parent to make. However, in cases where a cat’s disease process has advanced such that their quality of life has significantly declined, euthanasia may be the kindest option. In-home cat euthanasia is an option to provide a peaceful passing for cats in surroundings that are familiar and comforting to them. This can help reduce stress for both the cat and the pet parents during an already difficult time. The practice of in-home euthanasia is growing with more veterinarians specializing in this area of veterinary medicine everyday. This article is intended to provide information regarding common feline diseases and is not meant to diagnose, treat, or otherwise provide veterinary care. Please schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss the proper care for your cat.

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