Deadly Viruses of Companion Animals

slide2-1Our dogs and cats rely on us to protect them against deadly diseases, and it is our duty to do so in order to give them the best quality of life. There are a string of deadly, yet preventable, diseases that can be easily avoided through correct vaccination and regular worming of our companion animals.

Parvovirus and gastrointestinal parasites are an example of easily prevented diseases of dogs. Parvovirus, in particular, mostly affects young pups, but dogs of all ages can become infected. The virus is easily identifiable by its blood-stained diarrhoea, persistent vomiting and severe abdominal pain. Once diseased, not many dogs survive, despite the very best veterinary attention. Despite common perception, it is not necessary to have direct contact between dogs for spread parvovirus, as it can persist within the environment and on objects for many months. The environment needs to be thoroughly cleaned with strong disinfectants to eliminate spread between dogs. Outbreaks are common in summer. Protection from parvovirus is given via vaccination initiated as a puppy, and boosted yearly.

Gastrointestinal parasites such as whipworm, hookworm and roundworm can also be deadly to our canine friends if left untreated. Symptoms of these parasites include diarrhoea, vomiting, pot-belly appearance, weight loss and dull hair coat. Blood loss can also occur and be life threatening, especially for young puppies. Diagnosis is fairly straight forward via visualising the worms in faeces under a microscope. Prevention of these parasites is through regular worming of puppies and 3 monthly worming of dogs over 6 months of age. Humans can become infected with worms from their dog, so it is very important to keep up regular worming of family pets!

Our feline friends can also contract deadly, but preventable diseases. Examples of such are feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline respiratory disease or ‘cat flu’. FIV is very similar to AIDS in humans, but is not transmissible to humans. It works by attacking and weakening the body’s immune system, making the cat more susceptible to infections and diseases that don’t affect healthy cats. Transmission is mainly via bite wounds during cat fights, but can also be transmitted through saliva when sharing food/drinking bowls. An infected mother can also pass the disease onto her kittens whilst pregnant. Early symptoms of FIP include fever, loss of appetite, lethargy and diarrhoea which can progress to weight loss, mouth and eye ulcers, chronic infections and some cancers. Eventually, the cat will succumb to an infection. Unfortunately, there is no cure for FIV, but the good news is that there is a vaccine available to aid in prevention of infection with FIV. Vaccination is recommended if your cat goes outside, even for part of the day, and comprises of 3 vaccinations 2-4 weeks apart initially, followed by an annual booster.

Feline respiratory disease, or ‘cat flu’, can affect cats of all ages with kittens being most at risk.
Interestingly, Siamese and Burmese cats are also at an increased risk. The disease is highly
contagious and can be recognised by characteristic sneezing, coughing, runny eyes and nose, loss of appetite and tongue ulcers. Fortunately, cat flu has a low death rate, but the disease is distressing and can persist for several weeks before the cat’s immune system is able to overcome it. Previously infected cats can continue to spread the disease for long periods, especially to kittens. Vaccination for cat flu is integrated into kitten vaccinations, with maintenance via a yearly booster.
Our trusted and loyal family pets rely on us to protect them against deadly and preventable diseases such as parvovirus, gastrointestinal parasites, FIV and cat flu. Please give them the best quality of life by vaccinating and worming for these diseases. For further information please don’t hesitate to contact Dr Jana’s Veterinary Centre.