With Winter upon us and Swine Flu at pandemic levels, guarding against the flu has become a national obsession. But did you know that cats are also at risk?
The American Veterinary Medicine Association has updated its advice on the H1N1 virus citing to two recent cases of cats contracting the deadly Swine Flu. A few isolated incidents over the pond may seem hardly a cause for concern for UK cat lovers (for the time being ….) however, a more common flu strain called Calicivirus should definitely be.
Feline Calicivirus is a virus that infects domestic cats, causing a range of flu like symptoms. It can occur through direct contact with an infected cat or through a contaminated environment. The virus can survive for up to a week on infected objects such as floors, bedding, food, water bowls, litter trays and people’s hands/clothing. Just like flu in humans, common signs include fever, ulcers in the mouth, sneezing and mild conjunctivitis and infected cats may be depressed, lethargic and may be unwilling to eat.
Treatment usually involves supporting the cat while her immune system fights off the virus, using antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and fluids if she is dehydrated and unable to eat.
The good news is that there are some simple steps you can take to arm your cat against Calicivirus, the most important being vaccination. Kittens should be vaccinated from 9 weeks of age and followed up with an annual booster. This is especially important if your cat goes outdoors. Most catteries will only accept boarders who are vaccinated – and if they do accept unvaccinated cats then this should raise alarm bells.
Most vets offer vaccinations for calcivirus bundled with protection from some other nasties. Some will offer direct debit schemes – typically for under £10 a month – which cover all vaccinations and other important preventative health procedures whilst others require you pay for the vaccination as you use them but in either case the procedure is not usually covered by insurance. Regardless, as anyone who has had to endure the stress and expense of having their cat on fluids with suspected calicivirus will attest, this is money well spent.
As well as keeping up to date with vaccinations you should also ensure your cat’s environment minimises stress and food and water bowls are kept indoors to reduce the risk of infection.
If you have any specific questions about calcivirus you would like answered on this blog please contact us.