Monday, November 16, 2009


Media coverage and conversation just can't seem to get away from the "flu"...both the annual influenzas and H1N1 (Swine Flu). We are presented with a barrage of information, ranging from the availability of vaccines to mortality statistics to more crossovers of H1N1 from humans to cats and ferrets. Where will it end? Influenza viruses have been around for a long time and have been shown to be very active in their evolutionary development. As these viruses evolve, they can present new challenges to their respective hosts. That's the main reason for the variations necessary in your yearly flu vaccine.

Now that influenza viruses have shown up in dogs and cats, a new diagnostic and medical challenge awaits those who care for these pets. In much the same manner as humans trying to tell the difference between the flu and a good, "old-fashioned" cold, a pet owner might be confused between a typical upper respiratory disease and one of the newer influenza infections. Dog Influenza ( might be initially confused with Kennel Cough, which Helpful Buckeye discussed in last week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats ( Likewise, a cat that has contracted H1N1...Swine Flu, as did a cat recently in Iowa, may be hard to distinguish from a cat suffering from Upper Respiratory Disease Complex.

As Helpful Buckeye has advocated since our first issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats, back in May 2008, a well-informed pet owner will make much better decisions concerning the health of their dogs and cats. This week's issue will present an overview of upper respiratory diseases in cats.

Helpful Buckeye received several e-mails about last week's topic of Kennel Cough in dogs, most of which were nicely summarized by this comment from "K" in Singapore: "I'm writing in regards to your article on kennel cough. The article is very helpful and I wish I had known more about it before my pups caught it." Hopefully, our readers will pick up several tidbits of helpful knowledge each week that will help them to either prevent or avoid many of the diseases that confront our dogs and cats.

Our poll question from last week produced 24 responses, both online and by e-mail. There were 14 respondents who have had a dog diagnosed with kennel cough and 10 who were really fortunate to have avoided this aggravating disease. Remember to answer this week's poll question in the column to the left.


1) In keeping with our opening theme, the Mayo Clinic had presented this comparison for use in determining whether you might have the flu or just a cold:

2) The ASPCA has announced a new research effort directed at Canine Influenza:

Groundbreaking Canine Influenza Study Spearheaded by ASPCA

Last week, the ASPCA announced the launch of a three-year research study of the Canine Influenza Virus, a highly contagious respiratory illness. Funded by the Morris Animal Foundation, the groundbreaking study—conducted by Dr. Miranda Spindel, ASPCA Director of Veterinary Outreach, and Dr. Gabriele Landolt of Colorado State University's Department of Clinical Sciences—will help animal shelters develop effective testing and control methods to limit the transmission of the disease. "Canine influenza is a newly emerging disease that does not discriminate by breed or age," says Dr. Spindel. "The virus is easily transmitted between dogs housed in close contact with each other, and is especially problematic for animal shelters. This study seeks to address this vulnerable population.” First identified as a respiratory pathogen in 2004, CIV has spread widely among dogs in the United States. The virus is transmitted in droplets created by coughing and sneezing, and other symptoms include fever, rapid breathing, loss of appetite and lethargy. With proper and timely treatment, the disease’s fatality rate is quite low.


Following the discussion last week of Kennel Cough in dogs, Helpful Buckeye got several e-mails from cat owners inquiring about whether cats can catch Kennel Cough and if there are comparable diseases in cats. The answer to the first question, at least for now, is a simple "No" and "Yes"....

By that, "No" means that the Kennel Cough complex of infectious agents has not been shown to occur in cats; however, the "Yes" refers to recent findings of the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria being discovered in the upper respiratory tract of a few cats. So, until some involvement of the Parainfluenza virus is established, cats will not be afflicted with Kennel Cough.

The answer to the second question is a most definite "Yes." Even though the infectious agents are different, cats do suffer from upper respiratory diseases, some of which present a greater challenge to your cat than Kennel Cough does to your dog.

Feline Upper Respiratory Disease Complex

Feline upper respiratory disease complex includes those illnesses typified by runny nose, conjunctivitis, excessive tear production, salivation, and oral ulcerations. The principal diseases, feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR) and feline calicivirus (FCV) infections, affect exotic cats as well as domestic species. Feline pneumonitis ( Chlamydophila [formerly known as Chlamydia] psittaci ) appears to be of lesser importance. FVR and FCV are host-specific agents and pose no known human risk of infection. Chlamydophila has been reported to cause conjunctivitis in humans. FVR and FCV account for about 90% of upper respiratory infections in cats and there can actually be simultaneous infection with both viruses.

Natural transmission of these agents occurs by way of aerosol droplets produced by sneezing and coughing, contact with the discharge from the eyes and nose of an infected cat, and contact with contaminated food dishes, hands, and bedding. Cats that have recovered from either of these infections can harbor the virus for months, with FCV being shed continuously and FVR being shed intermittently.

Signs and Symptoms

It can often be impossible to differentiate between infections with FVR and FCV. However, there are several differences that can help identify which infection is present:

  • Sneezing is common with FVR...uncommon with FCV

  • Oral ulcers are rare with FVR...common with FCV

  • FVR rarely progresses to pneumonia...FCV commonly includes pneumonia

  • FVR can cause abortions...FCV does not

  • High fevers (105 degrees) common with consistent pattern with FCV

  • Severe loss of appetite with FVR...only mild appetite loss with FCV

  • Severe depression is common with FVR...only mild depression seen with FCV

Chlamydophila infections usually involve conjunctivitis, with some occasional sneezing and fever. They can progress from just a watery eye discharge to that of a mucus and pus combination.

As with many viral diseases, treatment for FVR and FCV is mostly symptomatic and supportive. If there are secondary bacterial implications, antibiotics (either oral or for the eyes) may be included in the treatment plan. Supportive treatment would include:

  • Keeping the eyes and nostrils clear of discharge

  • Increasing humidity with a vaporizer...or putting the cat in a closed bathroom with a hot shower running

  • Keeping the cat warm and quiet

  • Correct dehydration by running fluids

  • Force-feeding if necessary...either by running fluids or by installation of a feeding tube

Due to the very contagious nature of these viruses, cats with FVR and FCV usually should not be hospitalized unless they are quite ill and if they can be placed in some type of isolation.


Prevention of FVR, FCV, and Chlamydophila can be greatly enhanced by the proper use of vaccinations against these agents. There are several different types of vaccines available and your veterinarian can suggest which will be best for your situation. None of these vaccines is 100% effective as vaccinated cats can still be infected with the viruses. These cats will usually only show very mild forms of the diseases but they can still be chronic carriers. For prevention of these diseases in groups of cats, additional control measures are advised. Routine vaccinations should be given to all cats, while new cats should be vaccinated and kept in isolation for at least three weeks. Multiple-cat households should be kept thoroughly clean, with overcrowding being avoided. Any suspected carriers of these viruses should be removed from the population and kept in isolation.


1) Part 3 of the ASPCA's winter health tips for your pets is here.

Cat Survives 2-Mile Ride in Car Engine: Points to Winter Danger

Recently, the country was mesmerized by the story of a tan-and-white Tabby cat from the Bronx, NY, who survived an unusual ordeal: a two-mile drive through his northern NYC borough, while stuck inside the engine of an SUV. The stray was so severely wedged inside that the battery and other engine parts had to be removed in order to free him. Though the story has a happy ending—two detectives from the NYPD's Emergency Service Unit pulled the cat, who is now recovering nicely, to safety—the incident points to a winter phenomenon that many felines do not survive.

During the winter, ASPCA experts explain, it’s common for outdoor cats to sleep under the hoods of cars for warmth and protection. Once the motor is started, however, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan or fan belt. One solution is for owners of vehicles to bang loudly on the vehicle hood before starting the engine or blow the horn. This gives a sleeping cat the chance to escape or announce his presence by meowing or moving around.

The danger doesn’t only apply to strays, however. Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, ASPCA Executive Vice President, warns: "For their own benefit and for the benefit of the communities where they live, owned cats should not be allowed to roam freely outdoors."

Pet parents, be aware: there are many other dangers that our animal companions face during winter.

  • Keep your cat inside. When outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. And cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs and wildlife.

  • Engine coolant is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol.

  • If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, minimize his time outdoors—briefly take him out, and only to relieve himself. This includes puppies, who can be paper-trained during the colder months rather than housebroken.

  • Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter—a longer coat will provide more warmth. And continue to brush your pet regularly during the winter months. This will remove dead hair and keep the coat clean to ensure better insulation. It will also keep natural oils distributed throughout the coat.

2) Thanksgiving Safety Tips From The ASPCA

‘Tis the season for friends, family and holiday feasts—but also for possible distress for our animal companions. Pets won’t be so thankful if they munch on undercooked turkey or a pet-unfriendly floral arrangement, or if they stumble upon an unattended alcoholic drink. Check out the following tips from ASPCA experts for a fulfilling Thanksgiving that your pets can enjoy, too.

  • Talkin’ Turkey...If you decide to feed your pet a little nibble of turkey, make sure it’s boneless and well-cooked. Don't offer her raw or undercooked turkey, which may contain salmonella bacteria.

  • Sage Advice...Sage can make your Thanksgiving stuffing taste delish, but it and many other herbs contain essential oils and resins that can cause gastrointestinal upset and central nervous system depression to pets if eaten in large quantities. Cats are especially sensitive to the effects of certain essential oils.

  • No Bread Dough...Don't spoil your pet’s holiday by giving him raw bread dough. According to ASPCA experts, when raw bread dough is ingested, an animal's body heat causes the dough to rise in his stomach. As it expands, the pet may experience vomiting, severe abdominal pain and bloating, which could become a life-threatening emergency, requiring surgery.

  • Don't Let Them Eat Cake...If you’re baking up Thanksgiving cakes, be sure your pets keep their noses out of the batter, especially if it includes raw eggs—they could contain salmonella bacteria that may lead to food poisoning.

  • Too Much of a Good Thing...A few small boneless pieces of cooked turkey, a taste of mashed potato or even a lick of pumpkin pie shouldn’t pose a problem. However, don't allow your pets to overindulge, as they could wind up with a case of stomach upset, diarrhea or even worse—an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. In fact, it’s best keep pets on their regular diets during the holidays.

  • A Feast Fit for a Kong...While the humans are chowing down, give your cat and dog their own little feast. Offer them rawhide strips, Nylabones or made-for-pet chew bones. Or stuff their usual dinner—perhaps with a few added tidbits of turkey, vegetables (try sweet potato or green beans) and dribbles of gravy—inside a Kong toy. They’ll be happily occupied for awhile, working hard to extract their dinner from the toy.


Check out these dog and cat beds from Dog Gone Smart Bed: According to the ad, they are anti-odor, anti-stain, and anti-hair buildup. What more could a pet owner want?


1) What better way to get started this week than with a bunch of "crazy" cats? Enjoy their antics at:

2) A Great Dane, named Titan, has been selected as the World's Tallest Dog by Guinness World Records: Helpful Buckeye wonders if this is considered the same as the "biggest" or the "largest" dog in the world. Uncertainty in terminology....

3) Apparently the powers that be in the United Kingdom have decided that it will no longer be tolerated for a dog owner to let their dog become obese. One obese dog was confiscated from his owner and another owner was fined the equivalent of $1900 for allowing his dog to be 100 lb. over its normal weight. Read the news story at:

4) We always hear about child-proofing a home, but here's your opportunity to learn more about cat-proofing your home: There are 6 areas of interest in the home that this article covers.

5) The United Bamboo Cat Calendar presents some cats in interesting poses, wearing unexpected apparel:

6) Cat owners are known to wonder what their cat does all day when home alone. The folks at Purina have taken a first step toward providing some answers. Purina Friskies recently undertook a study to find out what cats do all day when they're home alone. They fitted 50 indoor cats with collar cameras to get a cat's eye view of the world. To learn about their findings, go to:

7) This past Tuesday, 10 November, was the 26th birthday of Microsoft's Windows operating system. The first Windows operating system was released in 1983 and has gone through many upgrades, with Windows 7 just being released back in October. Most of us are using Windows, for better or for worse, as we share our interests in dogs and cats.

The Pittsburgh Steelers ran into an unexpectedly tough Cincinnati Bengal team today and lost the game, for their second loss to the Bengals this year. Perhaps the Bengals are for real? This loss puts a slight damper on playoff considerations.

The San Antonio Spurs are still close to the lead in their division, which isn't too bad considering they have been without Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.


The Four Musketeers galloped into Scottsdale, AZ, and toured Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West this past week on a beautiful day.
From Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish novelist and poet: "A friend is a gift you give to yourself"...Aramis, Porthos, Athos, and d'Artagnan....

Robert Louis Stevenson also contributed this quote, which reflects part of our stated goal for Questions On Dogs and Cats: "All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared hearer." Helpful Buckeye strives to help our readers be "willing and prepared hearers" so that your dogs and cats can benefit from your knowledge.

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

1 comment:

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