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Disease Information

It's a simple truth - throughout its lifetime, your cat will be exposed to bacteria, viruses, and parasites that may cause diseases, some of them serious and life threatening. And though nobody knows your cat better than you do, it can't let you know what's wrong if it isn't feeling well. Fortunately, many diseases of cats can be prevented, treated, or controlled. Understanding your role in keeping your pet in the best shape possible starts with understanding the most common threats to its health. You and your veterinarian can discuss the best ways to prevent or control them, and you'll want to work together to put develop a comprehensive, ongoing health program for your feline friend.


What Are They? Fleas are common parasites. Adults feed on warm-blooded animals, including humans, causing irritation and, in some instances, allergic reactions. They can also transmit certain diseases. During the immature stages of its life cycle, the flea can hide in bedding, carpeting, and shaded areas. A flea infestation may become apparent only when people realize they've been bitten.

What Are the Signs? Flea bites causes itching and may cause inflammation of the skin called Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD). You should also look for signs such as black specks on your cat or in your cat's bed. Also, your cat may become nervous or annoyed and will scratch excessively if infested with fleas.

How Can Flea Infestations Be Prevented? Use of an approved product like FRONTLINE®(fipronil) will kill fleas that are already on a cat and prevent fleas from reinfesting your animal. Once a flea infestation is serious, a number of control measures may be required, including the use of appropriate flea control products in indoor and outdoor pet areas, frequent cleaning of pet bedding and blankets, vacuuming, and sanitizing.


What Are They? Ticks are parasites, called ectoparasites that attach themselves to a host animal (including humans) to feed on the animal's blood. Ticks may transmit serious, even fatal, diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, and cytautzoonosis.

What Are the Signs? Symptoms of tick-borne diseases include fever, anemia, lethargy, depression or general flu-like symptoms.

How Can Tick Problems Be Prevented? Use of a tick-killing product like FRONTLINE as directed.

Rabies: A Fatal Disease that Affects People, Too

What Is It? Rabies is a generally fatal viral disease that affects the central nervous system and can infect all warm-blooded animals. The disease is zoonotic, which means it can be transmitted to humans bitten by an infected animal. People exposed to rabies must undergo an immunization regimen.

What Are the Signs? Changes in behavior that can include uncharacteristic restlessness, aggressiveness, agitation, shyness, and paralysis.

How Can Rabies Be Prevented? Vaccination by your veterinarian.

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) : A Virus Responsible for Several Potentially Fatal Diseases

What Is It? Feline leukemia virus son one of the most prevalent causes of feline cancer. Exposure to FeLV isn't necessarily cancer-causing, but rather it weakens the immune system. Therefore, with FeLV cats become more susceptible to other diseases (both bacterial and viral). The disease is highly contagious among cats (although it can't be spread to humans). It is spread through contact with infected saliva, urine, feces and milk. Sharing food bowls and even grooming an infected cat can expose a healthy cat to this potentially fatal disease. Even if the cat doesn't show any signs of disease, it may carry and transmit the disease the rest of it's life.

What Are the Signs? Anemia, weight loss, diarrhea, blood in the feces, respiratory problems, excessive drinking and urination. Cancerous tumors can occur in some cats and can interfere with respiration or digestion, cause kidney disease, or affect the central nervous system.

How Can Feline Leukemia Virus Be Prevented? Vaccination. There is no cure for FeLV, but symptoms can be treated and remissions of varying lengths of time can be achieved.

Feline Panleukopenia (FPV): Sudden Onset, High Mortality

What Is It? Feline panleukopenia, or distemper, is caused by a highly contagious and potentially fatal virus, especially in kittens. Even though vaccination has effectively controlled feline panleukopenia (FPV), the disease is still occasionally seen in cats and kittens, particularly those that come from animal shelters. The disease is often seen in wild, unvaccinated cats. The main way cats become exposed to FPV is by eating the feces of an infected cat.

What Are the Signs? Rapid onset is one of the main characteristics of this disease. Loss of appetite, fever that drops dramatically in late-stage disease, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, and dehydration. Pregnant cats with panleukopenia will lose the pregnancy or have stillborn kittens.

How Can Feline Panleukopenia Be Prevented? Vaccination. The outlook for young kittens who develop FPV is poor - up to 90% do not survive.

Feline Respiratory Complex (FVR, FCV, FPN): "Cat Flu" that Can Be Fatal in Kittens

What Are They? Feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), feline calicivirus (FCV), and Chlamydia are responsible for upper respiratory infections known collectively as upper respiratory disease complex or "cat flu." FVR and FCV cause 80-90% of cat flu cases and are spread from cat to cat by contaminated litter boxes and water bowls or contact with infected fluids such as saliva, nasal secretions, and eye discharge.

What Are the Signs? FVR is characterized by inflammation of the cat's eyes, nose, or windpipe; discharge from the eyes or nose; lethargy; fever; loss of appetite; and constant sneezing. The symptoms of FCV include runny nose; more serious symptoms are tongue ulcers, excess salivation, weight loss, poor physical appearance, and a refusal to eat.

How Can Respiratory Diseases in Cats Be Prevented? Vaccination. Treatment consists of keeping the eyes and nasal passages clear, keeping the cat warm in a quiet environment, using antibiotics if appropriate to control any secondary infections, and force feeding the cat if it will not eat or drink water.

Other parasites

What Are Some Other Important Parasites of Cats? Common gastrointestinal parasites called hookworms can weaken cats of any age.

What Kinds of Problems Can They Cause? Gastrointestinal - weight loss and diarrhea are common signs.

How Can These Problems Be Prevented? Proper sanitation can limit the incidence of hookworm-related problems. Use of an appropriate deworming program as directed can control hookworms.