The Parvovirus is known worldwide and causes disease in many different species of animals. Different strains of virus only infect certain types of animals. For example, the Canine Parvovirus (Parvo) will mainly infect dogs and does not cause disease in cats or humans. Feline Parvovirus, a different strain of virus, causes a different type of disease known as Feline Distemper.
Canine Parvovirus made its first appearance in the late 1970s and was first identified as a distinct disease in 1978. As a result of global travel and the importation of animals, the disease spread around the world in only one to two years. Most canines at the time had no natural immunity to the virus and its spread was rapid and devastating, especially for puppies.
The virus is released into the environment from infected puppies when they have a bowel movement. When unprotected dogs come into contact with the feces (stool), infection occurs when the virus is ingested. All dogs are at risk, but unvaccinated puppies are particularly susceptible to infection.
Most dogs with parvo have symptoms of lethargy; loss of appetite; fever; vomiting and severe, often bloody, diarrhea. Dehydration develops rapidly and can be fatal. Early detection and treatment by your veterinarian are essential to improve the chances of survival. This usually involves several days of hospitalization in the intensive care unit at your veterinarian’s facility. Many factors are in play but even with the proper care, the puppy may not survive.
Vaccination and cleanliness are critical to preventing Parvovirus infection. Your Veterinarian will design a vaccination schedule tailored to your pets particular needs.
Rabies is a fatal viral infection that is transmitted primarily through bite wounds. Skunks, bats, raccoons, and foxes are the primary carriers. Rabies is also fatal to humans, there has been only one case of a person surviving rabies when treatment was started after clinical signs were present. Puppies are vaccinated when three to four months of age and then one year later.
Each state varies in its rabies law, most states require rabies vaccine every three years for adult pets, but some states still require them annually. If a person or a pet is bitten by an unknown or unvaccinated animal (dog, cat, or wild animal), the local health department or your veterinarian should be consulted.
The animal that bit should be apprehended, if possible, and your veterinarian or local health official should be contacted immediately. A test can be done to see if rabies is present, but it does require the animal be euthanized because the test can be done only on the brain. Rabies is preventable through regular vaccination of dogs and cats.
Salmonella is a bacterium that can cause disease in humans, dogs, cats, and other animals. It can cause a variety of symptoms, commonly vomiting and/or diarrhea, but also severe infections and septicemia. It can also cause abscesses, meningitis, bone infections, and abortion.
Salmonella is found worldwide and is commonly associated with contaminated food, reptiles, and birds. Epidemics of salmonellosis in migrating songbirds in the spring can create disease in bird-hunting cats. Most, if not all, reptiles carry Salmonella in their intestines, and occasionally shed it in their feces. The bacteria usually do not cause disease in reptiles, but a growing number of Salmonella infections each year in people can be traced to pet reptiles. It is virtually impossible to eliminate Salmonella from pet reptiles.
Rarely, contamination of commercial dog food or treats with Salmonella has occurred. More common, a popular fad diet of feeding raw food for dogs and cats has caused illness in pets and the people in the household. A study showed that families that fed raw food to their pets had a much higher incidence of salmonellosis in the people.
Contaminated human food can also be a source of Salmonella, especially raw eggs, chicken, and undercooked meat. Even lettuce, fruits and vegetables have been incriminated. Food can become contaminated if someone infected with Saclmonella handles it without washing his or her hands.
Treatment of salmonellosis in the milder cases may just involve oral antibiotics. More severe cases will need hospitalization with intravenous fluids and antibiotics. Recovering patients may shed the bacteria in the stool for six weeks or longer.
Canine distemper is caused by a virus that is shed in bodily fluids of infected animals. The virus affects primarily the lungs, intestines, and nervous system.
Symptoms of the infection can include coughing, diarrhea, vomiting, inappetance, dehydration, weight loss, seizures, and encephalitis. Secondary infections can present as discharge from the eyes and/or nose, and pneumonia. Puppies, especially those from shelters, are at the highest risk.
Currently there are no antiviral medications to treat canine distemper. Treatment is aimed at controlling secondary bacterial infections with antibiotics and supportive care as needed. Vaccination aimed at preventing distemper is the best strategy. Puppies should be isolated from other dogs until they have completed their series of vaccinations at 16 weeks of age.
Leptospirosis is a serious, life-threatening disease caused by a spiral shaped bacteria. Dogs, cats, other animals and even people can be infected through exposure to urine, bite wounds, ingestion of infected flesh, or contact with contaminated soil, water and even bedding. Certain environmental conditions can favor the bacteria: standing water, rain, floods and warm moist weather. Pets living under these conditions, especially those who live primarily outdoors or are used for activities like hunting or herding are at a higher risk of being infected. The bacteria can quickly spread through the body causing symptoms like fever, joint pain, excessive drinking and general malaise. Eventually the bacteria settle in the kidneys or liver where it rapidly multiplies leading to organ inflammation, organ failure and possibly death.
People infected with Leptospirosis show the same symptoms as pets: fever, joint pain, excessive drinking and general malaise. Most often people contract the disease when their mucous membranes or open wounds come into contact with the urine or other bodily fluids of an infected animal.
Repeated blood tests 2 to 4 weeks apart are recommended for diagnosis. This test detects the presence of antibodies the body produces after being exposed to the disease. Recent vaccination against leptospirosis can make diagnosis difficult as vaccines stimulate the body to create similar antibodies. New technology has made rapid tests available and sometimes urine can be used although this test is less sensitive. Samples of kidney tissue can be used but this is rarely done due to the need of an invasive procedure.
Fortunately, leptospirosis can be treated with a combination of antibiotics. If kidney function becomes seriously impaired, patients may need kidney dialysis; some patients need this only temporarily while others will need it for life.
Supportive care is crucial for pets that become extremely debilitated by the disease. Intravenous fluids help maintain blood flow through the damaged organs. Special precautions should be observed when cleaning up any urine or bodily fluids from an infected patient.
Leptospirosis is a zoonzotic disease and vaccinations are available. Unfortunately the leptospirosis vaccine has been linked to a high level of vaccine reactions and while reducing the severity of a dog’s illness will not prevent them from becoming carriers of the disease. Therefore this vaccine is given only when deemed necessary after consultation with your veterinarian.
Feline distemper or feline panleukopenia is a highly contagious viral disease of kittens and adult cats caused by the feline parvovirus. It is also called panleukopenia as it affects the bone marrow and causes low white blood cell counts. It is relatively common in unvaccinated cats and is often fatal, especially in young kittens. It has been referred to as Feline Distemper, but in fact, it is a different virus than canine distemper and causes different symptoms.
Early symptoms of feline distemper infection are lethargy and loss of appetite then rapid progression to severe, sometimes bloody diarrhea and vomiting. These signs are very similar to other diseases, some serious, some not so serious. Therefore, if any abnormal behaviors or signs of illness are observed, it is important to have your veterinarian examine your pet as soon as possible. A diagnosis of distemper is presumed if vomiting and diarrhea are present along with a low white blood cell count. A diagnosis of distemper is confirmed when the virus is detected in blood or feces.
Another syndrome associated with the feline distemper virus occurs when a susceptible pregnant cat or a newborn kitten is exposed. The kittens will have permanent damage to the cerebellum part of the brain and walk with an uncoordinated gait and an elevated tail. It may also affect the retinas of their eyes. They are otherwise alert and act normal.
Infection occurs when unvaccinated cats come in contact with the virus, which may be by contact with blood, urine, feces, nasal secretions, or even the fleas from an infected cat. The hands and clothing of people who handle infected cats can also spread the disease. Unfortunately, the virus is very resistant to environmental conditions and difficult to destroy; it can remain infective for years. Routine household disinfectants will not kill the virus, and a 1 to 30 dilution of bleach should be used to clean any appropriate surfaces.
There is no medication to kill the virus. Hospitalization with IV fluid therapy and antibiotics to prevent secondary infection are necessary to support the cat’s health while its own body is fighting the infection. Not all will survive.
Preventing the infection through vaccination is better rather than treating an infected cat. Today’s vaccines are very effective in helping your pet protect itself from infection. A series of kitten vaccinations followed by adult boosters stimulate the cat’s immune system to produce protective antibodies. Should the cat come into contact with the virus, these same antibodies will help your cat successfully fight off the infection.
Consult with your veterinarian for advice on a vaccination schedule appropriate for your pet.