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Minnesota Veterinary Hospital Blog

The Feline Leukemia Virus Doesn't Have to Be Fatal


One of the biggest misconceptions about the feline leukemia virus, also called FeLV, is that it only causes the type of cancer known as leukemia. Unfortunately, FeLV can cause a host of other health conditions as well. Some of the most common include eye diseases, gastrointestinal distress, immune deficiency, blood platelet issues, reproductive problems, and low body weight. The virus spreads from cat-to-cat contact and is more common in kittens than adult cats. Humans and other species of animals cannot acquire FeLV. 

Transmission, Symptoms, and Diagnosis of FeLV 
Kittens are more susceptible to this virus because they can easily contract it in utero or when nursing from their mother after birth. Adult cats typically pick up FeLV from sharing litter boxes, food dishes, or bedding with a cat who already has the virus. Other common methods of transmission include mutual grooming, contact with feces or urine, and being bitten by an infected cat. Those with the highest risk of acquiring FeLV are cats who live in communal living situations, a multi-cat household, or who spend unsupervised time outdoors. 

FeLV can be difficult to diagnose because it presents with vague symptoms that could indicate a different health condition. Unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, fever, and general weakness are often the first indications of the virus. If you suspect that your cat has picked up the feline leukemia virus, contact Minnesota Veterinary Hospital to request a blood test. 
One of three things will happen when a cat or kitten is exposed to the FeLV virus. Cats with a strong immune system and limited exposure will not go on to develop any complications of the condition. A second category of infected cats will fight off some effects of the virus but not others. This is called latent infection. Persistent infection is another possible outcome. In this case, the infected cat has progressive symptoms that usually cause serious illness within a few years of infection. Adult cats who have had other immunizations are better able to fight off FeLV than kittens with untested immune systems. 

Preventing and Treating FeLV 
We highly recommend getting the FeLV vaccine if your cat meets any of the risk factors mentioned above. It is also important to test for FeLV anytime your cat is ill, before adding a new cat to the household, when another cat in the home already has FeLV, or when your cat has faced specific risks such as being bitten by another cat. 
If your cat is diagnosed as FeLV-positive, he or she needs to be kept strictly indoors. This protects your own cat as well as any others he or she comes into contact with in the neighborhood. Try to keep life as stress-free as possible for your cat with FeLV and be certain to keep all regularly scheduled preventive care exams. Should you move out of our service area, your new vet needs to know about your cat’s FeLV status.

Photo Credit: vvvita / Getty Imae


It's Happy Healthy Cat Month


Cats are a part of the family in one of every three American households and it’s easy to see why. They’re affectionate, independent, playful, and can make us laugh with their zany antics. While cats can have a dramatic effect on our well-being, they depend on us to keep them happy and healthy. That is why the CATalyst Council decided that September should be Happy Healthy Cat Month. Here are several things you can do increase your cat’s health, happiness, and longevity:

• Cats love to find new hidey-holes to curl up in for a nap and to claim as their private space. Although your cat’s life might seem cushy to you, he does experience stress occasionally and needs a place to retreat. With this in mind, be sure to provide cat furniture that allows your cat to hide as well as places in your home that are accessible for this purpose.
• Make sure that your cat has proper identification in case she wanders away from home. Sadly, only two percent of cats without a tag and collar or microchip are ever reunited with their owners. If your cat must go outside, be sure to supervise her at all times or provide a fenced-in yard where she can explore.
• Provide your cat with quality nutritious food and limit treats to special occasions. You can encourage exercise by placing your cat’s food or treats inside of a toy. This also allows your cat the opportunity to use his natural hunting instincts.
• Cats need a variety of different toys for mental stimulation and physical activity. However, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on them. A piece of string, a cardboard box, or a $2 toy mouse will provide just as much activity for your cat as the more expensive toys. Playing with your cat gives you the opportunity to bond with him as well.
• Cats aren’t trying to be naughty when they scratch your furniture because scratching is a natural instinct for them. Placing a scratching post in different areas of your home is ideal to provide your cat with an outlet for the need to sharpen her claws. You can also invest in a soft claw product that goes over each one of your cat’s claws if the scratching does become destructive.

Don’t Forget to Schedule an Annual Preventive Care Exam
The American Association of Feline Practitioners states that people are generally good about bringing their kitten in for vaccinations and other essential care before they are a year old. Unfortunately, routine veterinary visits drop off considerably after that. Whether it’s a struggle to get a cat in the car, lack of funds, or another reason, fewer than half of all cats get a preventive care exam after their first birthday. 
These appointments are just as important for cats as they are for dogs. During Happy Healthy Cat Month, we encourage you to schedule an annual appointment so we can accurately gauge your cat’s health and well-being. 

Photo Credit:  Jessica Holden Photography / Getty Images


September is National Disaster Preparedness Month

A disaster can strike at any time without warning. Would you know how to keep your pet safe if suddenly faced with a tornado, flood, fire, blizzard, or another unpredictable event? Because of the stress of the situation, many people would not. That is why preparing a disaster plan in advance that includes your pets is such a good idea. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control has declared September as National Disaster Preparedness Month to encourage people to create a disaster response plan. However, preparing for a disaster presents additional challenges for pet owners.

What to Include in a Disaster Kit for Pets
It will be much easier to keep your pet safe in a disaster if you prepare a care kit in advance. The CDC recommends including the following items: 
  • Enough food and water for two weeks for each pet. Food should be in an airtight container to prevent it from spoiling. Be sure to pack a scoop or can opener if you need them. 
  • Copies of medical records 
  • Litter and litter box for cats and bags for dog waste 
  • Cleaning items for potty accidents 
  • Grooming supplies 
  • Medication to last at least two weeks 
  • Pet carriers 
  • Leash and harness 
  • Pet beds and toys
Written information about your pet in case you get separated. This should include your contact information, feeding instructions, list of medications, known behavior issues, and details about your pet’s regular veterinarian and boarding facility.

Creating Your Plan
Since it’s easy for your pet to get lost in the chaos of a sudden disaster, make sure that she has identification tags with current information as well as a microchip. Just don’t forget to register the microchip and keep your contact details updated. Each pet should have an individual carrier with both his name and your name written on it. If your pet rarely rides in the car, try a few practice runs in the carrier to get her accustomed to it.

The CDC also recommends keeping a leash or harness near each exit in your home. Your pet may not allow you to hold him in times of great stress and may also run away from home. Having this equipment nearby allows you to transport your pet as quickly and safely as possible.
It’s also important to decide in advance where you will stay in the event of a disaster. While sometimes you have no choice but to evacuate, you can stay at home in other situations. In this case, choose one room in your home to bring your dog or cat. It should be pet-friendly without any plants, chemicals, or small areas where she could get stuck.

If you must evacuate and want to keep your pet with you, make sure you have a list of pet-friendly hotels handy. When you must separate from your pet, it’s helpful to have a list of shelters, veterinary clinics, and boarding facilities in your area with you.

Diseases Spread Easily During Disasters
Exposure to severe weather, wild animals, stagnant water, and large crowds of people and other domesticated animals during a disaster means that serious diseases can spread much more rapidly. Making sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccines is essential to prevent him from acquiring a contagious illness. Please contact Minnesota Veterinary Hospital to establish a vaccine schedule if you haven’t done so already. 

Photo Credit:  Jevtic / Getty Images