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Cat Disease Questions

Can cats get parvovirus or is it only a canine virus?

Canine parvovirus will not infect cats. Cats have their own parvovirus, which is commonly known as feline distemper. Feline distemper is also not contagious to dogs.

What is asthma in cats?

Feline asthma is a chronic inflammatory respiratory disease. Cats get the same airway spasms or smooth muscle contractions that lead to acute constriction of breathing as people do. Sometimes cat litter is blamed for this disease, but it’s role is limited. The aerosolized dust when breathed in can initiate symptoms in an already asthmatic cat. It cannot cause the disorder.

See your veterinarian for full diagnosis and treatment options if you believe your cat has asthma. Often the same drugs that work for people can work for cats as well, but only your veterinarian can dispense the correct drugs in the correct dosages. Never give your pet medications intended for your use.

What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is simply inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye (the mucous membrane that lines the inner surface of the eyelids and continues over the front part of the eyeball). When this tissue is infected, the eyes burn and become red and runny (hence the nickname “pinkeye”). There are many causes of conjunctivitis–many types of bacteria can get into the eye and cause infection.

This is a condition that can become serious, if the infection isn’t treated and it grows out of control. In a worst-case scenario, the eye could be damaged enough by the bacteria to cause blindness. So if your pet’s eyes seem infected or inflamed, take him to the veterinarian for an exam.

Your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics and/or other eye treatments, and you’ll need to be sure to follow all the instructions for administering them. With a little help from you and your veterinarian, however, your pet with conjunctivitis can soon feel good as new.

Kidney Failure

My 10-year-old cat was just diagnosed with kidney failure, and my veterinarian wants to give her intravenous fluids. Will this treatment really improve her life?

Unfortunately, kidney failure is very common in older cats and is usually a result of the natural progressive deterioration of the kidneys that comes with age. Kidney disease can also be caused by certain bacteria, kidney stones, urinary obstructions, or exposure to toxins, such as antifreeze.

Symptoms, including increased drinking and urination, often do not appear until the disease has progressed quite a bit. At this point, decisions must be made as to what, if any, treatment options should be pursued, taking into account the quality of the cat’s day-to-day life. While kidney disease is eventually fatal, many cats can live well for years with only partially functioning kidneys.

Because kidney disease is so prevalent in our feline friends, all cat owners should discuss with their veterinarians things they can do to try to minimize the chances of the disease occurring in their pet. While the disease is not always preventable, a good quality diet; access to clean, fresh water at all times; a low-stress lifestyle; and keeping toxic materials out of reach of your kitty can help. Also, all cats, but especially those eight years old or older, should receive physical examinations at least once a year so health problems can be detected as soon as possible.

Cats that are in kidney failure go through good and bad times. They have some days that are definitely of high quality and others during which they don’t feel very good.

There are two types of severe kidney disease. One is reversible and the other is not. Some older cats with kidney failure respond to heavy intravenous (IV) fluid therapy and stabilize enough to go on and live months or even several years with just diet changes and intermittent fluid treatments. Other cats do not respond well to fluid therapy and their health continues to decline.

You should discuss the full spectrum of treatment options with your veterinarian. Some options include having your cat hospitalized and given IV fluids, administering IV fluids to the cat on an outpatient basis several times weekly, administering fluid therapy at home, or engaging in no therapy at all. Another treatment that can help manage kidney failure is injecting a bone marrow stimulant that helps correct the anemia associated with chronic kidney disease.

The injection can be given at home under the direction of your veterinarian, but the cat must have a red cell level under about 25 percent before this treatment can be used. The drug will help your cat make more red blood cells, which helps him live longer and feel more energetic. Another option is kidney transplant surgery. This is expensive, and it can be hard to find a veterinarian who does this. To explore this option, your best bet would be to contact the veterinary college nearest you.

Nobody knows your cat as well as you do, and with your veterinarian’s advice, you should feel comfortable making whatever decision you think is in your cat’s best interest.


I’m looking for current references on the treatment of canine diabetes. My dog was diagnosed about six months ago. My veterinarian and I seem to have her blood sugar under control with two shots per day, but I want to know more.

Diabetes is a serious disease in both dogs and cats. It requires life long treatment which includes insulin regulation, diet control on high fiber foods, and regular exercise. Because every patient is a little different to regulate, it is very important to keep excellent records at home of daily insulin dosages given as well as daily urine sugar and ketone levels.

Regular check ups and blood sugar measurements by your veterinarian are mandatory to periodically fine tune regulation to prevent associated diseases. With daily commitment to a strict regimen, your dog can live a long, full life.

Feline Mammary Hyperplasia Complex

Some of my cat’s nipples have become extremely hard and swollen, but she isn’t pregnant. What’s going on?

Your cat has probably developed a condition called feline mammary hyperplasia complex. This is a benign (non-cancerous) enlargement of the nipples and teats caused by hormones that cats produce during their heat cycle. It’s mostly a problem seen in young cats.

Having your cat spayed should solve the problem, though it may take some time after surgery for the enlargement to go down. The first step you need to take is bringing your cat to the veterinarian for a checkup. Your veterinarian can make sure that the swelling is, in fact, caused by hormones and isn’t dangerous, and you can make an appointment to have your cat spayed.


Information courtesy of The American Animal Hospital Association.