In this issue you will find:
Feline Upper Respiratory Disease
Whenever many people get together, there is always the risk of transmissible or contagious disease spread. I always think of the germ factory that is school. We are already getting notices of Strep throat and head lice.
The other great example is cruise ship transmission of Norovirus, Norwalk virus or something similar. It takes only 1 person to bring something contagious to the ship and it spreads like wildfire in the wind simply by contacting common surfaces.
This principle holds true for our pets as well. Places where multiple animals frequent, like boarding kennels, doggy day cares, grooming salons, training classes and even veterinary clinics, are prime locations for transmission of contagious diseases. This is unavoidable even with great precautions taken. However, even walking down the street your dog leads with its nose and can be exposed to diseases.
We cannot live in fear of these diseases, but there are some precautions we can take as well as being prepared for problems when they happen. Keeping your pet vaccinated protects them from some of the worst diseases. Training pets to take medications can help you treat them when needed. And, having a relationship with a veterinary clinic to help you treat when needed, can help minimize the disease severity and maximize the care you can provide.
By far one of the most common problems we see in veterinary medicine is gastrointestinal disease. This is especially true for dogs. Dogs lick and eat stuff much more commonly than cats. They also board, are groomed, go to daycare and go to training much more than cats. Therefore, they are exposed more than cats.
Most causes of vomiting and diarrhea seen from these exposures are likely to be viral in nature although parasitic causes and stress must also be considered. Most patients present 2 to 7 days after exposure.
Patients tend to present with vomiting and/or diarrhea with varying degrees of severity. Some present acting normally while others present extremely depressed and dehydrated with severe bloody diarrhea.
The condition of each patient helps us determine how aggressively to work them up and to treat. Many patients are not evaluated with more than a physical examination while others are worked up with labs and X-rays to try to rule out other more serious problems. Some patients need aggressive fluid therapy and medications. Others can be treated conservatively with outpatient medications.
Overall, treatments tend to be supportive and symptomatic in nature. Just like people with Norovirus, the body must clear the virus. We can only support the body to help it in its battle.
Respiratory disease commonly occurs when nonresident dogs are housed together or interact. We all think of Kennel Cough. This is really a misnomer. Contagious canine cough would likely be a better name. Kennel Cough is best though of as a complex of contagious bacterial and viral organisms that cause a cough in dogs and to a much lesser extent cats.
These agents can spread through a kennel or home extremely quickly, just like the flu does for people. The agents are distributed very effectively by the aerisolized respiratory secretions. Canine influenza virus and Bordatella bronchiseptica are examples of Kennel Cough agents.
The hallmark of Kennel Cough is just that, coughing. These patients do not typically have other symptoms. They continue to feel generally well, want to eat, drink and play. They may get tired as the cough can keep them (and you) up all night. Some dogs vomit. This is due to a gag reflex secondary to the severe coughing. Treatments usually include antibiotics and often cough suppressants.
We carefully evaluate these patients. If they are acting sick, not eating, running a fever, or having nasal discharge, we get much more concerned about pneumonia. This spring and summer I have seen more than a few dogs that have presented with a history and symptoms consistent with Kennel Cough that present a second time a few days later with pneumonia. I suspect there is a pathogen that more commonly transitions into pneumonia.
Feline Upper Respiratory Disease
The most common problem we see in cats that have been in group situations is upper respiratory disease. These cats present with sneezing, discharge from the eyes and nose. Some are acting normally while others are very sick. As with Kennel Cough, the agents are spread in the respiratory secretions.
Most of these patients will have viral disease. The most common causative agents are Feline Herpes Virus and Calicivirus. The tendency if for the Feline Herpes Virus to be more like a human with a cold and the Calicivirus to be more like a human with the flu.
Different cats will present with different degrees of severity. Most will be sneezing. The discharge ranges from clear watery to yellow/green purulent discharge. The eyes may be red and irritated with heavy tearing to thick yellow/green purulent discharge and severe conjunctival swelling. It is not uncommon for cats to be anorexic as they like to smell what they are eating. Some cats will have ulcers in the mouth and on the tongue that are very painful. Patients with a Virulent Calicivirus may have ulcers on their skin as well.
As with humans with a cold or the flu, treatment is symptomatic and supportive in nature. The body has to clear the virus by itself. Antibiotics are given to treat the common secondary bacterial infection. Some patients need hospitalization for the supportive care. The majority can be treated as outpatients.
Herpes viruses tend to hide in the body. It is not uncommon for cats to have a recurrence of disease periodically, especially at times of stress like when they are boarded. This is similar to humans with cold sores. Some cats have chronic upper respiratory symptoms with the Herpes viruses. For these patients we often and antiviral medications.