Health Information Sheets

Click here for General Health Information about Cat Fight WoundsRingwormCat FluDiarrhoea 

CAT FIGHT WOUNDS  

Injuries from cat fight wounds can be serious in terms of the pain and suffering your cat might endure and the cost of veterinary treatment of the abscesses that result. As well as that, the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (Feline AIDS) is transmitted via bite wounds.

Cat saliva and to a lesser extent the material on their claws can harbour a wide range of very nasty bacteria. Problems occur when those bacteria find their way under the skin. Bite wounds are the worst because the offending tooth can penetrate deep into the victim’s tissue. When the tooth withdraws it leaves bacteria behind – basically a hypodermic injection of bacteria. Infection is rapid and the body’s response is to attempt to wall the infection off. Pus is produced very quickly. An abscess forms and these can be very large – from golf ball to tennis ball sized.

Abscesses are very painful. Cats with a Cat Bite Abscess (CBA) have a fever, usually go off their food and are very tender over the bite wound. You may feel a soft fluid mass. In severe cases bacteria can be released into the bloodstream causing septicaemia. If left untreated the abscess will eventually burst through the skin, leaving a large ulcer. Often, the ulcer will develop an airtight crust and the abscess will reform. Alternatively it may seem to heal but then recur.

Treatment

Veterinary treatment of CBAs usually requires a general anaesthetic as they are very painful. If the abscess has not burst it may be as simple as lancing the abscess and inserting a soft rubber drain so that fluid can escape and oxygen can get in. If the abscess has already burst it means the skin over the abscess is usually in very poor shape. Damaged skin is trimmed back to healthy skin and then sutured close after inserting a drain. The area may be very large indeed – abscesses on the tail base and lower back can be very extensive.

Sometimes it is not possible to suture the area. On the lower limbs and on the tail, for example, the wound may be trimmed back and left as an open wound to heal. Antibiotics are always given for the treatment of abscesses. Pain relief is often given. In rare cases abscesses may be caused by resistant strains of bacteria or with micro-organisms such as Nocardia or Mycobacterium. That can be expensive! A swab for bacterial culture will be needed if the abscess resists treatment. Nocardial abscesses may never heal!

What can you do?

 •          Prevent fighting in the first place. Keep your cats indoors, especially at night when most roaming and fighting takes place.

•          If you know your cat has been in a fight and is off-colour or limping or refusing food/showing signs of pain, an early trip to the vet may save you a lot of money in the long run. Administration of antibiotics before the abscess has had a chance to form has a high success rate. Pain relief will help your cat recover quickly.

•          If the abscess has already burst, clip away the surrounding hair so you can assess how big the damaged area is. Occasionally, with thrice daily irrigation of the wound with dilute Betadine, the ulcer will heal. Unfortunately, you run the risk of getting bitten yourself and the abscess often returns. Seek veterinary help.

•          Consider vaccinating your cat against FIV.

•          Consider Pet Insurance!

RINGWORM 

What is ringworm?

Ringworm (dermatophytosis) is a type of infectious fungal disease involving the hair, skin and nails/claws.  Microsporum canis is the most common fungus responsible for the infection, accounting for 94-99% of feline infections. 

How is infection spread?

The infective stage of the ringworm fungus is the spore.  Spores are microscopic and therefore cannot be seen with the naked eye.  They can be spread to a healthy animal by direct contact with an infected animal, or indirectly via a contaminated environment or inanimate object (such as clothing).  They can be carried on air currents, dust particles, and fleas.  Spores can remain viable in the environment for up to 18 months.

Any cat that comes into contact with spores is at risk for developing ringworm; however there is increased risk associated with being very young or very old, poor nutrition, presence of external parasites (eg. fleas), immunosuppression (eg.  FIV), and living in multi-cat facilities/households.  Long haired cats, especially Persians and Himalayans are also at increased risk of developing the disease.

The incubation period (the time between infection and appearance of signs of disease) is 1-3 weeks.

What are the signs of infection?

The signs of infection are extremely variable however a common presentation is an irregular or circular patch of peripherally expanding hair loss with scale, crusting and sometimes redness of the skin.  The face and distal limbs are most commonly affected, especially in kittens.  Itchiness may or may not be noted in cats with “ringworm”.

How is it diagnosed?

Use of a Wood’s lamp is a commonly used, quick and easy technique that may be used in the diagnosis or ringworm; however this may result in detection of approximately only 50% of cases.  Fungal culture is also commonly used and is regarded as the most reliable diagnostic test; however it can take up to 4 weeks to get results.  Due to these difficulties that can be encountered with diagnosis, treatment may be initiated without a definitive diagnosis.

How is it treated?

Ringworm is considered a self-limiting disease (most healthy cats that do not receive treatment will recover within several months) however it is usually treated for the following reasons:

  • To minimise the risk of spreading to people
  • To minimise the risk of spreading to other animals
  • To decrease contamination of the environment
  • To minimise the severity and duration of lesions of those infected

Treatment usually involves topical medication (eg. Malaseb) and oral medication.  Topical creams (eg. Canesten) are not recommended. 

Can ringworm be spread to people?

Yes!  Ringworm is a zoonotic disease (a disease of animals that can be transmitted to humans), and is spread to people in the same manner as for cats.  Exposure to the organism does not necessarily result in infection; however there is an increased risk of developing infection in people that are immunosuppressed, very young, or very old.

The signs of infection in people are ring shaped areas of scaling and hair loss, with or without redness, crusting and itching.  If you are at all concerned you have developed ringworm please visit your GP.

CAT FLU

What is Cat Flu?

Cat Flu is a disease of cats usually caused by a virus and is very similar to the human cold and flu.  It is usually not life threatening unless the cat has a severe problem with its immune system.  Signs of Cat Flu may last from a couple of days to several weeks, and usually include one or a combination of the following:

  • sneezing
  • clear or coloured discharge from the nose and/or eyes
  • ulcers on the nose, lips, tongue or gums
  • fever, lethargy, loss of appetite (these may be signs of other disease also)

A cat showing the above signs can spread disease to other cats.  However once a cat has recovered it may continue to spread disease.  Some cats harbor the virus in their body and from time to time can become unwell as a result.

Can Cat Flu be spread to people?

Generally the disease cannot be spread to people, however in some rare cases where the cause is Kennel Cough (Bordatella bronchiseptica), it may be spread to individuals that do not have a fully functional immune system.

How common in Cat Flu?

Unfortunately Cat Flu is a common disease of cats worldwide.  As much as Cat Haven does to ensure the cats are happy and healthy, they are usually from unknown backgrounds being housed in a shelter situation, both of which may be associated with stress and can result in a cat developing Cat Flu.

How is Cat Flu prevented?

Vaccination is used in the prevention of Cat Flu and is effective.  It is important to realize that vaccination of your cat will not stop it from getting the virus however it will reduce the severity of the disease.

How is Cat Flu treated?

If your cat is seen by a veterinarian, medication such as antibiotics and pain relief may be prescribed.  Sometimes when the cat has not been eating or drinking well, fluids may be administered by injection.  Generally the most important care of your sick cat needs to be provided by you, the ownerThis often involves a combination of the following:

  • Encouraging your cat to eat and drink is very important if it has lost its appetite as food and water provides essential nutrition to aid recovery.  A cat’s nose will often becomes blocked when they have Cat Flu resulting in inappetence. Offering strong smelling food (such as fish) or warming the food can often encourage eating.  Hills Prescription A/D food is often palatable to sick cats and is specially formulated for animals that are sick and recovering from disease.  You may need to offer several different types of food to your sick cat to find something it will happily eat.  Some cats also respond to being patted while near their food to encourage eating.
  • Syringe feeding may be required if the above measures do not result in your cat eating.  Veterinary staff will instruct you on how to syringe feed.
  • Placing the cat in a steamy environment will help clear congested nasal passages.  You can place the cat in the bathroom with the door shut while you are having a warm shower, or use a vaporizer if you have access to this.     
  • Ensure that fresh clean water and a clean litter tray is within easy access.

You should contact Cat Haven on 9442 3600 if you are concerned that your cat is showing signs of Cat Flu.  You may be advised to bring your cat in for a consultation with a veterinarian, or you may be given some advice over the phone.

DIARRHOEA in Cats

Diarrhoea in cats and especially kittens is a relatively common problem seen at Cat Haven.  There are many different possible causes for this problem and thus it can be difficult to diagnose the specific cause.  Most cases of diarrhoea will however respond to similar treatment regimes regardless of the cause.

At Cat Haven the most common causes we see are the following:

  • Sudden change in diet:  Cats take time to adjust to a new diet, and any new food should ideally be introduced over a period of a week.  Kittens are especially sensitive to any new food, and just one meal of a different food can result in diarrhoea. 
  • Intestinal parasites:  At Cat Haven all cats are treated with broad spectrum de-worming products.  In some cases if there is a very severe worm burden, the cat may require several treatments to get rid of all the worms.
  • Toxin ingestion:  Cats sometimes come to us with a history of having been found in an area where they were eating old food scraps.  This food may contain toxins resulting in food poisoning.
  • Stress:  Stress has a very powerful effect on the immune system and can lower defences against disease.
  • Milk and other dairy products:  These contain lactose which cannot be digested by cats (and some people!)  Appropriate substitutes for milk include cat milk and lactose-free milk.  Remember that your pet does not require anything in addition to a complete and balanced food, and fresh clean water.

As mentioned above, the treatment is often the same regardless of the cause, and normally includes the following:

  • Fasting:  Depending on their age, cats are fasted for a period of 12-48 hours.  Your cat should NOT be fasted from water.  Sometimes animals with diarrhoea are dehydrated, and withholding water could make a sick cat much worse.  During the period of fasting, sugar and electrolytes can be supplemented with solution such as “Lectade” or “Vytrate”.
  • Bland Diet:  Following the initial period of fasting, a bland diet is fed normally for a period of 3-5 days.  At Cat Haven we recommend feeding Hills i/d (Intestinal Diet) as per the manufacturer’s instructions, or thoroughly cooked chicken breast.  (Boiling is good since no fat is required in the cooking process).  The amount fed will depend on the size of the cat.  Hills i/d can be fed to kittens as their usual diet, so feeding with this can continue after the “bland diet” stage.
  • Gradual introduction onto normal diet:  Following the period of feeding bland food, a gradual introduction back onto the usual diet can take place over a period of 1 week.
  • Other treatments which are sometimes used are:
  • Worming treatment:  This may be repeated if a severe worm burden is suspected  
  • Probiotics:  This may help to balance the normal bacterial flora of the intestines quicker
  • Antimicrobials:  These may be indicated if the cat has a fever or is passing blood and/mucous with the faeces

If a cat has a prolonged bout of diarrhoea, diagnostic tests may be indicated (eg. Testing against Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and Feline Leukaemia Virus, faecal testing, blood testing, gut biopsies).  There are some rarer cases of diarrhoea that do not respond to any treatment, are extremely difficult to diagnose, and may continue for many months before resolving. 

Click here for a link to helpful information about how to keep your indoor cat healthy.

For more information about many common cat behaviour problems, please visit our cat care page.