EVEN AN INDOOR KITTEN CAN BENEFIT FROM A FELINE LEUKEMIA VACCINATION
Is your kitten vaccinated for feline leukemia virus? You may not have thought to do so if you plan for him to be an indoor cat, but veterinary immunology expert Ronald Schultz, DVM, says that vaccination during kittenhood, followed by a single booster vaccination at 1 year of age, is the best way to prevent the spread of the disease and reduce its incidence.
Feline leukemia virus is the most common cause of cancer in cats and can cause various blood disorders. Some cats with the disease have poor immune systems and are unable to fight off infections. Signs of the disease include appetite loss, weight loss, poor coat condition, pale gums and persistent diarrhea. In the United States, approximately 2 to 3 percent of cats are infected with the virus. That's a low percentage, but it's still a serious disease that is highly communicable.
Infected cats shed the virus through bodily fluids such as saliva, milk, urine and feces. They can spread it when they groom other cats, share food and water bowls, or use the same litter box. Nursing mothers can pass it on through their milk. Kittens younger than 4 months and sick cats have the highest risk of infection and a higher rate of infection -- 13 percent or more.
Cats who are vaccinated as kittens and boosted at 1 year will most likely have lifelong protection from the disease, even if they never receive another vaccination. Age-related resistance to the disease typically develops when cats are about a year old.
"If we could have as many cats immune as possible, we probably would start to see very little FeLV," Dr. Schultz says. "Now some people say 'Well, it's not that common anyway,' but it still creates some significant disease."
Many cat owners whose pets don't go outside skip this vaccine, assuming that it's not necessary. But cats can be escape artists or experience changes in lifestyle.
"I know an awful lot of indoor kittens that became outdoor cats," Dr. Schultz says. "Can we ever know when that animal is a kitten that it's never going to go outside and never be in contact with a potentially persistently viremic cat? The answer to that is no."
Other concerns include potential reactions to the vaccine, which can include swelling or pain at the injection site, lethargy or fever. Some cats develop granulomas (inflammatory nodules) or sarcomas (soft tissue tumors) at the injection site. The University of California at Davis' School of Veterinary Medicine suggests using a recombinant FeLV vaccine, citing evidence that this type of vaccine is associated with a decreased risk of sarcoma formation.
The advisory panel of the American Association of Feline Practitioners seconds Dr. Schultz's advice to vaccinate kittens and boost the vaccination when they are a year old, but it does not consider FeLV a core vaccine, meaning one that is recommended for all cats. Adult cats should be vaccinated for FeLV only if they are at risk, according to the AAFP. Cats are at risk if they go outdoors, live with other cats who are known to be infected with FeLV, or live with other cats whose disease status is unknown.
If you discover that one of your cats has FeLV, have any other cats in your home tested for the disease. If they are infection-free, it's best to have them live separately from the infected cat so they don't share food and water bowls or litter boxes. Ask your veterinarian about the pros and cons of having the uninfected cats vaccinated, since vaccination doesn't help cats who are already infected.
It's a chore to rid
pets of skunk funk
Q: Help! My dog had a close encounter with a skunk. How do I get that awful smell out of his fur? -- via Facebook
A: Ugh! There's not much worse than skunk smell. The striped critters are masters of chemical warfare, deterring predators with a stinky solution produced by their anal scent glands. It contains sulfurous chemicals known as thiols, and skunks can spray it up to 15 feet. Many curious pets get a blast of it right in the face.
A dog or cat who gets hit at point-blank range will have a soaking wet face and eyes that are watery and red from irritation. Move quickly if you see him get skunked. Before he runs into the house to rub his face all over your furniture in an attempt to ease the agony, wrap him in a towel and bathe his eyes with a soothing eyewash solution available from your drugstore. (Keep it on hand if you live in skunk country.)
Then it's bath time. Wearing rubber or latex gloves to protect your own skin from odor, shampoo your dog thoroughly, preferably outdoors. Rinse and repeat. Before or after the bath, soak your dog in one of the many home remedies that are said to help eliminate the odor. They include tomato juice, apple cider vinegar and a concoction consisting of 1/4 cup baking soda, 1 tsp liquid soap and a quart of hydrogen peroxide. They have varying levels of success, depending on the individual dog, how badly he was skunked and how thoroughly you apply them.
Whatever you use, it will probably take multiple treatments over a period of weeks for the odor to fully dissipate. Try not to let your dog get wet for a while after you've cleaned him up from a skunking. Moisture seems to reactivate and even worsen the odor. -- Kim Campbell Thornton
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
10 ways to be
kind to animals
-- Be Kind to Animals Week celebrates its 99th birthday this year. Here are the top 10 ways you can observe it: Spay or neuter your pet; make sure your pet wears identification and is microchipped; make time to play with your pet every day; train your pet; feed your pet good food, but not too much; adopt or foster a pet from your local shelter; understand and meet your pet's physical and behavioral needs; teach your children how to safely and kindly interact with animals; make a donation of money or goods to your local humane society; and take your pet to the veterinarian for regular checkups.
-- If you can no longer keep your lionfish, python, iguana or other exotic pet, find him a new home -- and not by releasing him into the ocean or your local wilderness area. If they become established, invasive species can wreak havoc in non-native habitats, shoving out or killing animals and plants that belong there. The same applies to pets such as parrots, rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs. They may be unable to survive on their own and quickly become a meal for another animal, be hit by a car or face a long, painful death by starvation. Seek out rescue groups that can help you place your pet.
-- Shelter medicine has officially become the newest veterinary specialty recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association. The work of shelter veterinarians is varied and can include performing spays and neuters, examining animals brought to the shelter, treating pets with health problems, advising adopters, testifying in abuse cases and performing administrative duties. Their goal is to improve the quality of life for animals in shelters through preventive medicine, disease management and stress reduction. Most U.S. veterinary colleges now offer shelter medicine programs. -- Kim Campbell Thornton
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.