Vaccinations are the only safe way to provide immunity against harmful diseases. If regularly carried out, as advised by your vet, vaccinations can protect your pet for life.
A number of dangerous diseases can still affect cats, dogs and rabbits in the UK. At Forest House Veterinary Group, we strongly recommend preventative vaccinations. Therefore, we have compiled the following information about animal-related diseases and preventative treatment.
Feline Infectious Respiratory Disease (Cat Flu)
‘Cat flu’ is a common disease in cats of all ages, but tends to be particularly severe in young and old cats. A number of infectious agents have been found to cause ‘cat flu’, but the vast majority of cases will be caused by one of two viruses – feline herpes virus type 1 (FHV-1) and feline calicivirus (FCV).
Cat flu viruses are spread in three ways:
• Direct contact with an infected cat showing signs of flu
• From contact with virus carried on clothing, food bowls and other objects. Large amounts of virus are present in the saliva, tears and nasal discharges of cats with flu, which can be easily transferred, and the virus is able to survive in the environment for up to a week
• From contact with a cat that is a carrier of cat flu. Breeding carrier cats are a risk to their kittens as the stress of kittening may precipitate shedding of FHV. Infection of the kittens with either FHV or FCV may occur before the kittens are old enough to be vaccinated
Feline Leukaemia Virus
Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) is an important viral infection of cats; although fortunately now, with very good vaccines available against FeLV, the disease is much less common. Infection is most common in stray cats and colonies of cats where there is close contact between individuals.
As its name implies, FeLV is able to cause neoplasia (‘cancer’) of the white blood cells (‘leukaemia’); however, the virus may also cause the development of solid tumours (lymphomas) at various sites in the body. In many cats, FeLV infection results in a profound suppression of the immune system leading to increased susceptibility to a wide range of secondary infections that would not normally cause a problem in healthy cats.
Although infected cats may remain seemingly healthy for a few years, it is eventually a fatal disease with 80-90% of FeLV-infected cats dying by four to five years of age.
Feline Infectious Enteritis (FIE) is also known as Feline Parvovirus (FPV). Feline Panleukopenia is probably the greatest disease threat to any rescue facility and has a very high mortality rate, particularly in unvaccinated kittens. It was the first disease of cats to be shown to be caused by a virus.
Parvoviruses are very dangerous as they are able to survive for long periods, sometimes even years, in the environment. Cats infected with FPV can continue to excrete the virus for at least six weeks following infection. Parvoviruses are resistant to many disinfectants, therefore it is vital that an effective disinfectant is used.
Feline infectious enteritis is spread by direct faecal-oral contact and also indirectly following contamination of the environment or objects by an infected animal – for example, on food dishes, grooming equipment, bedding, floors, clothing or hands. Cats can also become infected by dogs shedding parvovirus.
Transplacental spread through the uterus to the unborn kittens can occur amongst infected mothers. Infection in late pregnancy leads to the under-development of the cerebellum, an area of the brain concerned with co-ordination of movements. Kittens that are infected as they are developing in the uterus often appear normal at birth, but as they become more active, they show unco-ordinated movement; walking with their legs wide apart and with muscle tremors frequently present.
The main source of this virus is the faeces of infected dogs. Susceptible animals become infected by ingesting the virus. Subsequently, the virus is carried to the intestine where it invades the intestinal wall and causes inflammation.
Unlike most other viruses, Canine Parvovirus (CPV) is stable in the environment and is resistant to the effects of heat, detergents and alcohol. Due to its stability, the virus is easily transmitted via the hair or feet of infected dogs, contaminated shoes, clothes and other objects. Direct contact between dogs is not required to spread the virus. Dogs that become infected with the virus and show clinical signs will usually become ill within seven to ten days of the initial infection.
Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease of domestic dogs; although some other species can be affected, including ferrets. The virus is spread primarily by direct contact between a susceptible dog and a dog with the disease. The discharge from the nose is heavily laden with the virus and coughing can spread the virus over short distances.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease of dogs that can affect the blood, liver or kidneys. The bacteria are carried mainly by rats and other rodents, but infected dogs can also act as a source of the infection. Ingestion of infected urine is the most common means of transmission, but some forms of the bacteria can penetrate damaged or very thin skin. The incubation period (from infection to onset of clinical signs) is usually four to twelve days.
Canine Parainfluenza Virus (CPIV) is a highly contagious respiratory virus and is one of the most common pathogens of infectious tracheobronchitis, also known as canine cough. Although the respiratory signs may resemble those of canine influenza, they are unrelated viruses and require different vaccinations for protection.
CPIV is excreted from the respiratory tract of infected animals for up to two weeks after infection and is usually transmitted through the air. The virus spreads rapidly in kennels or shelters where large numbers of dogs are kept together.
This is a contagious disease that can be found worldwide, but is uncommon in areas where dogs receive routine vaccinations. Its severity ranges widely from very mild cases to very serious, and sometimes fatal disease.
Young dogs and unvaccinated dogs are at the highest risk of being infected with the virus causing infectious canine hepatitis. Very young puppies tend to develop the most serious illness.
As Kennel cough is caused by different pathogens, vaccination does not necessarily prevent a dog becoming infected. It will however, greatly reduce the effects of the disease.
Kennel cough can present in anything from a muted cough to a debilitating, wheezy cough which can take several weeks to subside despite treatment.
Due to the fact it is highly contagious, most boarding kennels will insist on dogs having had this vaccination. It is inexpensive to vaccinate against, especially if carried out at the same time as the other main vaccinations.
For clients wishing to travel with their pets under the Pet Travel Scheme this is a requirement. Please see more detailed information in our pet travel and passports section.
Myxomatosis and Haemorrhagic Viral Disease (HVD)
A single annual vaccination has been developed to protect against both Myxomatosis and HVD.
Myxomatosis is spread by blood sucking insects so that even isolated rabbits are susceptible.
HVD is present in the saliva and nasal secretions of rabbits. It is spread by either direct contact with infected rabbits or by viruses from infected rabbits being inadvertently transported on people, clothing, objects, birds and other animals.