Common Diseases and Other Illnesses

By Pat Hoctor

Feline leukemia is a fatal disease that is a form of cancer, which is caused by a virus. It normally causes a decrease in the number of white blood cells and a decrease in the immune response to even the simplest infections. It is spread from cat to cat by infected urine or mucus, eaten or inhaled. Cats may be long-term carriers, never showing any signs. They can get sick repeatedly, losing weight and suffering mild infections, becoming lethargic and depressed, only to get better and seem cured. However, the prognosis is usually to perish. There are vaccines to protect against feline leukemia.

Allergies are very common and are caused by many things. It makes little difference what causes the allergy, whether a kind of food, fleas, pollen, or something they touch. It appears to be a skin disease. The animal scratches its’ sides or chews its’ feet. Assume any animals doing these things are allergic and seek treatment.

Distemper can be contracted by both dogs and cats. However, they are two totally different illnesses from two different viruses. In dogs, it affects the nervous system, causing convulsions and death. In cats, it affects the white blood cell count and intestinal tract, causing diarrhea and decreased immune response. The secondary symptoms of dehydration and infection are usually what cause death.

Kidney failure is often the most limiting factor of longevity in our captive animals of today. Because of better food and medical care they will often live much longer than those in the wild. But as kidneys fail, they lose their ability to filter out waste. The waste then builds up in the bloodstream (uremic poisoning) and the toxins kill the animal. If found early it can be treated, allowing the animal to live much longer. The symptoms are often increased water consumption and urination. Often they will have a poor appetite and decreased activity.

Kennel cough is the reaction from any of thirteen different viruses and bacteria. You can only vaccinate for three of these thirteen. However, that will eliminate about 90% of the exposure. But remember, a dog can still get kennel cough from any of the remaining ten types.

Heartworm disease (dirofilaria immitus) is found in all of the lower forty-eight states. It is transmitted by mosquitoes from infected animals to non-infected ones. When injected into an animal the immature heartworm migrates slowly over six months to the heart. It then enters the blood vessels and matures into an adult. The adults reproduce babies called microfilariae. They circulate in the bloodstream to be sucked up by another mosquito that may transfer it to another unsuspecting victim. Heartworms can live for years, causing major damage to the heart and surrounding areas. If untreated, the host normally dies.

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterial organism borrelia burgdorferi. It can be transmitted to almost all warm-blooded animals, including humans, but wood ticks, deer ticks, fleas, flies, and other insects. It can be contracted in almost all areas of the United States. The symptoms are leg lameness, paralysis, fever, and seizures. It must be diagnosed by a blood test. Treatment for dogs is oral tetracycline at a dose of 10 mg per pound of body weight given four times daily for two weeks followed by amoxicillin at a dose of 5 mg per pound of body weight twice a day for two more weeks.

Motion sickness in pets causes diarrhea and vomiting. Starting a pet with short rides of no more than fifteen minutes and building to longer times may help. Don't feed the animal within two hours of departure time. Reduce vision in a crate so the animal can't see objects moving by. In severe cases, Dramamine can be given to dogs and cats. In very severe cases tranquilizers as can be prescribed by your vet!


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