Disease Information for Clients

Signs of Ill Health   

Only a healthy pet is a happy companion. Assuring your pet's daily well-being requires regular care and close attention to any hint of ill health. We would therefore suggest that you consult your veterinarian if your pet shows any of the following signs:

  • Abnormal discharges from the nose, eyes, or other body openings
  • Loss of appetite, marked weight losses or gains, or excessive water consumption
  • Difficult, abnormal, or uncontrolled defecation or urination
  • Abnormal behaviour, sudden aggressiveness, or tiredness
  • Abnormal lumps, limping, or difficulty getting up or lying down
  • Excessive head shaking, scratching, and licking or biting any part of the body
  • Dandruff, loss of hair, open sores, and a ragged or dull coat. Foul breath or excessive tarter deposits on teeth


Some basic pointers to preventing poisoning

In The Home

  • Keep all poisons out of reach - preferably in a locked kitchen cupboard
  • Keep human and veterinary medicines separate
  • Never give animals medicines intended for human use - only use medicines prescribed by your veterinarian
  • Some foods, for example chocolate, onions and grapes, can be toxic - do not allow animals access to foods intended for human consumption Restrict access to cleaning, DIY and car products (e.g. fuels, antifreeze and oils)

In The Garden or Open Spaces

  • Prevent access to gardens where pesticides or fertilisers have recently been used, especially slug pellets and rodent baits. Access to such baits can be reduced by placing them in narrow tubes etc.
  • Keep pesticides/herbicides in a safe and inaccessible place - away from all pets
  • Never leave buckets or watering cans full of mixed chemicals
  • Do not allow animals to drink from ponds/puddles that appear oily or otherwise polluted
  • Be careful not to leave plant bulbs lying around

What to do if you think your animal has been poisoned

  • Please DO NOT PANIC - remember few cases have fatal consequences and few poisons act very rapidly
  • Remove animal(s) from source of poison - protecting yourself if necessary
  • Contact your veterinarian IMMEDIATELY, especially if your animal is unwell and be ready to provide information on WHEN, WHERE and HOW poisoning occurred as well as the QUANTITY consumed
  • If you are instructed to come to the practice, try to bring a sample of the poison and/or its packaging with you
  • If your skin becomes contaminated then wash thoroughly with WATER
  • DO NOT try to make the animal vomit, unless your veterinarian instructs you to do so

This information has been taken from the BVA Animal Welfare Foundation leaflet "Pets and Poisons - keeping your animals safe" published in association with the Veterinary Poisons Information Service.


What is cancer?
All parts of the body are made up of cells, many of which have the capacity to grow to repair themselves. Cancer is where the normal control systems for this growth fail, resulting in the uncontrolled replication of abnormal cells. The speed of progress and the severity of symptoms depends on the type of tissue cell affected.

How Common is Cancer?
Cancer is common in pet animals, and the rate increases with age. As many as one in five dogs are likely to develop some form of cancer at some stage in their lives (about the same rate as humans), while it is less common in cats. The risk increases with age and with pets now enjoying a longer life expectancy through improved veterinary care the number of animals with cancer has been increasing in recent years, such that it accounts for almost half of the deaths of pets over 10 years of age.

How is it Diagnosed?
Strong circumstantial evidence of cancer can be attained from x-rays, blood tests, the physical appearance of the cancer, or the physical signs caused by the cancer. Most cancers, however, will require a biopsy (removal of a piece of tissue) for confirmation.

What causes cancer?
As with humans, the causes of cancer in our pets and the processes which occur in the disease are still not well understood. Possible causes include:

  • Toxic chemicals or exposure to harmful radiation.
  • Abnormalities in the immune system which usually protects against infectious diseases.
  • Abnormal genes.

However because most causes are not known it is not possible to prevent most cancers. One exception being breast cancer in the dog which is largely preventable through early spaying.

How do I know if my dog has cancer?
The symptoms of cancer are very variable and depend on the type of abnormal tissue cells involved, the site of the cancer and the stage of the disease. Cancer can occur in any animal and at any age, but certain types of dog are more susceptible to particular forms of cancer.

Some common symptoms include:

  • Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting        
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bleeding or discharge from any body opening, e.g. diarrhoea
  • Offensive odour
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Unwillingness to exercise or loss of stamina
  • Persistent lameness or stiffness
  • Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating

Obviously many of the above signs are also seen with non-cancerous conditions but they still warrant prompt attention to determine the cause. Cancer is frequently treatable, and early diagnosis will help in delivering the best care possible.

Common Types of Cancer in Pets
Skin - Skin tumours are very common in older dogs, but much less common in cats. Most skin tumours in cats are malignant, but in dogs they are often benign. All skin tumours should be examined by your veterinarian.

Breast - Fifty percent of all breast tumours in dogs and 85% of all breast tumours in cats are malignant. Spaying your pet between 6 and 12 months of age will greatly reduce the risk of breast cancer. Surgery is the treatment of choice for this type of cancer.

Head & Neck - Cancer of the mouth is common in dogs and less common in cats. A mass on the gums, bleeding, odour, or difficult eating are signs to watch for. Many swellings are malignant, so early aggressive treatment is essential. Cancer may develop inside the nose of both cats and dogs. Bleeding from the nose, difficulty breathing, or facial swelling may occur.

Lymphoma - Lymphoma is a common form of cancer in dogs and cats. It is characterised by enlargement of one or many lymph nodes in the body. Feline Leukaemia Virus is thought to cause most of these cancers in cats. Although chemotherapy is frequently effective in controlling this type of cancer in the dog no consistently effective treatment is presently available for virus-positive cats.

Testicles - Testicular tumours are rare in cats and common in dogs, especially those with retained testicles. Most of these cancers are curable with early surgery, i.e. castration.

Abdominal Tumours - Tumours inside the abdomen are common, and, as in humans, it can be difficult to make an early diagnosis. Weight loss and abdominal enlargement are common signs of these.

Bone - Bone tumours are most commonly seen in large breed dogs and rarely in cats. The leg bones, near joints, are the most common sites. Persistent lameness and swelling of the leg is an early sign of disease.

Can cancer be treated?
Yes, but this depends on the type of abnormal tissue cell involved and the stage of the disease. Sometimes euthanasia is the only humane alternative to a slow and painful death. In other cases treatment can produce a complete cure, or at least significantly increase the length or improve the quality of your dog's life. There are three basic options for treating cancers; not all are appropriate for every case and sometimes a combination of treatments has the best chance of success. These are:

1) Surgical removal
This is usually the best choice for most cancers affecting solid tissue. If the cancer is relatively benign, or if a more malignant cancer has not yet spread to other parts of the body, surgical removal often produces very good results.

2) Chemotherapy (drug treatment)
This can be the best option for the cancers that affect the blood or multiple areas of the body. It may also prevent or delay the appearance of secondary tumours in other organs after surgical removal of the original lump. Chemotherapy is used to improve quality of life of the pet and is not always aimed at a complete cure in every case. This is because the doses used in humans are often considered unacceptable in animals, with the result that while a complete cure may not be feasible the animals will be as unaffected as possible by the medication.
For more information on chemotherapy please see our information sheet Chemotherapy in Animals.

3) Radiotherapy (x-rays)
Often effective when tests have clearly shown the extent and size of the tumour. The radiation may be given from an outside source or a radioactive material may be injected into the body. A beam of radiation is most effective on cancers of the extremities (such as the limbs and head) where it is less likely to damage normal tissue before reaching the tumour. Radiotherapy units are only located in a few specialised centres and your vet would need to refer you to a cancer specialist for this form of treatment.

What is the Success Rate?
This depends strongly on the type and extent of the cancer as well as the aggressiveness of the therapy. Some cancers can be cured, and almost all patients can be helped to some degree. Early detection is the key to the most favourable outcome.

Will my dog be in pain?
Discomfort can depend on the site of the tumour, and in the early stages there is often surprisingly little pain. However discomfort can be severe when the tumour is advanced but most cancer-related pain can be controlled. Your vet will probably try a gentle painkiller at first and move on to more powerful drugs if these are required. Your vet will try to improve your pet’s quality of life rather than prolonging it if your animal is suffering.

Is diet important?
Careful attention to your pet's diet may improve its quality of life. Animals need extra food to cope with the effects of a fast growing tumour but many will have a poor appetite and so lose weight. Warming the food or feeding by hand may help stimulate your pet to eat. There are also special diets which provide good nutrition even if their appetite is poor.

How long will my pet live?
This is the question that every owner wants answered but, as with human cancer, it is impossible for your vet to give you an answer with any confidence. The survival chances will depend not only on the type and stage of the disease but also on your pet's general state of health. You should discuss this issue with your own vet so that you can agree between you the most appropriate treatment plan for your pet. It is understandable that, faced with a diagnosis of cancer, you will feel frightened about the future for your pet. Discussing your fears with your vet is the very best way to obtain reassurance and an independent assessment that you are doing what is right for your pet.

Dog Illnesses and Diseases

  • Heart Disease in Dogs
  • Canine Distemper
  • Canine Parvovirus
  • Canine Bordetellosis (Kennel Cough)
  • Canine Parainfluenza
  • Canine Leptospirosis

Heart Disease in Dogs

It is often not realised how common heart disease is in pet dogs. As the symptoms can be very subtle, if present at all, it is part of every owner’s responsibility to make regular visits to their vet for routine heart checks. In many cases heart disease can be successfully managed with early detection, and treatment could mean the difference between life and premature death.

What is Heart Disease in Dogs?
Heart disease in dogs, as in people, can be either present at birth or acquired, often developing during middle age. Of these types acquired heart disease is more common, and can affect many older dogs.

Are there different types of heart disease in dogs?
There are many types of heart disease but the two commonest forms in dogs are:

1) a dog's heart valves lose their ability to close properly, causing abnormal blood flow, or
2) the muscular walls of a dog's heart become thinned and weakened.

Both of these types develop gradually over time and can result in the same serious condition called heart failure.

Heart Failure
This is a major threat to your dog's health and results from the heart's inability to pump blood at a rate required to meet the body's needs. While continuing to work harder to pump blood, further heart damage can occur. It is estimated that thousands of dogs in the UK suffer from acquired heart disease at any one time.

What are the signs of heart disease in dogs?
Although some of the early stages of heart failure in dogs have no visible signs, heart failure can often be diagnosed through a clinical evaluation by a veterinarian. Dogs with mild to moderate heart failure typically experience heart enlargement, with signs of  coughing, lethargy and difficulty breathing. Severe heart failure is characterised by difficulty breathing (even at rest), fainting, profound intolerance to exercise, loss of appetite and weight loss.

How can I find out if my dog has heart disease?
Your vet is your dog's healthcare expert. Regular veterinary visits are important for early detection of health problems.

During these consultations the vet will ask for specific information about your dog before performing a thorough physical examination. If indicated, blood and urine tests, X-rays, an ECG or other tests may be performed. Regular testing and examinations are important for early detection of heart disease in dogs.

Too often dog owners do not take their animal to visit the vet until they are displaying severe signs of heart failure, and by then it may be too late.

Can dogs with heart disease be treated?
Yes. Although there is no cure for most heart disease in dogs, many very effective treatments are available. The success of treatment depends on various factors, but early detection is always best. By following your veterinarian's recommendations, you can help your dog live a longer, more comfortable life.

Keeping Your Dog Healthy
In addition to safeguarding your dog's heart, there's a lot you can do to keep your dog happy and in the best condition. Ensure that your dog gets a moderate amount of exercise on a regular basis and has a balanced diet. An obese dog may have a harder time staying healthy.

Many diseases of dogs can be dramatically improved by the care given by their owners, and this can allow them to live happily to the fullest extent of their life expectancy.

Canine Distemper

General Information  
Canine distemper virus may occur wherever there are dogs. It is the greatest single disease threat to the World's dog population, although the work by the veterinary profession in this country, mainly through extensive vaccination, has made the UK the safest place with respect to this particular disease in Western Europe.

Younger dogs are the most susceptible to infection, and among puppies the death rate often reaches 80%. The disease also strikes older dogs, although much less frequently.

Even if a dog does not die from the disease, its health may be permanently impaired. A bout with canine distemper can leave a dog's nervous system irreparably damaged, along with its sense of smell, hearing or sight. Partial or total paralysis is not uncommon, and other diseases (particularly pneumonia) frequently strike dogs already weakened by a this infection.

Cats are not susceptible to canine distemper and the disease is not transmissible to humans.

What Does Distemper Do? 
Canine distemper is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus, and is most often transmitted through contact with respiratory secretions, although contact with the urine and faecal material of infected dogs can also result in infection.

The many signs of distemper are not restricted to this disease and, for this reason, treatment may be delayed or neglected.

The disease frequently presents with symptoms resembling a severe cold, and most infected dogs have a fever and "stuffed up" head. Exposed animals may develop bronchitis, pneumonia and severe inflammation of the stomach and intestines.

The first signs of distemper an owner might notice are squinting, congestion and a discharge of pus from the eyes. Weight loss, coughing, vomiting, nasal discharge, and diarrhoea are common. In later stages the virus frequently attacks the nervous system,

bringing about partial or complete paralysis as well as "fits" or twitching. Dogs suffering from the disease are usually listless and have poor appetites.

Sometimes the signs may be very mild and perhaps go unrecognised, or the dog may have a slight fever for a couple of weeks. If pneumonia, intestinal inflammation or other problems develop, recovery takes much longer. Nervous problems often last many weeks after the animal has recovered from all other signs of infection. Occasionally the virus causes rapid growth of the tough keratin cells on the footpad, resulting in a hardened pad.

Distemper was more common in the past but must always be considered as a possible cause of severe illness in young dogs, especially if coming from a poorly vaccinated group of animals.

Prevention and Protection 
Dogs that survive a natural infection usually develop sufficient immunity to protect them from distemper for the rest of their lives. Many dogs, particularly pups, do not survive a naturally acquired infection. The safest protection is always vaccination.

Puppies born to dogs which are immune to distemper acquire a degree of natural immunity from nursing. This immunity is acquired through substances in the colostrum, which is the milk produced by the mother for the first few days after giving birth. The degree of protection a pup receives varies in proportion to the amount of antibody its mother has, but the protection diminishes rapidly.

Your veterinarian can determine the most advantageous time to begin vaccination based upon his or her experience and the general health of your dog.

Canine Parvovirus   

General Information
Since 1978 dogs of all ages and breeds have been victims of a highly contagious viral disease that attacks the intestinal track, white blood cells, and in some cases the heart muscle. This disease, canine parvovirus (CPV) infection, has appeared worldwide, and is  thought to have arisen as a variant of a cat virus.

CPV infection is spread by dog-to-dog contact and has been diagnosed wherever dogs congregate, including dog shows, obedience trials, breeding and boarding kennels, pet shops, humane shelters, parks and playgrounds.

The source of infection is faecal waste from infected dogs or foxes. As large amounts of the virus may be present in this faecal material (and the virus is very resistant to extremes of environmental conditions allowing it to survive for long periods), it is readily transmitted from place to place on the hair or feet of infected dogs or by contaminated cages, shoes, or other objects. In addition the newer wild strains of the virus are

capable of infecting cats again, making them likely to be a major source of this disease in the future.

It is a common misconception that confining a dog to a house or yard, such that it is rarely in direct contact with other dogs, will prevent infection. Although this may reduce the risk, the ability of this virus to be carried by other animals and people for long periods makes such precautions useless.

How Can You Tell If A Dog Has CPV Infection? 
The first signs of CPV infection are depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, and severe diarrhoea. Rectal temperatures may be raised. These signs will most often appear 5-7 days after the dog is exposed to the virus. At the onset of illness, the faeces will generally be light grey or yellow-grey. Sometimes, the first sign will be fluid faeces streaked with blood.

Dogs usually dehydrate rapidly due to vomiting and diarrhoea. While some dogs may vomit repeatedly, and have projectile and bloody diarrhoea until they die, others may have loose faeces and recover without complications.

Most deaths occur within 48-72 hours following the onset of clinical signs. Pups suffer most with shock-like deaths, occurring as early as two days after the onset of illness. In the past, a high percentage of pups less than five months old and 2-3% of older dogs died from this disease. Now, due to widespread vaccination, these percentages have decreased dramatically.

Puppies, between weaning and six months of age are at increased risk of acquiring the disease. There appears to be a higher risk of severe disease in certain breeds (e.g. Rottweiller and Doberman Pinscher).

How Is CPV Infection Diagnosed and Treated? 
A veterinarian will make the initial diagnosis based on clinical signs but only after considering other causes of vomiting and diarrhoea. Evidence of rapid spread in a group of dogs is strongly suggestive of CPV infection and may be confirmed by testing faeces for the virus. There are no specific drugs that kill the virus in infected dogs.

Treatment of CPV infection, which should be started immediately, consists primarily of efforts to combat dehydration by replacing electrolyte and fluid losses, controlling vomiting and diarrhoea, and preventing secondary infections with antibiotics.

Sick dogs should be kept warm and be provided good nursing care.

Prevention and Protection
With a few exceptions, dogs of any age should be vaccinated to prevent CPV infection. Unless the actual immune status of a pup or litter is known, it is recommended that a series of vaccinations be given to provide adequate protection. Ask your veterinarian about the recommended vaccination schedule.

Proper cleaning and disinfection of kennels and other areas where dogs are housed is essential to control spread of the virus. Remember, the virus is capable of existing in the environment for many months unless the area is thoroughly cleaned. Proper anti-viral cleaning agents should be used.

An owner should not allow a dog to come in contact with faecal waste of other dogs or cats when outside the house. This is especially true until six months of age. Prompt and proper disposal of waste material is always advisable. Check lawns, pavements, and gutters for faecal waste from neighbourhood dogs, and urge friends to do the same.

If you are unsure whether this disease is affecting dogs in your community, check with a veterinarian. The risk of exposure can be reduced if you prevent your dog from contacting other dogs in areas where the incidence of CPV infection is alarmingly high, or where there is known to be low levels of vaccination

Canine Bordetellosis (Kennel Cough)

Bordetellosis is caused by bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica which is present in the respiratory tracts of many animals. It is the primary cause of tracheobronchitis (kennel cough) which results in a severe chronic cough. In addition to the cough, some dogs develop a nasal discharge. Transmission most frequently occurs by contact with the nasal secretions and cough droplets of infected dogs. The disease can last for 2-3 weeks, and with a few exceptions is more a nuisance to the dog and owner rather than being a serious infection. Unfortunately the infected animal can continue to be infectious to other dog for several weeks after apparent complete recovery, making this a common problem.

Vaccination is usually accomplished by the use of a nasal spray, and can greatly reduce the severity of the disease. Unfortunately as kennel cough involves other infectious agents it is not possible to provide complete protection from this disease, but fully vaccinated animals will only show mild symptoms.

Canine Parainfluenza 

Parainfluenza is caused by a virus which produces a mild respiratory tract infection. It is often associated with other respiratory tract viruses, and is considered part of the Kennel Cough syndrome. As with most respiratory viruses parainfluenza is transmitted by contact with the nasal secretions and cough droplets of infected dogs. The vaccine to protect against this disease is usually combined with other vaccines.

Cat Illnesses and Diseases

  • Feline Panleukopenia
  • Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)
  • Feline Upper Respiratory Tract Disease - Cat Flu
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Feline Panleukopenia  

General Information   
Feline panleukopenia (FP), also known as feline distemper, is a highly contagious viral disease that occurs wherever there are cats. Cats of any age may be affected, although young kittens, sick cats, and cats that have not been adequately immunized are most susceptible; older cats are more likely to have acquired an immunity and, therefore, are infected less frequently.

Kennels, pet shops, humane shelters, and other areas where groups of cats are quartered appear to be the main reservoirs of feline panleukopenia today.

Dogs are not susceptible to feline panleukopenia. Canine distemper is a different disease caused by another virus. Neither disease is transmissible to humans.

What Does Panleukopenia Do?   
The feline panleukopenia virus is passed from cat to cat by direct contact. The source of infection is most commonly faecal waste from infected cats, but the virus may be present in other body secretions.

A healthy cat can also become infected without coming in direct contact with an infected cat. Bedding, cages, food dishes, and the hands or clothing of handlers that contact infected secretions may harbor and transmit the virus.

The feline panleukopenia virus is very stable. It is resistant to many chemicals and may remain infectious at room temperature for as long as one year, as a consequence it is nearly impossible to prevent exposure.

Feline panleukopenia is a complex disease. It can vary in severity from very mild to extreme. The many signs are not always typical and many owners may even believe that their cat has been poisoned or has swallowed a foreign object. Because of this fact, treatment may be delayed or neglected.

After exposure to the virus, many of the cat's cells are destroyed. This cell loss makes the cat more susceptible to other complications and bacterial infections.

How Can You Tell If a Cat Has Panleukopenia?   
The first signs a owner might notice are generalized depression, loss of appetite, high fever, lethargy, vomiting, dehydration, and hanging over the water dish. The course of the disease may be short and explosive. Advanced cases, when discovered, may cause death within hours. Normally, the sickness may go on for three or four days after the first elevation of body temperature.

Fever will fluctuate during the illness and abruptly fall to subnormal levels shortly before death. Other signs in later stages may be diarrhoea, anaemia, and persistent vomiting.

Feline panleukopenia virus is so prevalent and the signs of disease are so varied that any sick cat should be taken to a veterinarian for a definite diagnosis.

How is Panleukopenia Treated?   
The prognosis for very young kittens is poor. Older cats have greater chance of survival if adequate treatment is provided early in the course of the disease. Treatment is limited to supportive therapy to help the patient gain and retain sufficient strength to combat the virus with its own immune system. There are no antibiotics that can kill the virus.

The veterinarian will attempt to combat extreme dehydration, provide nutrients, and prevent secondary infection with antibiotics. Pregnant females that contract the disease, even in its mildest form, may give birth to kittens with severe brain damage.

Strict isolation is essential. The area where the cat is kept should be warm, free of drafts and very clean. Plenty of "tender loving care" even after hospital discharge is very important. Cats may lose the will to live; so frequent petting, hand feeding, the cautious use of heating pads, and good nursing care by the owner is essential.

Prevention and Protection   
Feline panleukopenia is controlled in several ways. Cats that survive a natural infection usually develop sufficient, active immunity to protect them for the rest of their lives. Mild cases may go unnoticed and also produce immunity.

It is also possible for kittens to receive immunity from their mother through the transfer of antibody. This passive immunity from the mother is temporary and its effectiveness varies in proportion to the level of antibody in the mother's body.

Vaccines offer the safest protection. They stimulate the cat's body to produce protective antibodies against the virus to prevent infection by natural, disease causing viruses. The vaccines are very effective but are preventive, not curative. They must be administered before the cat is exposed and infected to be effective.

Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)

The following information is based on that provided by the Feline Advisory Bureau. Please visit their website for further infofmation on this, or any other, cat disease.

General information
Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) is a common and important cause of illness and death in pet cats. Cats that become persistently (permanently) infected with this virus are at risk of developing many severe illnesses such as anaemia and cancer. Between 80 and 90% of infected cats die within three and a half years of being diagnosed as having FeLV.

The most common effect of infection is immunosuppression. The virus infects cells of the immune system (the white blood cells) killing or damaging them. This leaves the cat vulnerable to a wide variety of other diseases and infections (secondary infections). FeLV is a member of the same virus family as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

Who is at risk ? 
FeLV is a fragile virus which is not able to survive for long in the environment so spread of infection between cats relies on prolonged and close contact. For this reason infection is most common in situations where there is a high population density of cats. In multi-cat households and catteries where FeLV infection is endemic (constantly present in the household), up to 30% of the cats may be infected.

Young cats, particularly those less than six months old, are especially vulnerable to becoming persistently infected.

How is it spread ? 
The major source of virus is in saliva from a persistently infected cat (e.g. mutual grooming or sharing of food bowls), or biting, or contact with urine and faeces containing the virus.

Not all cats which are exposed to FeLV become persistently infected. If the cat is able to eliminate the virus, this will occur during the initial stages (4 - 12 weeks) of infection. Once significant infection of the bone marrow is present, the cat remains infected for the rest of its life.

Very rarely FeLV infection may be limited to certain parts of the body such as the mammary (breast) tissue. This is known as a 'localised infection'.

Signs and symptoms 
A variety of chronic and/or recurrent disease develops in cats persistently infected with FeLV. There is a progressive deterioration in their condition over time. Clinical signs are extremely diverse but include fever, lethargy, poor appetite and weight loss. Respiratory, skin and intestinal signs are also common. Anaemia occurs in about a quarter of infected cats (showing clinical signs such as weakness and lethargy).

Cancer develops in around 15% of cats infected with FeLV. The most common is lymphoma, a cancer of lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) resulting in solid tumours or leukaemia (tumour cells in the blood stream).

Treatment of FeLV infection 
There is currently no treatment that is able to eliminate an FeLV infection. Treatment must therefore be aimed at maintaining quality of life and managing the effects of infection such as immunosuppression, anaemia and cancer.

Prompt and effective supportive care and management of secondary infections is essential in the ill FeLV-positive cat. Because of the failing immune system, much longer courses of antibiotics are needed. The response to therapy is usually much slower and less successful.

Relief of symptoms may be provided by non-specific therapies such as corticosteroids, anabolic steroids and multivitamins (which encourage appetite). Antiviral agents, such as AZT, which have been used in people with HIV, do not appear to be beneficial in the FeLV-infected cat.

Maintaining health 
Cats with FeLV infection should not eat raw meat because of the increased risk of Toxoplasma gondii  infection. This parasite is usually only a problem in immunosuppressed cats where it can cause uveitis (inflammation of the internal structures of the eyes), neurological signs such as seizures (fits) and ataxia (drunken gait).

Vaccination, particularly for cat 'flu and infectious enteritis, is recommended for any cats staying in a high risk situation such as a veterinary hospital or cattery. Flea treatment is recommended to minimise the risk of Mycoplasma haemofelis (a blood parasite which can cause anaemia) transmission. Routine worm treatment is also recommended.

Several vaccines are available for FeLV. The aim of these is to prevent cats exposed to the virus from becoming persistently infected. All of the vaccines aim to do this by stimulating a successful immune response to FeLV. Unfortunately, no vaccine is likely to be 100% effective at protecting against infection. Vaccination is recommended in situations where cats have a high risk of exposure to the virus. This includes free-roaming cats and those in contact with potentially infected individuals.

Where it is important to know the FeLV status of a cat (for example introducing a new cat to a breeding colony) it is vital that a vaccination certificate is not accepted in place of a negative FeLV test. Vaccination of cats does not interfere with the FeLV blood tests.

The lack of a totally effective vaccine means that it is also inadvisable knowingly to mix an FeLV-infected cat with a vaccinated uninfected cat.

Controlling disease 
As the virus is highly infectious uninfected cats should be kept away from the persistently infected cat where possible. It is also recommended that FeLV-positive cats are kept indoors to minimise spread to other cats in the area.

Feline upper respiratory tract disease - Cat Flu

The following information is based on that provided by the Feline Advisory Bureau. Please visit their website for further infofmation on this, or any other, cat disease.

General information
Cat flu is a common cat disease that can be life-threatening. Symptoms include sneezing, nasal discharge, conjunctivitis (inflammation of the lining of the eyes), discharge from the eyes, loss of appetite, fever and depression. The very young, very old and immunosuppressed cats (e.g. infected with feline leukaemia virus or feline immunodeficiency virus) are more likely to develop severe disease and possibly die as a result of their flu. Where death occurs this is usually because of secondary infections (infections with bacteria in addition to the flu viruses), lack of nutrition and dehydration.

Cat 'flu viruses are spread by direct contact with an infected cat or 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. The virus is able to survive in the environment for up to a week.

Who is at risk?
Cat flu is most commonly seen in situations where cats are kept in large groups such as breeding catteries, rescue centres and feral cat colonies, although it can also be seen in pet cat households.

Although vaccination helps to reduce the risk of cat flu, this disease can still be seen in vaccinated cats.

Causes and symptoms
The symptoms of cat flu are most frequently caused by infection with one or both of the cat flu viruses - feline herpesvirus (formerly known as feline rhinotracheitis virus) and feline calicivirus.

Feline herpesvirus (FHV) infection often causes severe and potentially life-threatening illness. Although the majority of cats infected make a full recovery, this often takes several weeks and some cats are left with permanent effects of infection such as chronic rhinitis (showing as a persistent discharge from the nose and sneezing). Secondary bacterial infection of damaged tissue can cause chronic conjunctivitis, sinusitis and bronchitis (inflammation of the linings of the eye, sinuses and air passages). Antibiotic treatment usually only provides temporary relief of these symptoms.

Feline calcivirus (FCV) infection usually causes a milder form of cat flu with less dramatic nasal discharges. Characteristic mouth ulcers are sometimes the only sign of infection. The ulcers may be present on the tongue, on the roof of the mouth or the nose.

Some strains of FCV cause lameness and fever in young kittens (these can occasionally be seen after vaccination). Affected cats recover over a few days although they may need pain killers through this time.  More recently a more virulent strain of FCV has been identified, with a high mortality rate (40%). Further investigation into this strain strain is currently ongoing.

Diagnosis and treatment 
Diagnosis by the veterinary surgeon is based on symptoms and laboratory tests. Testing for flu viruses requires taking a mouth swab which is then sent to a specialised laboratory where the virus is grown and identified.

Unfortunately there are currently no drugs available to kill these viruses so treatment is aimed at supporting the cat through its illness. This treatment includes antibiotics, to treat any secondary bacterial infections as these can be life-threatening, and drugs to help loosen the nasal discharge and make breathing less of a struggle. As cats with flu are often reluctant to eat, they may need to be tempted by offering gently warmed, smelly and palatable food. Severely ill cats may require hospitalisation.

Interferon, a compound that interferes with virus replication, has received a lot of attention recently in the treatment of many viral infections, but to date there is little documented evidence for its success in cats for the treatment of FHV and/or FCV.

Most cats that recover from cat flu become 'carriers'. Carrier cats usually show no sign of illness themselves but, by shedding virus in their saliva, tears and nasal secretions, are a source of infection to other cats. Cats that are FHV carriers remain so for the rest of their life. In contrast, most cats infected with FCV shed the virus continuously for a short time after recovering from flu and then virus shedding stops. In a few cats FCV shedding continues for several years.


The risk of developing cat flu can be reduced by regular vaccination against FHV and FCV. However, although vaccination usually prevents severe disease developing, they

are not always 100% effective against preventing infection and mild disease may still occur in some cats.

It is advisable to vaccinate all household cats, especially if the cat goes outdoors, stays in a cattery or goes to cat shows. If an individual develops cat flu, subsequent stress, such as attending a cat show, should ideally be avoided.

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)

The following information is based on that provided by the Feline Advisory Bureau. Please visit their website for further infofmation on this, or any other, cat disease.

General information
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is a significant cause of disease in cats worldwide. It was first discovered during the investigation of a disease outbreak in a previously healthy colony of rescue cats in America that had been showing similar signs to people with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) caused by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Although HIV and FIV are very similar, the viruses are species specific, which means that FIV only infects cats and HIV only infects humans. Thus there is no risk of infection for people in contact with FIV-positive cats.

FIV affects the cells of the immune system (white blood cells) killing or damaging them. The immune system is very important in fighting infections and monitoring the body for cancerous cells and thus FIV–infected cats are at a far greater risk of disease and infection with other viruses, bacteria and other organisms such as Toxoplasma gondii or Haemobartonella felis  (a blood borne parasite which causes anaemia).

The overall prevalence of FIV in the healthy UK cat population is approximately 6 per cent and estimated to be approximately 14 per cent in the sick cat population.

Which cats are at risk?
The most common method of transmission of FIV is via biting during fighting, although some infection can also occur by the sharing of food bowls and mutual grooming. For this reason entire male cats carry a higher risk of infection and a free-living lifestyle, of feral or stray cats, increases the prevalence. Any cat can be infected at any age but there is often considerable delay between infection and development of clinical signs and thus the appearance of the disease is more common in middle-aged to elderly cats.

It is not known if blood sucking parasites such as fleas can spread infection so it is wise to maintain a regular flea control programme.

What are the clinical signs of an FIV infection?
The disease conditions associated with FIV infection are fairly non-specific. During the primary phase of infection in the first 2-4 months, cats may show short-term signs of illness including malaise and high temperature. Most cats will recover from this early phase and enter a second phase when they appear to be healthy. Eventually in the third phase of infection, other signs of disease develop which can be as a direct effect of the virus depressing the immune system and the cat's ability to fight off infection. The clinical signs are quite variable but include weight loss, inappetence, fever, gingivitis (inflamed gums), skin infections, anaemia, conjunctivitis (inflammation of the lining of the eyes), and diseases of the nervous system which may cause behavioural changes or seizures (fits). Infected queens may abort litters.

Diagnosis and Treatment
There are several test systems available for diagnosing FIV infection. These usually involve a blood sample being taken. Virus isolation can also be performed. If the initial blood test is in any doubt or gives a confusing result then your vet may request an additional confirmatory test is performed to ensure that the correct diagnosis is reached.

To date there is no treatment that has been shown to reverse an established FIV infection.

The main aim of treatment for an FIV-infected cat is to stabilise the patient and maintain a good quality of life. Although not licensed for use in cats, some antiviral medications used in patients with HIV infection (such as azidothymidine, AZT), have provided some improvements in a proportion of FIV-infected cats.

Prompt and effective management of secondary infections is essential in the sick FIV-positive cat. As these cats are immunosuppressed, a much longer course of antibiotics is often required.

Long-term management of the FIV-infected cat
Cats infected with FIV should be confined indoors to prevent spread of the virus to other cats and to minimise exposure to infectious agents carried by other animals. Good nutrition and husbandry are essential, and these cats should be fed a nutritionally balanced and complete feline diet. Raw meat, eggs and unpasteurised milk should be avoided, because the risk of food-borne bacterial and parasitic infections is greater in immunosuppressed individuals. A programme for routine control of parasites (fleas, ticks, worms) together with a routine vaccination programme should also be maintained.  

Intact male and female cats should be neutered to reduce the stress associated with mating behaviours and seasons. Neutered animals are less likely to roam outside the house or interact aggressively with their housemates.
No vaccine is currently available in the UK.

If the diagnosis of FIV-infection is reached early in the course of the disease, there maybe a long period during which the cat is free of clinical signs related to FIV. But the available evidence suggests that the majority will, and in all cats the infection appears to be permanent. Many cats with FIV can remain healthy for extended periods with the above management guidelines.


The material contained in this website is presented for information purposes only . The material is in no way intended to replace professional veterinary care or attention from a professional veterinary surgeon. 

The advice given in any of our web pages cannot be used as the basis for a diagnosis or choice of treatment.

Clyde Vet Group advises that you should always consult a veterinary surgeon about any queries with animals under your care.


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