Monika Potočki (president) Animal Protection Association "Spirit"
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The Rainbow Bridge

Contagious Cat Diseases


Contagious cat diseases are common, dangerous, often life threatening, but rarely diagnosed with 100% certainty. This because clinical symptoms are mixed, and tests for their detection are relatively expensive.

People adopt cats and do not know whether the cat is already infected. Due to long incubation periods at first the cat seems to be healthy. Should there already be others cats at home, problems arise. Before you adopt a cat, please consult your vet.

Below you will find a description of the most common contagious cat diseases.

Feline Panleukopenia

Feline Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper) is a virus disease, caused by the DNA virus from the family of Parvoviridae viruses. The disease is very contagious, and is commonly transferred by infected cats and carrier cats. The disease is transferred by contact, body excrements and objects, whereby it is stated that also fleas may mechanically transfer the disease. The virus comes into the organism through epithelia of the digestion tract as well as skin lesions (flea bites). Infections of small kittens are rare, they are most common by 3-4 months old cats and by older cats. Grown-up "street" cats are almost always immune. Infections with clinical symptoms after successful recovery are rare.

The virus concentrates in the intestinal epithelia, the liver, the spleen, the bone marrow and the lymph nodes. The Leukopeniasystem gets damaged rapidly, so that Leukopenia (diminished number of white blood cells – most responsible for the defense of the organism) incurs. This causes weakening of the immunity response and the bacteria of the digestive tract increases, which on the other hand causes Enteritis (intestinal inflammation).

Incubation lasts 4 to 10 days, whereby the course of the disease varies, from rapid to very mild. In case of a rapid course the animal will die very soon, so that it may appear that the animal was poisoned. In case of acute form the cat has fever 40-40.6 °C, is throwing up (liquid or gall colored slime), is weary, the back is arched, suffers hard pain when touched in the abdomen, has diarrhea (often bloody, can however not appear). A relevant symptom is Panleukopenia (diminished number of all kinds of white blood cells), which comes together with fever. Cat’s urine is meager and has a very strong scent. Also Stomatitis can be visible. In some cases the mortality can be 100%.

A trustworthy Diagnose can be made fast and easy with the ELISA Test.

Treatment is symptomatic (Therapy with liquids, Antibiotics, Antiemetic).

At the end, the most important is the Prophylaxis: VACCINATE YOUR CATS.

Feline Leukemia

Cat Leukemia is a contagious virus disease, which most commonly manifests through building of separate tumors in different body regions. The disease is caused by the Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), a RNA virus from the family of Retroviridae viruses, sub-family Oncovirinae viruses.

The virus is transferred by contact (saliva or nose liquids), most commonly between cats that eat and drink from same bowls. Transfer by urine, faeces or air is rare (the virus can not survive long in outer environment). Infection can go also through placenta, milk or during coupling. Cat Leukemia is spread worldwide, whereby most commonly 1 to 6 years old male cats, which live outdoors, get infected.

The virus multiplies at the entry point into the organism and than travels with blood further to all organs and body systems. Depending where the virus has multiplied at most, the clinical appearance varies from anemia, leukemia, tumors on different organs, problems with the respiratory system (Rhinitis, Bronchitis, Pneumonia), problems with the digestive tract (throwing up, diarrhea), Glomerulonefritis.

At first the owner shall notice not typical signs: the cat is not eating, losses weight, is calmer than usual.

Diagnose is made with specific tests.

Treatment is symptomatic and supportive.


Feline Corona Virus

Cat Corona viruses are viruses which cause the contagious Feline Infectious Perinotinis (FIPV) and the Feline Enteric Corona disease (FECV). The enteric corona virus causes medium problems of the digestive tract, whereby in case of a system infection it is the other virus, the contagious FIPV. The enteric corona virus spreads in highest concentration through faesec and is very contagious. FIPV spreads in highest concentration through urine and blood.

There are two types of FIPV. One is the “open” type, when protein rich liquids gather in the abdomen cave and breast cave, or in the sub-capsular kidney region. The other is the “closed” type, where granule formed leasons on kidneys, omentum and liver appear (in certain cases can be felt by hand).

The clinical appearance of FIPV depends on many factors (resistance of the virus, quantity, way of infection, immunity of the animal…).

The clinical appearance of FECV usually begins with higher fever, throwing up and diarrhea. FIPV has an incurable course and the signs are not typical – anorexia, loss of weight, pale epithelia, Ikterus, not regenerative anemia, Uveitis and serofibrinos Peritonitis.

This disease is very difficult to clinically diagnose, and the only valid diagnose is PCR.

Treatment is symptomatic.

Author: Darija Stipic,

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Updated: 17.09.2009

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