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Preventative Care

Managing your pet's needs

Here's a look at some of our recommendations for routine wellness testing and answers to some top questions.
Why does my pet need a yearly wellness exam?
Our veterinarians here at Willow Ridge Animal Hospital recommend bringing your pet in for a wellness exam at least once a year, even if the pet is healthy. Bringing your pet every year even if you don't see any symptoms creates a baseline where your veterinarian can notice small changes. Some pets, especially cats, are very good at hiding their symptoms. Veterinarians are experts and can detect things that the owners can not.

Why does my pet need heartworm testing if they are on monthly preventatives?
The American Heartworm Society (AHS) recommends at least once yearly testing for dogs. Heartworm prevention works by retroactive protection. For example, if you dose your pet on the first of the month, that dose covers any infection your pet was exposed to in the previous month, instead of the current month. So if you miss a dose and don't notice right away, enough time can lapse for the tiny susceptible baby heartworms to mature past the level where the heartworm preventative medication can work.

This yearly testing is important and should be included in your prevention plan. Remember, if there are undetected heartworms in your dog's heart and lungs, they will cause irreparable damage that can lead to heart failure and other dangerous consequences.

The AHS recommendation for testing cats is more complicated. We will help you decide what heartworm testing is appropriate for your cat.

Do I need to worry about heartworms?
One of the most known internal parasites of dogs (and less publicized for cats) is the heartworm. Heartworm larvae ride along inside a mosquito. When a mosquito carrying larvae bites your pet, your pet may be infected. These baby heartworms travel around in your pet's blood and mature along the way, finding a cozy spot to reside in the heart or vessels of the lung. Untreated dogs will progress to congestive heart failure. In cats, many common feline respiratory issues have been linked to heartworms, and the first sign of heartworm in cats is often death.

Protect your pets and family with proper parasite control. We can help keep your pets parasite free!

What are wellness blood tests, and what do they test for?
Wellness screens include complete blood counts (CBC), serum chemistry profiles, and other tests more specific to individual patients. For example, a CBC lets us check the number of red and white blood cells, showing us anemia and flagging certain things to watch for, like increases in white blood cells, which can indicate infection. We also measure clotting cells called platelets. Measuring platelets is especially helpful if your pet needs any type of dental procedure or surgery. Serum chemistry panels open a window on several organ systems and help detect diseases such as diabetes and kidney disease. Abnormalities can trigger additional testing, allowing us to identify disease processes early, when many diseases are more treatable. Even if your pet seems normal, this type of testing is critical for continuing good health.

Why does my pet need a fecal check?
Many of our parasite control products cover intestinal parasites, but not every parasite. Even the most comprehensive coverage often doesn't include protozoal parasites or tapeworms.

We recommend fecal testing yearly for normal pets and more often if your pet is experiencing gastrointestinal upset, like vomiting or diarrhea.

Are intestinal worms a real threat?
These little internal parasites can be a big issue. Because they reside inside of pets, they can cause unapparent and insidious damage that can risk the lives of affected animals.

Intestinal worms, including hookworms and roundworms, can cause signs like vomiting and diarrhea. And sometimes your pet may show no symptoms at all. Hookworms and roundworms infect pets that come into contact with infected soil or ingesting infected feces. Intestinal parasites tend to damage the intestinal walls, where they attach, and their presence can cause inflammation. Young animals seem to be the most affected, and sometimes puppies and kittens die from an overload of intestinal worms.

Tapeworms are another intestinal parasite to watch out for. They come from fleas, not soil, and only veterinary dewormers labeled to remove tapeworms are effective. The good news: prescrition flea preventatives may also protect your pet from tapeworms.

Why should I care about fleas?
The biting, itching, the scratching- fleas can make pets miserable. And flea allergies are a common problem for our pets.

Fleas love to get indoors, where they can live year round. Their goal is to have a blood meal so that they can lay eggs and make baby fleas. We can recommend the safest and most effective prescription flea products available for your pets.

What about ticks?
Like fleas, ticks are a discomfort, an inconvenience and can be a health risk. Ticks can carry some serious diseases, and many regional. Tick borne diseases can make pets feel rottem- and some are even life threatening. We can tell you which diseases are prevalent in our area and recommend products to protect your pet.

​Common signs of feline illness

Common signs of feline illness


If you notice any of these symptoms or any other behaviors in your cat, please contact your veterinarian for an appointment.

1. Inappropriate Elimination
  • Urinating outside of the box
  • Defecating outside of the box
  • Increase or decrease in urination
  • Urinating more frequently
2. Changes in Interaction
  • Isolation
  • Demanding more attention
3. Lethargy
  • Sleeping more
  • Decrease in usual activity
4. Decreased or increased appetite
5. Decreased or increased water intake
6. Unexplained weight loss or gain
7. Changes in grooming
  • Lack of grooming
  • Patches of hair loss
  • Greasy skin
  • Red, irritated skin
8. Signs of stress
  • Depression (hanging head, unresponsive)
  • Restlessness (an increase in usual activity)
  • Isolation
9. Changes in vocalization
  • Howling
  • Crying in the litter box
10. Bad breath

Vaccinations

Vaccines are the key to a long and healthy life. Your veterinarian will suggest the best vaccines for your pet based on age, medical history and lifestyle.

FELINE RABIES
The rabies vaccine is required by law by Winnebago County and protects against the fatal illness. Rabies can be transmitted to other pets and people through the bite of an infected animal. First kitten vaccine given at 16 weeks of age and is good for 1 year. After that year is up, a 3 year vaccine is then given.

FVRCP (FELINE DISTEMPER)
This combination vaccine protects against viruses that cause life-threatening respiratory and gastrointestinal issues. Kitten vaccinations are given in 3 to 4 week intervals and start at 6 to 8 weeks of age, again at 12 to 14 weeks, and last one given at 16 weeks of age.

FELINE LEUKEMIA
This vaccine protects against the contagious and often fatal disease, which is easily spread between cats. It is recommended annually for at risk cats such as outdoor cats, or cats that share a household with Leukemia positive pets. First vaccine can be given at 8 weeks of age and MUST be boostered in 3 to 4 weeks to be effective.

CANINES RABIES
The rabies vaccine is required by law by Winnebago County and protects against the fatal illness. Rabies can be transmitted to other pets and people through the bite of an infected animal. First puppy vaccine given at 16 weeks of age and is good for 1 year. After that year is up, a 3 year vaccine is then given.

DHPP (DISTEMPER)
This combination vaccine protects against viruses that cause life-threathening neurologic, respiratory and gastrointestinal issues. Puppy vaccinations are given in 3 to 4 week intervals and start at 6 to 8 weeks of age, again at 12 to 14 weeks, and last one given at 16 weeks of age.

LEPTOSPIROSIS
This vaccine protects against a bacteria that can cause deadly kidney or liver disease. It is transmitted through the urine of wildlife. Leptospirosis is also transmissible to people.

LYME
This vaccine helps prevent Lyme disease, which is easily transmitted through the bite of an infected tick.

BORDETELLA
This vaccine protects against an airborne respiratory virus commonly known as Kennel Cough. This vaccine is recommended for dogs being boarded, puppy/obedience classes, dog parks, grooming, etc.

Spay/Neuter

Part of being a conscientious pet owner is considering the importance of spaying or neutering your furry friends. Read on for more information and the truth behind some common myths.

FELINES

Spaying
Although it's commonly referred to as a spay, this surgery is actually a complete ovariohysterectomy, or the removal of both ovaries and the uterus. Spayed cats are at a much lower risk for ovarian cancers and cysts, mammary gland tumors, and uterine infections.

Unspayed females are also more likely to exhibit inappropriate urine marking during their heat cycles- not to mention their aggravating wailing and crying to be let outside. The urge to reproduce is amazingly powerful in cats. Those of us who have endured the company of a cat in heat know all too well the origin of the term caterwauling! Neutering
Neutering is the removal of both testicles. It sounds worse than it is- and no, he won't miss them! Neutered males are less susceptible to prostate disease and testicular cancer.

Castrated male cats are often more affectionate and people-oriented, and neutering your cat usually keeps him from spraying his objectionably strong-smelling urine in your home to mark his territory. Neutered males are also less likely to wander from home.

CANINES

Spaying
Although it's commonly referred to as a spay, this surgery is actually a complete ovariohysterectomy, or the removal of both ovaries and the uterus. Spayed dogs are at a much lower risk for ovarian cancers and cysts, mammary gland tumors, and uterine infections.

Neutering Neutering is the removal of both testicles. It sounds worse than it is- and no, he won't miss them! Neutered males are less susceptible to prostate disease and testicular cancer. They're also less likely to act aggressive or to wander away from home.

Innapropriate Urination

Inappropriate urination disorders include behaviors such as urinating outside of the litter box, urine marking and spraying, or any of these behaviors in combination. Inappropriate urination is the most commonly reported behavioral problem amongst cats. It is also the highest reported reason for feline relinquishment to shelters. This can be devastating to the owner, create a burden on shelters, and contribute to the incidence of feline euthanasia. It is important that owners have an understanding of this disorder.

There can be several different causes that may explain why your cat is inappropriately urinating. Let’s take a look at a few of the major causes.

FLUTD
Feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD, is a term used to describe any group of disorders or diseases that affects the lower urinary tract (bladder or urethra) in cats. Causes of urinary tract disease include crystals or stones in the urinary bladder, bladder infections, inflammation in the urinary bladder, and other abnormalities within the urinary tract.

The most serious problem associated with urinary function is urethral obstruction. Urethral obstruction is a potentially life-threatening condition and one of the most serious results of FLUTD. Male and neutered male cats are at a greater risk for obstruction than females, because their urethra is longer and narrower. Urethral obstruction is a true medical emergency, and any cat suspected of suffering from this condition must receive immediate veterinary attention within 24 to 48 hours, otherwise it could be fatal.

​ A cat experiencing a urethral obstruction behaves similarly to any other cat with FLUTD: straining to urinate, frequently attempting to urinate and producing little, if any, urine. However, as time passes, an obstructed cat typically becomes much more distressed- often crying out in pain. If your kitty is having any of these symptoms please contact your veterinarian!

Which cats are the most at risk of FLUTD?
FLUTD is thought to affect around 1-3% of cats each year, so it is among the more common diseases seen. Because of the diverse nature of the underlying causes, cats of any age, breed, and gender can be affected by FLUTD, but in general, the disease is more common in:

  • Middle-aged cats
  • Neutered cats
  • Over-weight cats
  • Cats which take little exercise
  • Cats that eat a dry only diet
  • Purebreds
  • Lower Urinary Tract Clinical Signs
Patients may exhibit one or more of the following:

  • ​​Straining to urinate- with and without production of urine
  • Crying while urinating
  • Blood in urine
  • Urinating in places other than in the litter box
  • Posturing (squatting) in the litter box for a long period of time
Steps to reduce occurrences and signs of FLUTD:

  • Feed small meals on a frequent basis
  • Provide clean, fresh water at all times
  • Provide an adequate number of litter boxes
  • Keep litter boxes in quiet, safe areas of the house
  • Keep litter boxes clean
  • Minimize major changes in routine
Cat is displaying FLUTD signs, now what? If your cat is displaying lower urinary tract signs, such as straining repeatedly to urinate and inability to produce urine, seek veterinary care immediately. This condition can rapidly become fatal, especially in male cats. Tricks used to increase water consumption:
  • Use a water fountain
  • Use flavored waters such as tuna water, chicken or beef broth, clam juice, lactose-free cat milk, etc.
  • Add plain water to canned food, 1 tablespoon per meal, or whatever amount your cat seems to like. Some cats are difficult about drinking water so you have to get a little creative.

Litter Box Do's and Don'ts

Top reasons for cats to stop using the litter box:

  • Dirty litter box
  • Poor choice of litter
  • Poor location of litter box
  • Blocked from the box by a dominate feline housemate
  • Box size is too small
  • Too few boxes
  • Medical problems- this should always be a serious consideration
  • Change in litter brands
DO:
  • Scoop the litter boxes twice daily
  • Use unscented litter
  • Keep the litter deep enough
  • Have enough litter boxes available (one box more than cats; 2 cats=3 boxes)
  • Have litter boxes placed in quiet areas
  • Seek veterinary attention if your cat stops using the litter box
DO NOT:
  • Use scented litters or deodorizers
  • Use hooded litter boxes
  • Use plastic liners in litter boxes
  • Set litter boxes next to each other
  • Punish your cat for not using the litter box
  • Put a child in charge of litter box maintenance
  • Use strong solvents to clean litter boxes

Fleas/Ticks

FLEAS

Fleas can make pets' lives miserable, and humans begin to itch just at the thought of them. Fleas are small flightless insects that form the order Siphonaptera. As external parasites of mammals and birds, they live by consuming the blood of their hosts.

Let's look into some flea facts:

  • Fleas can survive in lows as cold as 28°F and highs up to 95°F.
  • Female fleas lay eggs within 48 hours of mating, producing 40 to 50 eggs per day.
  • Many species of fleas also feed on humans. Your pet isn't the only one at risk.
  • Fleas can transmit tapeworms.
  • Fleas can jump 50 to 100 times their body length.
  • Stray cats, dogs, rabbits, and squirrels can carry flea eggs into your yard. Having a fence doesn't necessarily keep it safe.​
  • Flea eggs can fall off an infested pet as it travels through your home, thereby infesting the house.
  • Fleas have four life stages: egg, larvae, pupae, and adult. All can live on your pet and in your house.

Flea dirt is one of the primary indicators that your pet has fleas and that you need to take action. These small black specks are flea feces and materially are composed of old blood. You’ll mostly spot them on the skin of your pet, although they’re also known to show up in pet beds and other places your pet spends time too. They’re very small in size – less than a millimeter long – and have the appearance of flecks of black pepper.

PREVENTION IS KEY!
Looking to get rid of fleas in the home? Homeowners should clean and vacuum frequently to help remove flea populations and prevent the laying of eggs. It's also necessary to keep the lawn groomed to avoid rodent habitation. Pet owners should practice active flea management by keeping dogs on a leash when outside, bathing and grooming pets regularly, visiting a veterinarian annually, and using flea treatments according to direction. If you suspect a flea infestation, there are products available to use in home, such as Siphotrol Premise spray, or you may hire a professional to treat the house.

TICKS


Ticks belong to the Arachnida class. There are about 850 species of ticks, some of which are capable of transmitting diseases such as Lyme, Ehrlichia, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Let's take a look at these tick facts:
  • The brown dog tick and the American dog tick are the most common carriers of disease among dogs.
  • Ticks feed on the blood of their host, humans, birds, reptiles, as well as wild and domestic mammals.
  • Tick infestations are more common in dogs than cats.
  • Ticks don't fly, jump, or drop from trees onto your head and back. If you find one attached there, it most likely latched onto your foot or leg and crawled up your body. Ticks are 'programmed" to try to attach around your head or ears.
  • Ticks can be active even in winter. Adult stage deer ticks become active every year after the first frost. They are not killed by freezing temperatures. Deer ticks will be active any winter day that the ground is not snow-covered or frozen.

PREVENTION

Environmental Tick Control.
Tick control in the environment generally involves treating the yard and kennel areas. If you decide to treat your yard instead of hiring a professional, you may need to spray every 7 to 14 days during peak tick months. Remember that cold, frosty fall weather does not kill ticks (in fact, that is when deer tick numbers are usually at their peak), so treat your yard well into the fall and early winter. Regardless of the product used, remember not to spray where runoff could go into lakes or rivers. Removing leaves and clearing brush and tall grass from around the house and kennel areas can also help reduce the number of ticks.

Tick Control on Your Pet
There are many tick control products for pets, including once-a-month topical products, sprays, powders, dips, shampoos, and collars. Some popular products include Frontline Gold, Nexgard, Seresto collars, and Bravecto, among others. Make sure you use tick treatments according to labeled directions. As always, if you have any questions involving ticks, don't hesitate to give your veterinarian a call.

Tick Removal
  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.
  • Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. Don't worry if the mouth part of the tick stays in your pets skin, it can happen sometimes when they are well embedded. It's a bit like having a splinter and it will fall out in a few days.
  • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with mild soap and water.
  • Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
Avoid folklore remedies such as "painting" the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible–not waiting for it to detach.

Please see Mainelyticks.com for more information and helpful links!

Heartworms

What is heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the United States and many other parts of the world. It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of affected pets. Heartworms cause severe lung disease, heart failure, and damage to other organs in the body.

Heartworm disease affects dogs, cats, and ferrets, but heartworms also live in other mammal species, including wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions, and in rare instances, humans. Because wild species such as fox and coyotes live in proximity to many urban areas, they are considered important carriers of the disease.

What do I need to know about heartworm testing?

Heartworm disease is a serious, progressive disease. The earlier it is detected, the better the chances the pet will recover.

​There are few, if any, early signs of disease when a dog or cat is infected with heartworms, so detecting their presence with a heartworm test administered by a veterinarian is important. The test requires just a small blood sample from your pet, and it works by detecting the presence of heartworm proteins. If your pet tests positive, further tests may be ordered.

How is heartworm disease transmitted from one pet to another?

Adult female heartworms living in an infected dog, fox, wolf, or coyote produce microscopic baby worms called microfilaria that circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites and takes a blood meal from an infected animal, it picks up these microfilaria. Then, when the infected mosquito bites another dog or cat, or other susceptible wild animal, the infective larvae are deposited onto the surface of the animal's skin and enter the new host through the mosquito's bite wound. Once inside a new host, it takes approximately 6 months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and up to 2 or 3 years in cats. Because of the longevity of these worms, each mosquito season can lead to an increasing number of worms in an infected pet.

When should my dog be tested?

All dogs should be tested annually for heartworm infection, and this can usually be done during a routine visit to your veterinarian for preventative care. Following are guidelines on testing and timing:

Puppies under 7 months of age can be started on heartworm prevention without a heartworm test (it takes at least 6 months for a dog to test positive after it has been infected), but should be tested 6 months after your intital visit, tested again 6 months later, and then yearly after that to ensure they are heartworm free.

Adult dogs over 7 months of age and previously not on a preventative need to be tested prior to starting heartworm prevention. They also need to be tested 6 months after the intial testing, and then annually thereafter.

If there has been a lapse in prevention (one or more late or missed doses), dogs should be tested immediately, then tested again 6 months later, and back to annual testing afterwards.

When should my cat be tested?

Heartworm infection in cats is harder to detect than in dogs, because cats are much less likely than dogs to have adult heartworms. The preferred method for screening cats includes the use of both an antigen and an antibody test (the antibody test detects exposure to heartworm larvae). Your veterinarian may also use x-rays or ultrasound to look for heartworm infection. Cats should be tested before being put on prevention and re-tested as the veterianarian deems appropriate to document continued exposure and risk. Because there is no approved treatment for heartworm infection in cats, prevention is critical.

FELV, FIP, FIV

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

What is FeLV?
FeLV is associated with the illness and death of more cats than any other infectious disease. FeLV depresses the cat's immune system, causing lymphosarcoma and/or leukemia. Lymphosarcoma is a cancer of the cells found in the lymph nodes and tissues, thymus gland, and blood and bone marrow. Other internal organs can also be affected. Leukemia affects blood cells and is associated with anemia. FeLV also causes the infected cat to be more susceptible to other diseases and infections.

How common is FeLV?
FeLV infected cats are found worldwide, but the prevalence of infection varies greatly depending on their age, health, environment, and lifestyle. In the United States, approximately 2 to 3% of all cats are infected with FeLV. Rates rise significantly- 13% or more- in cats that are ill, very young, or otherwise at high risk of infection.

What cats are at greatest risk of infection?
Cats at greatest risk of infection are those that may be exposed to infected cats, either via prolonged close contact or through bite wounds. Such cats include:

  • Cats living with infected cats or with cats of unknown infection status
  • Cats allowed outdoors unsupervised, where they may be bitten by an infected cat
  • Kittens born to infected mothers
  • Kittens are much more susceptible to infection than adult cats are, and therefore are at greatest risk of infection if exposed.
How is FeLV spread?
Cats persistently infected with FeLV serve as sources of infection. Virus is shed in very high quantities in saliva and nasal secretions, but also in urine, feces, and milk from infected cats. Cat to cat transfer of virus may occur from a bite wound, during mutual grooming, and (though rarely) through the shared use of litter boxes and feeding dishes. Transmission can also take place from an infected mother cat to her kittens, either before they are born or while they are nursing. FeLV doesn't survive long outside a cat's body, probably less than a few hours under normal household conditions.

What are the signs of disease caused by FeLV?
During the early stages of infection, it is common for cats to exhibit no signs of disease at all. However, over time, weeks, months, or even years, the cat's health may progressively deteriorate or be characterized by recurrent illness interspersed with periods of relative health. Signs can include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Slow but progressive weight loss, followed by severe wasting late in the disease process
  • Poor coat condition
  • Persistent fever
  • Pale gums and other mucus membranes
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Seizures, behavior changes, and other neurological disorders
  • A variety of eye conditions
How do I find out if my cat has FeLV?
A simple blood test can be administered to determine if a cat is carrying FeLV. The results are available the same day. This test is not a test for cancer, it is a test to see if the cat is carrying the virus that causes cancer.
How can I keep my cat from becoming infected?
Keep cats indoors, away from potentially infected cats that might bite them. If you do allow your cats outdoor access, provide supervision or place them in a secure enclosure to prevent wandering and fighting.

House infection free cats separately from infected cats, and don't allow infected cats to share food and water bowls or litter boxes with uninfected cats. There is a vaccine available to protect your cat from FeLV that is administered yearly.

Is there a cure for FeLV?
At this point, there is no cure, but with proper veterinary care, a good diet, and isolation from other cats, many cats will remain healthy for many years after initial infection. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

What is FIV?
FIV is a lentivirus, the same class of virus as HIV. FIV, which can live in many different tissues in cats, typically causes a weakening of the cat's immune system.

How do cats get FIV?
One of the tissues in which FIV lives is the salivary glands, so the most common route of infection is a deep bite wound from a FIV positive cat to another cat. It can also be transmitted via blood, in utero, and possibly from milk from an infected mother cat. It is extremely unlikely, if not impossible, for cats to get FIV from just being around infested cats, from sharing food bowls, or from a person touching a FIV positive cat and then touching a FIV negative cat.

​How do I know if my cat has FIV?
​A simple blood test can be administered to determine if a cat is carrying FIV. The results are available the same day. A cat can test positive as soon as two to four weeks after exposure, but it can take up to eight weeks.

Kittens under six months of age may test positive after having received antibodies from their mothers. It can take up to six months for these antibodies to go away. Thus, it is a good idea to retest a kitten who test positive after they have reached six months of age.

Can FIV be treated?
There are no proven treatments to rid a cat of FIV. Most FIV positive cats handle the disease well, but it is important to concentrate on treating any secondary illness.

What are the signs of FIV infection?
There are no specific signs of FIV infection. FIV positive cats have a weaker immune system so they are more prone to getting infections such as upper respiratory infections, ringworm, and dental disease. Other than that, FIV positive cats tend to live normal lives and have a normal length of life.

What can be done to prevent the spread of FIV?
Cats should be kept indoors so they do not fight with a FIV positive cat. Depending on where one lives, the rate of FIV positive cats ranges from 4 to 24 percent.

Can FIV negative cats live with FIV positive cats?
Yes! As long as the cats get along and do not fight. The risk that a FIV positive cat could spread the virus to a FIV negative cat can be minimized by having them live in separate rooms until you are confident that they will not fight with each other.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)



What is FIP?
Feline infectious peritonitis is a viral disease of cats seen worldwide. Not all cats infected with the virus causing FIP will become ill, but cats who do develop signs of FIP will likely succumb to the disease eventually.

What causes FIP?
FIP is a complex disease. FIP is a result of infection with feline coronavirus -- but while large numbers of cats are infected with feline coronavirus, few will ever develop FIP.

FIP is thought to result from a mutation of the virus within the body, combined with the response of the immune system, leading to inflammation in various organ systems. The mutated virus is not shed by the cat, so FIP is not actually contagious, though the more benign feline coronavirus is contagious.

Is my cat at risk for developing FIP?
FIP is most often seen in young cats, less than 3 years old, but it can be seen at any age. It is thought that the mutation in the virus that leads to FIP is more common in cats with immature or weakened immune systems.

The coronavirus is spread through direct contact via the nose and mouth with infected feces, so sharing litter boxes is a major route of transmission of coronavirus. However, as previously noted, FIP only develops in some cats who are infected with the coronavirus, so exposure does not automatically mean cats will get FIP.

What are the signs and symptoms of FIP?
There are two main categories of FIP: the wet form and the dry form, which have different characteristics. These broad forms are not necessarily completely distinct, however, and some cats will have some of both.

Wet Form

  • distention of abdomen due to fluid build up
  • difficulty breathing due to lung involvement
  • fever (long term, unresponsive to treatment)
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • depression
Dry Form

  • fever (long term, unresponsive to treatment)
  • loss of appetite
  • depression
  • weight loss
  • variable other signs related to organ failure, depending on which organs are involved (commonly involves kidneys, liver, pancreas, nervous system, eyes)

Diet

Contrary to advertising these days, the most important nutritional issue in pets today is not grain. It's also not bi-products, preservatives, or naturalness. It's obesity.

About 50% of cats between 5 to 10 years of age are overweight or obese. Obesity is a preventative problem in most cases. As with most conditions, prevention is much easier than treatment.

Some diseases associated with or complicated by obesity are as follows:

  • Heart and lung complications
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis, hip dysplasia, and Cruciate Disease
  • Renal or kidney complications such as Cystitis or house soiling
  • Liver complications such as Hepatic Lipidosis
  • Pancreatitis
  • IncreasedaAnesthetic risk
  • Shortened life span
  • Dermatologic issues such as grooming problems
Ideal ways to feed your cat.
Feed a mixed diet of canned and a measured amount of dry. Dry food is extremely dense in calories and very high in carbohydrates. Canned food is naturally lower in carbohydrates and lower in calories due to the water content.

Meal feed your cat instead of leaving food out all day. This is especially helpful in a multiple cat home, as it allows you to control the availability and observe who is eating. Calculate the total amount of food needed per cat and divide that into multiple meals throughout the day.

Did you know?
  • Kittens need more calories than adult cats do.
  • Spaying and neutering lowers the calorie need by 20%.
  • Indoor only cats need less calories than indoor/outdoor cats.