Spotlight

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, or FIV, is a disease that is transmitted in cats primarily through close contact, including bite wounds. There is no cure for FIV, but infected cats can lead a healthy life for many years if cared for properly. 

Spotlight

Lyme Disease

In 2016, 1 out of 155 dogs tested at Banfield was diagnosed with Lyme disease. Lyme disease can affect humans as well as dogs, and is transmitted to both from ticks. The use of topical tick preventatives or a vaccination against Lyme disease can be an effective way to help protect your dog.

Giardia Infection

Giardia Infection

This microscopic parasite attaches itself to the lining of a dog’s small intestine, causing the disease giardiasis. It is passed through infected feces.

Signs

Not all dogs with Giardia infection will appear sick. Signs of infection:

  • Loose stool or diarrhea that can become severe
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased activity level

Diagnosis and Treatment

Veterinarians examine a fecal sample for diagnosis. Antibiotics and/or deworming medications are often prescribed to kill the parasite, along with follow-up exams, as this can be a tough parasite to get rid of for your pet.


How to Prevent It

There is no effective vaccine. Dogs living in crowded conditions and young puppies are especially vulnerable. The best means of prevention is to avoid exposure to the Giardia parasite.

  • Keep dog away from other dogs' feces or feces of other mammals
  • Prevent dog from drinking out of potentially contaminated water sources like ponds or creeks
  • If your dog is infected, dispose of feces immediately to prevent exposing other dogs

Location Risks

Giardia infections are most common in the Central and Northeastern United States, especially:


Kennel Cough

Kennel Cough

This highly contagious respiratory infection is caused by a bacterium. Untreated, it can lead to pneumonia.

Signs

The most common sign is a frequent dry cough, which may sound like gagging or retching. Excitement or physical activity can worsen coughing. Aside from the distinctive cough, many infected dogs don’t exhibit any of the other signs of the illness, which can include:

  • Fever
  • Runny nose and/or eyes
  • Decreased appetite

Diagnosis and Treatment

It’s generally treated with antibiotics and cough suppressant medications. If the infection involves a virus, it may need to run its course before full healing can occur, as antibiotics will be ineffective. Owners can support their dog by:

  • Keeping them well hydrated
  • Providing nutritious food
  • Creating a low-stress environment

How to Prevent It

Because it is extremely contagious, vaccination is highly recommended along with regular veterinary exams. Keep infected dogs away from other dogs. This is the most effective way to help stop the spread of kennel cough. To prevent infections:

  • Limit exposure to other dogs in public places
  • Choose care facilities that require up-to-date vaccinations

Location Risks

Kennel cough is especially prevalent in these areas:


Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease

This is caused by a bacterium carried by infected deer ticks. Untreated, it can lead to serious illnesses like kidney disease and arthritis.

Signs

The most common sign is recurrent lameness caused by joint inflammation. This can last for several days at a time and can shift from one leg to the other. Other signs include:

  • Fever
  • Decreased activity level
  • Decreased appetite

In rare cases infected dogs can develop acute kidney disease, a serious and potentially fatal condition.


Diagnosis and Treatment

Exposure can be confirmed using a blood test, but not all dogs that test positive will develop signs of disease. Hospitalization, fluid therapy and/or anti-inflammatory medication may be recommended for severely ill dogs.


How to Prevent It

Preventing Lyme disease is all about keeping ticks away from your pet:

  • Use flea and tick control products, including flea and tick collars
  • Make your home inhospitable to ticks and wildlife that typically harbor them, like mice and deer
  • Keep shrubbery and grass clipped short
  • Keep weeds under control
  • Keep garbage stored, covered and inaccessible to wildlife

Regularly check your dog for ticks. An adult deer tick can stay latched onto a dog for days, but it only takes 24 hours to transmit Lyme disease. After spending time outdoors – especially during late spring through fall – examine your dog from nose to tail. If you discover a tick, remove it immediately. Lyme disease vaccines are available but not suited for every dog. Consult your veterinarian about protection options.


Location Risks

Lyme disease is especially prevalent in these areas:


Canine Parvovirus

Canine Parvovirus

This highly contagious virus attacks a dog’s gastrointestinal tract. It is transmitted through oral contact with infected feces.

Signs

Dogs with parvovirus need immediate veterinary attention. Be aware of the following signs, particularly in puppies under 1 year, and call your veterinarian if you notice:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to severe dehydration
  • Fever
  • Decreased activity level
  • Decreased appetite

Diagnosis and Treatment

Early detection and aggressive treatment provide the best chance for recovery. Treatment typically requires hospitalization and intensive care while the dog fights the infection. Other treatments may include:

  • Intravenous fluid
  • Electrolyte therapy
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-vomiting medications
  • Nutritional support

How to Prevent It

The parvovirus vaccine greatly reduces risk of infection and is recommended for all dogs, beginning in puppyhood.

  • Consult with your veterinarian to ensure your dog is up-to-date on vaccines
  • Until your puppy has received a complete series of vaccines, avoid places where dogs with unknown vaccination status gather, like dog parks

Location Risks

Parvovirus is especially prevalent in these areas:


Additional Infectious Diseases

 

Rabies

Overview:

This fatal viral infection of the brain and nerves affects mammals, including cats, dogs, wildlife and people. Infection typically occurs through bites from infected animals, most commonly raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats.

Signs:

Affected pets may become aggressive, anxious, behave unusually or become weak/uncoordinated. Other signs include drooling, seizures and paralysis.

Treatment:

There is no treatment. Rabid animals need to be euthanized in order to ensure the disease is not passed on.

Vaccine:

Vaccination of cats and dogs is required in most states.

Transmissible to People:

Yes, rabies can be passed from animals to humans through a single bite or other exposure to saliva.

 

Canine Distemper

Overview:

This viral illness attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous systems of dogs. It can be spread through the air, by direct contact with an infected animal or via contaminated objects.

Signs:

Initially, dogs may have a high fever, runny eyes and/or nose, coughing and loss of appetite. In later stages, the virus attacks the brain, which can cause shaking, unsteadiness and seizures.

Treatment:

Dogs with a mild infection may recover with proper veterinary care, but it often causes permanent brain damage and can be fatal.

Vaccine:

Effective vaccines are available and are included among vaccines recommended for all dogs, beginning at puppyhood.

Transmissible to People:

No.

 

Canine Influenza

Overview:

This is caused by a new strain of influenza virus that affects the respiratory system of dogs. It is typically spread when a dog inhales air from the cough or sneeze of an infected dog, or through interaction with contaminated objects.

Signs:

Signs include a long-lasting cough that does not improve with antibiotics or cough suppressants, as well as a runny nose and mild fever. In severe cases it may progress to pneumonia.

Treatment:

Sick dogs should get plenty of rest, food, and water and be separated from other dogs to prevent spreading the disease.

Vaccine:

A vaccine is available. Depending on your dog's risk of exposure, your veterinarian may recommend it.

Transmissible to People:

No.

 

Leptospirosis

Overview:

This is a bacterial infection of the internal organs that dogs and people can catch through exposure to urine from infected animals such as dogs, livestock and wildlife.

Signs:

Early signs include fever/shivering and loss of appetite. Depending on organs involved later signs can include vomiting/diarrhea, yellow skin and gums, reduced urine production or even death.

Treatment:

Antibiotics are needed to kill the bacteria, and hospitalization may be required. Infected dogs should be kept separate from other dogs. Urine-contaminated areas should be disinfected immediately to prevent spreading it.

Vaccine:

Vaccines are available.

Transmissible to People:

Yes, leptospirosis can be passed to people through exposure to urine from infected animals.

 

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

Similar to HIV in humans, FIV disease weakens a cat’s immune system, leaving cats dangerously vulnerable to serious infections.

Signs

Due to the slow-acting nature of the virus, cats can be infected without showing any signs of illness. When signs of infection do appear, the cat can show persistent illness or intermittent health problems including:

  • Fever
  • Decreased activity level
  • Decreased appetite
  • Gum disease, appearing as mouth sores
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Diagnosis and Treatment

FIV infection is diagnosed with a blood test. There is no cure but infected cats can live long and healthy lives with proper home care and increased veterinary attention. Once infected cats become ill, treatment focuses on minimizing the impact and preventing other viruses or bacteria by:

  • Keeping affected cats strictly indoors
  • Providing good nutrition
  • Decreasing sources of stress

How to Prevent It

The best prevention is to avoid exposure to FIV-infected cats. Spaying and neutering can help reduce your cat's urge to roam outdoors and engage in behaviors (mating, fighting) that risk exposure. Outdoor cats should be tested every year. In multiple-cat households:

  • If you discover one cat is infected, all feline housemates should be tested
  • New cats should be tested before they join the home or interact with other cats

An FIV vaccine is available, but its ability to prevent FIV infection is not fully understood. The vaccination is known to produce FIV-positive test results in healthy cats, making it difficult to be certain if a vaccinated cat is infected.


Location Risks

FIV is especially prevalent in these areas:


Feline Leukemia Virus

Feline Leukemia Virus

This virus, FeLV, is often passed from mother to kitten or through exposure to an infected cat’s saliva or other body fluids.

Signs

Most FeLV-infected cats show no signs of illness until the disease is advanced. Due to a weakened immune system, affected cats typically suffer from repeated infections. Signs vary considerably and can include:

  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased activity level
  • Decreased appetite

Diagnosis and Treatment

There is no known cure. Owners of FeLV-infected cats can help extend the length and quality of their pet's life with regular veterinary care and by reporting any signs of illness as quickly as possible.


How to Prevent It

The best prevention is avoiding exposure to the virus.

  • Keep cats away from potentially infected cats
  • Test any cats with access to the outdoors for FeLV infection annually
  • Test new cats before they join a new home
  • Vaccinate all kittens, as they are highly susceptible to infection

Whether adult cats should be vaccinated depends on their risk of exposure; consult your veterinarian.


Location Risks

FeLV is especially prevalent in these areas:


Feline Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)

Feline Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)

These nose, sinus and throat infections in cats can lead to serious problems if left untreated.

Signs

Signs vary depending on the organism causing the infection and which part of the respiratory tract is infected. Signs generally resemble a cold in humans:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Fever
  • Sores on tongue and in mouth
  • Swollen, red, runny eyes or discharge (conjunctivitis)
  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased activity level

Diagnosis and Treatment

Because viruses are the most common cause of URIs, treatment focuses on helping the cat fight the infection with rest, food and water. If a bacterial infection is suspected, your veterinarian may provide antibiotics. In certain cases viruses that cause URIs can persist, causing occasional flare-ups of the original illness throughout a cat’s lifetime. Regular exams and preventive care can help support a strong immune system and make early detection easier.


How to Prevent It

The best ways to protect cats against URIs:

  • Ensure minimal contact with infected, unvaccinated or unknown cats
  • Provide preventive care for a strong and healthy immune system

Keep your cats up-to-date on core vaccines to protect them from most viruses responsible for URIs. Make sure that any new cat has been vaccinated and is URI-free before they join your home.


Location Risks

URI is especially prevalent in these areas:


Ear Mites

Ear Mites

These highly contagious parasites live inside a pet’s ear canal, feeding on earwax and skin oils. They are far more common in cats than dogs with 1 in 46 cats seen being diagnosed with ear mites.

Signs

Signs vary depending on the organism causing the infection and which part of the respiratory tract is infected. Signs generally resemble a cold in humans:

  • Frequent ear scratching
  • Frequent head shaking
  • Coarse, dark discharge from ears resembling coffee grounds

Diagnosis and Treatment

Treatment includes gentle ear cleaning, prescription medication and follow-up exams. Because of the extremely contagious nature of the disease, other pets sharing a home with an affected pet may also need treatment.


How to Prevent It

The best way to prevent ear mites is to limit exposure:

  • Keep cats away from other cats that might be affected
  • Frequently vacuum and dust pet’s living space
  • Regularly and thoroughly wash pet bedding
  • Routinely check pet's ears
  • Bring pet in for regular exams to identify ear problems early

Choose flea and/or tick preventive products that also help control ear mite infestations in cats. Consult with your veterinarian before starting any product.


Location Risks

Ear mites are especially prevalent in these areas:


Additional Infectious Diseases

 

Rabies

Overview:

This fatal viral infection of the brain and nerves affects mammals, including cats, dogs, wildlife and people. Infection typically occurs through bites from infected animals, most commonly raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats.

Signs:

Affected pets may become aggressive, anxious, behave unusually or become weak/uncoordinated. Other signs include drooling, seizures and paralysis.

Treatment:

There is no treatment. Rabid animals need to be euthanized in order to ensure the disease is not passed on.

Vaccine:

Vaccination of cats and dogs is required in most states.

Transmissible to People:

Yes, rabies can be passed from animals to humans through a single bite or other exposure to saliva.

 

Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Overview:

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a fatal, incurable disease caused by feline coronavirus (FECV). The virus is spread through contact with infected cats or feces. Most cats with FECV experience mild illness and recover quickly. In rare cases the infection progresses to the fatal disease that can affect multiple internal organs. Cats with weak immune systems are most likely to develop the disease.

Signs:

Signs include fever, loss of appetite and weight loss.

Treatment:

Since there is no cure, treatment focuses on helping cats feel as comfortable as possible.

Vaccine:

Vaccines are available, but because of questions about effectiveness, they are not usually recommended.

Transmissible to People:

No.

 

Toxoplasmosis

Overview:

This infection is caused by microscopic parasites. Cats typically catch the parasite as fetuses or kittens through infected mothers, or by eating the meat of infected animals, like rodents or birds.

Signs:

Most infected cats do not appear sick. Signs of illness can include fever, diarrhea, loss of appetite and reduced activity.

Treatment:

Treatment involves medication to prevent the parasite from multiplying.

Vaccine:

There is no vaccine.

Transmissible to People:

Yes, through exposure to feces from infected cats, although the most common way people become infected is by eating undercooked meat or unwashed produce. For pregnant women, it can threaten the health of an unborn child. To prevent infection from cats, avoid exposure to soiled cat litter.

 

Feline Panleukopenia

Overview:

Also known as feline distemper, this highly contagious viral illness attacks cells in the lymph nodes, bone marrow and intestinal tract. It is spread from cat to cat through contact with body fluids or contaminated objects.

Signs:

Severe diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration and anemia can weaken the immune system, leaving cats vulnerable to other illnesses.

Treatment:

There is no cure; hospitalization and intensive care may be required to support a cat as it fights infection.

Vaccine:

Effective vaccines are available and are recommended for all cats, beginning at kitten hood.

Transmissible to People:

No.

All statistics calculated by the Banfield Applied Research and Knowledge Team based on 2.5 million dogs and 505,000 cats seen at Banfield Hospitals in 2016.