The main infectious diseases in cats, their symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Infections are very widespread in nature, as their pathogens have increased resistance to environmental influences (but not all) and a very high degree of virulence. The latter means that they are capable of causing the disease if they enter the body of a susceptible animal, even in small quantities. Almost all infectious diseases in cats pose a threat to the life of pets. Just in some cases, an animal can reach an extremely advanced stage and even survive, and in others it dies during an acute or super-acute course of the disease. Therefore, the owners need to know about the main clinical signs of the main pathologies.

Feline immunodeficiency virus

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a naturally-occurring retrovirus. Simply put, it belongs to the same family as the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and the human immunodeficiency virus. The causative agent infects the immune system, as a result of which the body can not resist infections or parasites. It is estimated that about 3.5-4.7% of cats in our country are infected. (according to the most optimistic information). Given their total number, the numbers are extremely impressive.

All retroviruses are species-specific. This means that owners of sick cats can sleep peacefully: it is unrealistic to get immunodeficiency from your pet. In addition, like all viruses, in the external environment, the pathogen is not too stable. Normal sunlight kills it in about 20 minutes, boiling it instantly, basic disinfectants can cope in three to five minutes.

How is feline immunodeficiency virus transmitted? Just note that airborne infection does not occur, so that in case of accidental contact with other pets, your cat will not get sick. But a lot of the virus is secreted along with saliva, so the transmission of pathogens from animal to animal occurs with bites. Fortunately, there are very few officially confirmed cases of transmission through breast milk or intrauterine infection. In more than 90% of cases, completely healthy kittens are born in sick cats. But! If the cat became infected while already pregnant, then its offspring is likely to be initially ill.

Clinical manifestations

Consider the symptoms. Immediately, we note that in many adult cats, for the time being, the infection does not manifest itself in any way, but sooner or later the symptoms become obvious.

It all starts with lesions of the oral cavity. They are found in approximately 50% of cats with immunodeficiency virus. It can be difficult to see ulcers or wounds in the jaws of the animal, but the pet has a very bad breath, it eats little, and the cat reacts inadequately when trying to feel the lower jaw. Note that standard methods of treatment practically do not help, ulcers heal very poorly.

Not less common chronic respiratory infections. It is believed that they occur in 30% of sick animals. As a rule, respiratory infections in these cases manifest themselves in the form of a chronic runny nose, and a thick, yellow-green exudate is secreted from the nostrils. It is much worse that over time (due to the complete degradation of the immune system) a simple runny nose can develop into severe bronchitis or pneumonia.

Also possible damage to the organs of vision. They appear in the form of conjunctivitis, in more severe cases keratitis is possible. Unfortunately, feline immunodeficiency can even lead to glaucoma.

In addition, the immunodeficiency virus leads to the development of gastrointestinal diseases. Typically, these animals develop chronic diarrhea (up to 20% of all examined carriers of infection). Among other things, the disease opens the door to parasitic infestations (since there is no immunity, nothing prevents the larvae of the worms), cancer, and other dangerous intestinal pathologies.

One of the first signs of immunodeficiency can be chronic otitis media and other hearing damage. This happens due to a drop in immunity tension. Fungal and bacterial pathologies develop, as a result of which wool falls out on the ears, pus is released from the ear canals. The likelihood of tick-borne infections sharply increases. In addition, the development of large abscesses directly in the auditory canals is not excluded.

Finally, sick cats often misbehaving, which is associated with the development of neurological pathologies (the virus can penetrate the blood-brain barrier). The pet loses the ability to learn, often does not recognize the owners and the environment. Today, researchers argue about what exactly causes the following consequences: the action of the virus itself or the “work” of pathogenic microflora that multiplies in the body of a sick animal.

Therapeutic Techniques

Unfortunately, in veterinary medicine until now there is not a single specific medicine that would be effective against the feline immunodeficiency virus. Some success was obtained when drugs were used against human retrovirus species. The only problem is that they are very toxic to cats. The human interferon introduced intranasally, autohemotherapy and aloe extract intramuscularly proved to be not bad. But all this is the "initiative" of practicing veterinarians, there is no official approval of these methods yet.

In addition, a sick cat must be rid of all concomitant, secondary diseases. Bacterial pathologies that are treated using shock doses of broad-spectrum antibiotics are especially dangerous.

Feline infectious peritonitis

Extremely dangerous and almost always fatal viral infection of domestic and some wild animals. So, the disease affects cougars, lynxes, lions and cheetahs. Interesting that in nature exists two types this virus, and distinguishing them by "external" signs is not always possible even in laboratory conditions (only on animals do they act radically opposite). One of them, although it develops in the body of predisposed animals, only causes “mild” clinical signs, and more often there are no manifestations of the disease at all (FECV). The virus that causes the "classic" infectious peritonitis is referred to as FIPV. Why are these pathogens so much alike? In fact, it is one and the same virus. It has been repeatedly proven that FECV can spontaneously mutate in FIPV. Why is this happening? The question is interesting, but there is no answer to it yet. No one has ever described cases of reverse "transformation."

And that is why another problem arises. It is still unknown what the actual prevalence of the virus in nature is. At one time, studies by Italian, Chinese and Russian veterinarians proved that the degree of FECV coverage can reach 35-40% (home conditions), approaching the 93% mark when it comes to nurseries and animal shelters. Today, experts are inclined to believe that at least 5% of sudden deaths of cats occur due to spontaneous mutations of the virus and its transition to a pathogenic state.

Clinical picture

"Dry" or non-expansive form. It occurs in approximately ¼ sick cats. The "clinic" is growing slowly. The animal's appetite gradually worsens, it becomes lethargic, and the quality of the coat decreases. In 10-25% of cases, neurological seizures are observed. Possible paralysis, disorientation, trembling and convulsions, involuntary excretion of urine and feces. Sometimes the liver and kidneys fail. In some cases, the only sign indicating infection is eye damage (conjunctivitis and keratitis). Note that diseases of the organs of vision are a classic symptom of many viral infections.

"Wet" or expansive form. It is much harder to turn on. Often an intermittent fever develops. In more than 70% of cases, progressive anemia develops, and digestive problems also appear (in the form of intermittent cases of diarrhea and constipation). Even worse, with infectious peritonitis in an expansive form, ascites (dropsy of the abdominal cavity) almost always develops, which makes the cat look like a pear. In about 27% of cases, dropsy of the chest cavity also develops (sometimes even simultaneously with ascites), which causes breathing problems. Unfortunately, about 83% of cats with this form of the disease die within two weeks after the first signs.

What to do?

As in the previous case, there is no specific treatment. Therapy is symptomatic, human interferon is also used. They fight ascites by pumping fluid from the abdominal cavity through a catheter in a timely manner, while prescribing drugs that support the liver. Anti-inflammatory corticosteroids and shock doses of antibiotics are often prescribed (to prevent secondary infections).

As a rule, it is still not possible to completely destroy the virus, but it can be suppressed. Subsequently, "formally" cured animals should be examined at least once a quarter by a veterinarian.


A fungal infection commonly found in cats of all ages and breeds. The farther south, the higher the prevalence of the disease. Often the only symptom is chronic runny nose. It is difficult to diagnose and treat pathology (like all other fungal infections). The sooner the owner realizes that something is wrong with his cat, the more chances there will be for a successful outcome.

Everything is complicated by the fact that Aspergillus fungus is very widespread in the external environment. Despite this, not every animal or person who gets into the body of spores of the fungus gets sick. In most cases, the infection develops in pets after a long course of antibiotic therapy or inadequately long use of anti-inflammatory corticosteroids. Also, the practical experience of veterinarians around the world proves that aspergillosis very often becomes a secondary infection in all types of diabetes in cats. Symptoms of the disease are as follows:

  • Thick exudate stands out from the nostrils. At first it is yellow-green, subsequently blood impurities and fragments of dead tissue may appear.
  • If you look closely, you can notice ulcerative lesions on the inside of the nasal passages.
  • The cat does not allow to feel the face and, in particular, the nose, as the slightest mechanical effect gives him severe pain.

The combination of these symptoms with a high degree of confidence allows us to talk about aspergillosis.


Two drugs are most commonly used: itraconazole or fluconazole. Unfortunately, their oral administration rarely has an effectiveness of over 70%. If the case is severe, only washing the affected sinuses with the same drugs can help, and for this it is necessary to first open them during a rather difficult operation. Despite the complexity and high cost, this method is much preferable. Its performance indicators in some cases exceed 94%. Note that not all cats tolerate this type of surgery well. Sinus lavage through a surgically implanted catheter is much more promising and safer. Performance indicators reach 97-98%.

Giardiasis in cats

This is the name of the protozoal infection caused by parasitic protozoa, lamblia. Presumably, the prevalence of the disease is extremely high, some experts believe that up to 70-80% of all domestic cats (and dogs, by the way, too) can be carriers.

The disease is very interesting, since many aspects of the vital activity of the parasite are still not properly understood. In particular, until the infectious disease specialists have come to a single conclusion regarding whether there are lamblia that are transmitted to humans. So far, it is believed that this is impossible, but when caring for a sick pet, personal hygiene rules must be strictly observed.

Clinical picture

In most cases, giardiasis is asymptomatic. But this is more true for adult cats. Young animals tend to develop severe, debilitating diarrhea. Most often, the appetite of sick animals does not undergo changes, but pets still begin to lose weight chronically. The feces acquire a whitish-faded color and a disgusting smell, the consistency of the feces often becomes oily (the ulcerated intestines cannot digest and absorb lipids). Accordingly, in sick cats, depletion and dehydration quickly develop, and the condition of the skin and coat is worsening.

Therapy and difficulties

There is a treatment for giardiasis for cats, it is actively used, but none of the therapeutic methods has been approved by the International Veterinary Association to this day. In particular, Fenbendazole is highly effective. As a rule, it is used to eliminate helminthic infestations, but it is also used in the treatment of cats for giardiasis. It can be given to animals in combination with metronidazole. The latter is the guarantee of the absence of secondary bacterial infections. The combination of these drugs helps to cope with microscopic parasites in more than 70% of cases. Unfortunately, the method has many drawbacks (which is why they are in no hurry to approve it officially). In particular, in some cats, such therapy can cause vomiting, anorexia, and even neurological seizures. In addition, metronidazole has a bad effect on the liver of pets, and therefore it is not easy to choose a safe dose. Finally, it can also cause kidney damage.

Calcivirosis and Rhinotracheitis

Very common respiratory diseases (and not only). Why do we consider these pathologies in a complex? Both of them are caused, as a rule, by calciviruses, but in practice there are often situations when several pathogens can “lodge” in the cat’s body at once. In addition, calcivirosis with infectious rhinotracheitis is very often complementary. Finally, their symptoms are quite similar, and therefore, when making a diagnosis in a clinic, a specialist may be mistaken. Differential signs we will consider in the table below.

There is no specific treatment for any disease, the therapy is purely symptomatic.

Panleukopenia (cat's distemper)

A very serious and highly contagious disease of cats with a high degree of mortality (especially in kittens). It is caused by a virus that tends to parasitize in the epithelial cells of the digestive system, bone marrow and lymphoid tissues, and is also able to cross the blood-brain barrier and penetrate directly into the brain. The only protection is timely vaccination; effective drugs do not exist. Panleukopenia is a disease because the number of leukocytes in the blood of a sick animal drops to critically low values. Since these cells are responsible for the formation of the immune response, the animal often dies not even from the virus itself, but from secondary bacterial infections that easily affect a defenseless organism.

Symptomatology quite standard - first an intermittent type of fever develops, vomiting, diarrhea occurs, and neurological seizures may occur. With a fulminant form of the disease, the cat falls into a coma. When an unvaccinated kitten becomes ill from an unvaccinated mother, he dies with a probability of more than 97%. Generally, if the cat is in pregnancy period gets sick with a plague, then she has a miscarriage. It is interesting that after this the condition of the pet improves dramatically, the disease can go away within a few days.

The incubation period in "classic" cases lasts from three to five days.There are frequent cases when animals from the age of four do not show any symptoms of the disease at all, transferring the pathology “on their feet”. But this is a rarity. As a rule, a cat sharply refuses to feed, his body temperature rises to 40 ° Celsius.

Often everything happens so suddenly that the owners are inclined to the version that their favorite simply poisoned. If the animal did not die on the first day (and this is quite possible), then in a couple of days, severe dehydration will develop. Worst of all, when the brain is already affected: the cat sees a bowl of water, can bend over it, but is not able to drink. Also, cats (especially young ones) may develop diarrhea with heavy impurities of blood.


In this case, we will talk about leukemia caused by the feline leukemia virus (often referred to as FeLV). The disease is extremely dangerous high percentage of deaths. In addition to leukemia itself, the virus contributes to the development of other forms of cancer. Moreover, symptoms can develop for many months or even years from the moment of infection. It is believed that in our country, carriers are about 2.3% of cats. The causative agent is transmitted through food, water, care items. Perhaps infection through the bites of other animals. The clinical picture is extremely diverse:

  • Weight loss.
  • An intermittent fever.
  • Autoimmune pathologies.
  • Chronic anemia
  • Reproductive problems, including abortion and infertility.
  • Gastrointestinal Disorders.
  • Neurological seizures.
  • Decreased platelet count and, as a result, a serious deterioration in blood coagulation.
  • Lymphadenopathy (enlarged lymph nodes).
  • Neoplasms.
  • Cough, bronchitis and pneumonia.
  • Ulcerous lesions of the oral cavity.

The worst part is that the disease leads to decrease in body immune responsethat always ends with increased susceptibility to bacterial, fungal, protozoal, viral infections. In particular, feline infectious peritonitis (as mentioned above) is often paired with leukemia. But the first sign indicating a possible infection is the chronic pathology of the oral cavity. In addition, reproductive problems in sick cats are considered "classics." When infected, cats in more than 83% of cases have an abortion, even in the case of a “normal” birth, dead kittens are born or the offspring has some defects. Sick or ill cats often become infertile.

Leukemia is treated with chemotherapyincluding a combination of cytotoxic drugs and prednisone. Unfortunately, therapy does not always allow you to completely get rid of the disease.


The disease is known, although in veterinary practice one has to deal with it infrequently (to the great happiness of doctors). Pathology is caused by a virus. After the first symptoms appear, therapy is impossible, the animal is doomed. The transmission of the pathogen occurs with the bite of sick animals. Since the virus spreads along the nerve trunks towards the brain, the location of the bite directly affects the likelihood of survival. The closer it is to the head, the lower the chances of your cat. In addition, cats are small creatures, and therefore the pathogen moves faster along their nerve trunks. So in most cases, the first clinical signs develop within three or five days from the time of the bite. The only reliable means of prevention is vaccination (which many owners neglect).

Attention! If you see any clinical signs in your pet, at least similar to those described by us, immediately isolate the cat in a separate room and call a veterinarian! Rabies is an incurable, mortally dangerous disease for humans. Do not forget about it.

"Clinic" depends on the immediate form of pathology, of which there are two: lush and quiet. In the first case, the cat becomes extremely aggressive, rushes at all people and other animals. Please note that all this happens in complete silence, the rabid pet does not make a sound. He starts panic fear of water and there are inedible objects (up to the absorption of sawdust and pieces of brick). With a quiet form, everything looks much more harmless. The cat, even if in the recent past was very aggressive and “characteristic,” becomes very affectionate. Saliva in such animals, as a rule, also stands out, albeit in smaller volumes. Cats infected with a quiet form of rabies easily “trust” people and bite them. Often a person learns about his illness even when nothing can help him. Like a sick cat, by the way. All rabid animals are euthanized, and their bodies are disposed of by burning.


The disease is known, is considered "social", as it is widespread in countries with low living standards and poor-quality medicine. It is easily transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa. Of course, it is theoretically believed that each animal species has its own specific type of pathogen, but the microbe does not pay attention to such "conventions", so there is always a risk of infection. Fortunately, cats rarely have tuberculosis (but still, the cases are far from isolated).

First sign of disease - swollen submandibular lymph nodes. When the pathogen ripens enough in them, it quickly spreads throughout the body. Most often, tubercles form in the lungs, which causes the cat to cough. Pregnant cats have miscarriages when infected with tuberculosis, and cats often become infertile. In addition, tuberculosis in animals often manifests itself in the form of arthritis and arthrosis. The owner should immediately beware of problems with the legs of a young still pet.

If you think your pet may have TB, report it to your veterinarian immediately and be sure to isolate the cat from people and other animals! Keep in mind that tuberculum is an extremely stable bacterium in the external environment, and therefore, powerful disinfectants in extreme concentrations should be used to disinfect the premises in which the sick cat was kept.

Watch the video: How to Diagnose and Treat Feline Infectious Peritonitis (April 2020).