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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : features : pet corner April 24, 2015

7/1/2010 1:15:00 PM
Upper respiratory infections in felines
The Verde Valley Humane Society Pet of the Week is Chubby, whose adoption fee has been discounted by $20.
The Verde Valley Humane Society Pet of the Week is Chubby, whose adoption fee has been discounted by $20.

Sandra Trautman
Verde Valley Humane Society

As the weather begins to change shelters all across America begin to watch for yet a new problem with the animals.

The temperatures are fairly cool in the morning and again in the evening. But the temperatures are rising rapidly.

When you take in stray animals with no history, you can be assured that just about anything can arrive in shelters all over the United States.

Some of the animals have been running the streets and getting into who knows what. Their resistance can be down to a lack of proper care, food, shelter and vaccinations.

These conditions can make an animal very susceptible to many different types of diseases. It’s sad to say, but we receive many animals that haven’t been properly cared for.

As unfair as it seems, the fact is that cats have more of a problem with U.R.I. in a shelter than their canine friends.

There was an outbreak of URI a couple of months ago and we knew it would be back when the weather changed.

The URI did return with vengeance and though we saved many of our cats, we also lost many of them. This entire process is very hard on all of us. It’s the worst part of the job for all concerned.

What made it even worse this time was the ventilation and air exchange problem that we were experiencing. I felt like the disease was just lurking in the air in both buildings.

Even the most conscientiously run shelters will suffer from outbreaks of URI. These outbreaks are not to be taken as an automatic sign that the shelter’s cleaning program has failed.

It means that a careful evaluation of the cleaning and disinfecting program should be conducted to see what other corrective measures can be taken to minimize the disease.

The signs that all kennel workers and volunteers are taught to watch for include; runny eyes, sneezing, nasal discharge, coughing, loss of appetite, oral or nasal ulcers, sniffles, hoarse voice, or fever.

If you keep your own cat in the house and the vaccinations current, it shouldn’t be a problem with your “best friend.”

Do you have children? If so you notice the signs almost immediately. They are wiping their runny nose on their shirtsleeves, sniffing and possibly experiencing some coughing.

Watch for abnormalities in your animals. Any U.R.I. can be very uneventful if treated in the beginning.

In a kennel environment when you hear sneezing and there are 50 cats, it can be a very challenging task to find out exactly which cat or cats are repeatedly sneezing.

Our volunteers are a tremendous help when URI rears its ugly head. They observe the different areas, which often helps us to determine where the sneezes are coming from. Our volunteers are priceless and so dedicated to the cause.

Upper respiratory infections frequently cause mild symptoms that can be resolved if the shelter has an isolation area.

We aren’t fortunate enough to have those types of areas just yet, but we are improvising at this time. My office, the grooming room and any other areas we can find are working for us.

If the infected cats are treated with antibiotics and aren’t isolated, the disease will spread throughout the kennel.

The reluctance to euthanize the animals that have the mild symptoms will do nothing but contribute to the longevity of the problem and the inability to rid the shelter of the infection.

The ideal solution for cats with URI is to have them seen by the vet, started on antibiotics and then to be placed into foster homes without other cats.

The most common culprits that cause URI are two different viruses. One is a herpes virus (rhinotracheitis) and the other is the calici virus.

The vast majority of the cases seen are caused by these two viruses, but the disease can also be caused by chlamydia psitacci, which is a bacteria.

There have also been cases reported of the infection being caused by bordetella bronchiseptica, which is the same bacteria that is responsible for kennel cough in dogs.

Just as with human diseases, there is an incubation time with URI. This period is between two and seven days, which is the time between infection and the appearance of the clinical signs

A cat or kitten that looks perfectly healthy upon arrival can show symptoms of URI days later. This is exactly the reason that proper hand sanitizing and cleaning procedures are so important.

In shelters all over the U.S., everyone learns very quickly that you never know what tomorrow will bring.

We go home at the end of a long day with a wonderful feeling inside because we feel that everyone is healthy and happy. Upon arrival the next morning only to be greeted with sneezes.

This virus is spread in many ways. It’s not only in the air, it is spread by direct contact of sick cats with susceptible one, through environmental contamination with infected secretions, by cats that harbor and shed the virus after recovering from the clinical signs, but also by inanimate objects.

Inanimate objects are believed to be one of the largest factors to how diseases a spread in a shelter.

At VVHS and “Adopt for Life” each cage, dish, litter box, toy, blanket and rag is disinfected each day. The staff arrives at 7:15 a.m. and continuously disinfects until opening at 10 a.m.

Items to be laundered are done in smaller loads with detergent and bleach, as that is the only way the viruses can be destroyed.

If correct cleaning procedures aren’t followed, it does absolutely no good to isolate the infected animal.

Treatment for this viral disease is; immediate vet care and isolation, good nursing care, broad-spectrum antibiotics, fluid therapy sometimes in severe cases, and often it is necessary to encourage eating by offering foods with strong aromas.

It may be also become necessary to place a nasogastric tube in animals if they continuously refuse to eat.

If any of your cats have these symptoms, please contact your vet immediately. As with all diseases, the earlier it is detected the greater the chance will be for survival.

When an adoption is completed at “Adopt for Life”, you are given a free five-day vet visit. This visit is important for your animal.

At that time your new best friend will be seen for a health exam. Your new friend may seem fine at the adoption and show signs of URI three days later.

The exam is for you and your new pet. Please take advantage of this important offer.

This will help his new family in with the training process. He seems very smart and eager to learn and please us.

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