FELINE “FLU” (continued)

We have spent an inordinate amount of time dealing with the several aspects of this viral disease complex which causes respiratory distress in cats.
We were obliged to divert from the topic of PUPPY AILMENTS because Guyana’s practising veterinarians are currently confronted with an increase in the number of cases of cats exhibiting severe sneezing, nasal congestion, and thick fluid discharge from the mouth and eyes. Consequently, we felt that it was imperative that we deal with this current ailment, which is creating great pain and suffering to the cats in a household as well to the caregivers in the home.
Previous columns dealt with the description and definition of this viral disease complex, as well as the symptoms and the treatment associated therewith. As promised, today we will discuss the possible prevention of this feline malady.

(1) Vaccination: The best possible preventative intervention is vaccination. Vaccines, live, are available to protect cats (especially the young ones) from Feline Infectious Respiratory Tract Disease (FIRTD). They may be either modified live or inactivated virus vaccines. There are several modified live or inactivated virus vaccines available on the market.
These vaccines are relatively successful in controlling the disease and decreasing the virus shedding. However, I must add that the vaccines do not completely protect against a development of the carrier state. Also, modified live vaccines (MLV) may induce a mild form of respiratory distress. Your vet will advise you accordingly. I only advise the usage of the MLV in catteries, shelters, and commercial establishments which sell cats and kittens, or in any multi-cat environment. Cats in these environments are at a high infection risk.
If the animal is already exhibiting heave and over symptoms previously described, then the cat cannot/should not be vaccinated.

(2) Hygiene:
The environment in which cats reside (cattery, pet shelter, pet shop, household, etc.) must be constantly and vigilantly sanitized with the appropriate and reliable cleansing and disinfecting material/chemicals. Jeyes fluid and Chlorox seem to be the more efficient disinfectants. The usual pleasant, scented household wipes will not do the job optimally. Diluted bleach (1 part bleach to 30 parts water) seems to offer some degree of efficacy. Chlorhexidine and ammonium compounds less so.

(3)Improved home care and husbandry:
This is an important consideration in the fight to prevent the spread of FIRTD. Do not overcrowd the facility – whether it is the pet shop or the breeder’s station, or a humane society’s shelter, or a home. The latter ‘facility’ has been included because it is not seldom that cat lovers might have well over twenty cats in their homes. Only recently, I encountered a most charming and well-meaning cat-loving family having forty cats and kittens, none of which were vaccinated. Six of them were exhibiting symptoms of FIRTD (what we are loosely calling “Cat Flu”). In such circumstances, the other cats are guaranteed to become sick, and some will succumb.
The shelters, cat caring homes, breeding establishments, etc. must try their utmost to decrease exposure of their wards to stray/abandoned/orphaned cats and kittens which are roaming the towns and countryside, the highways, and byways.

(4)Staff Exemplary Behaviour:
Caregivers and clinic/ shelter/hospital staff should wear gloves and wash hands frequently, especially after attending to infected cats and cleansing of feed bowls, instruments used in day-to-day management, cages, and areas where the cats frequent. A shelter protocol that caregivers must adhere to for reducing the level of infection and spread of the disease should be documented.
Vets, cat caregivers, animal health assistants, clinic staff must be exemplary in advocating and following the above guidelines.

(5)Reducing the viral burden on the infected cat:
Caregivers must try as much as possible to clean the cat’s face, mouth, and nose, thereby removing/minimizing the accumulation of snot (nasal discharge) and saliva. The tissues or paper towels should be accumulated in airtight containers and incinerated.
Now that we have completed the publications associated with “Cat Flu,” let me again recognise and thank the graphics team of the Sunday Times who accentuate and beautify the Pet Care Column to support the messages offered each week. The readers of the column, via their calls and comments, and I appreciate the appropriate enhancement of the text by the GT staff.