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Cats + Infectious Diseases

  • Flea and tick prevention consists of a variety of products used to control flea and/or tick infestations on your pet and to prevent infestations inside the home. Fleas and ticks can be found worldwide. Fleas can live in many climate zones, but they prefer humid and shady areas, such as under leaf litter. Ticks can also live in many climate zones, and prefer humid and shady environments, especially areas with woods, shrubs, weeds, and tall grasses. Prevention is key to avoid infestations in your home, severe allergic reactions (in both pets and people), and to prevent disease. Many flea and tick preventives are available. Your veterinarian will help you find an appropriate product that works best for your and your pet.

  • Heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) are a blood-borne parasite that reside in the heart or adjacent large blood vessels of infected animals. Recent studies of cats with heart and respiratory diseases have found an incidence of heartworms that is far greater than previously thought. Veterinarians now strongly recommend that all cats receive year-round monthly heartworm preventives. There are excellent heartworm preventives now available for cats, making prevention of heartworm disease safe and easy.

  • Heartworms are blood-borne parasites that reside in the heart or adjacent large blood vessels of infected animals. There is no drug approved for treating heartworms in cats and surgical removal is generally the best option. Veterinarians now strongly recommend that all cats receive year-round monthly heartworm preventative in areas where mosquitoes are active all year round. Cats that live in colder areas, where mosquitoes are seasonal, should be given monthly preventives for at least six months of the year.

  • Feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR) is an infectious disease caused by feline herpesvirus type-1. It is a major cause of upper respiratory disease in cats and is the most common cause of conjunctivitis. The typical symptoms of FVR involve the nose, throat, and eyes, and include sneezing, nasal congestion, conjunctivitis, excessive blinking, squinting, and discharges from the eyes and nose that range from clear and watery to thick and purulent (containing yellow/green pus). Treatment consists of supportive care, hydration of the environment, and control of secondary bacterial infections with antibiotics and antibiotic eye medications. An effective vaccine exists and is recommended for all cats.

  • Histoplasmosis is an infection caused by histoplasma, a fungus found in moist soils and especially prevalent around the Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, and St. Lawrence Rivers, as well as the southern Great Lakes. Fungal spores are inhaled or ingested and cause infection in many sites including the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, eyes, joints, and spleen. Clinical signs can include fever, lethargy, anorexia, weight loss, coughing or trouble breathing, diarrhea, and straining to defecate. Diagnosis includes routine bloodwork, urinalysis, X-rays antigen testing, and cytology or histopathology. Treatment requires long term anti-fungal medication such as itraconazole. Prognosis is guarded depending on the severity of the symptoms. This disease is transmissible to humans, especially if they are immunocompromised.

  • Hookworm is a parasitic infection of the gastrointestinal tract of cats. Their name is derived from the hook-like mouthparts they use to anchor themselves to the lining of the intestinal wall. How the infection is spread along with clinical signs, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention are covered in this handout.

  • Idoxuridine is an antiviral topical medication used to treat viral infections of the eye, such as feline herpesvirus-1 in cats. Idoxuridine comes as eye drops or can be compounded by your veterinarian into an eye ointment. Give as directed. Side effects of idoxuridine include eye irritation. Pregnant women should NOT handle this medication.

  • Imidocarb dipropionate is an injectable medication that is administered by a veterinarian to treat babesiosis in dogs. It is also used off-label to treat other protozoal infections in dogs, cats, and horses. Most common side effects include mild drooling, tearing, vomiting, or nasal drip. Do not use in pets with exposure to cholinesterase-inhibiting drugs, pesticides, or chemicals. If a negative reaction occurs, please call your veterinary office.

  • Vaccinations are important to prevent serious illness in cats. Even cats that spend 100% of their time indoors should be vaccinated. Some viruses can be carried into your home on inanimate objects such as shoes and clothing, therefore infecting your cat without her coming into contact with another animal. Rabies is deadly for both cats and humans and can be transmitted by a rabid bat that makes its way into your home. Your veterinarian is your most important resource in determining what vaccinations need to be given to your cat to keep her protected.

  • This handout outlines common internal parasites in cats. Included are parasites of the gastrointestinal tract (roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms), as well as parasites of the circulatory system (heartworms). How each of these parasites can affect your cat and what you can do to prevent or treat infection are explained.