by Traci Raley
Kitten season is upon us again! That became evident to me last week when my husband brought home an orphaned kitten that he found at the job site where he was working. It was good timing though. Our other cats are all over the age of 8, and we had been threatening for awhile to bring home a new kitten to chase them around and keep them on their toes! Because it’s been awhile since we’ve had a kitten in the house, I decided to do some reading to refresh my memory on kitten healthcare and vaccinations.
Vaccinations protect cats and dogs against some nasty viral diseases, and can also protect their caregivers against unnecessary vet visits and large vet bills down the road. The three most common vaccines for kittens are rabies, FVRCP, and FeLV. By keeping up with your kitten’s vaccination schedule, these are some of the diseases you are protecting her against.
This one is probably the most important, as rabies is zoonotic (it can be passed to humans) and is almost always fatal. The rabies virus is passed through the saliva of an animal that is already infected, usually through a bite or open wound. The virus then enters the nerves where it travels to the brain and then the salivary glands. If your pet becomes infected with rabies, you will first notice changes in his or her behavior, followed by hyperactivity and unprovoked aggression. This will soon progress into paralysis, respiratory failure, and death. Recognizable symptoms include difficulty swallowing, excessive salivation, and paralysis in the back legs. There is no known cure for rabies.
2. Rhinotracheitis (Feline Herpesvirus)
Rhinotracheitis is one of three viral infections covered by the FVRCP vaccine. It is caused by a strain of the herpesvirus that is unique to felines. Infection with this virus leads to a highly contagious upper respiratory disease that can be spread to other cats by direct contact or sneezing. Symptoms can include sneezing, watery eyes, discharge from the nose and eyes, and fever.
3. Feline Calicivirus
This virus is also covered by the FVRCP vaccine. Like the feline herpesvirus, it causes a severe upper respiratory tract infection, but it can also cause ulcers to form in your cat’s mouth. It is transmitted by direct contact.
4. Feline Panleukopenia
Panleukopenia is the third disease that is covered by the FVRCP vaccine. This disease is caused by the feline parvovirus, which is similar to the parvovirus that infects dogs. This virus will cause vomiting, anorexia, foul-smelling diarrhea and dehydration.
5. Feline Leukemia
The FeLV vaccine is usually only recommended for outdoor cats or cats who are likely to come in contact with the virus, as it can only be transmitted through close contact. Symptoms of the disease can include anorexia, weight loss, anemia, diarrhea, and kidney problems. Cats with feline leukemia need to be housed separately from other cats. There is no cure for feline leukemia, but symptoms can be managed with anti-viral and other drugs.
More information on these vaccines can be found at http://www.petmd.com/cat/centers/kitten/health/evr_ct_kitten_vaccination_schedule, or by contacting your veterianarian.
Common Diseases of Companion Animals by Alleice Summers, 2002, ISBN 0-323-01260-4