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Animal Diseases In A Nutshell

TISOVN student Mikaela has developed a reference guide to common animal diseases and has explained it so that you can retain it.



Feline Enteritis is an infection of the gut in cats that is highly contagious and fatal. Feline Enteritis is spread by direct or indirect contact with faeces, urine or blood of infected cats.

Signs of cats with enteritis may include vomiting or diarrhoea with blood in it, lethargy, dehydration, high temperature, little to no appetite, and even loss of coordination.

Keeping up to date with the cat’s vaccinations (F3) can help protect them from contracting the disease. Veterinary care is required for cats with dehydration as they can deteriorate very quickly and will need to be on fluids. The veterinarian may give antibiotics and anti-nausea medication to help their body.

In some cases, cats can be given a blood transfusion to flush through the disease. Unfortunately, most cases of enteritis conclude with death.

Cats with this infection must be isolated from other animals as it is highly contagious and easily spreadable. One or two nurses must only be assigned to care for the infected cats, so they do not pass on the disease to other cats in the clinic. Protective clothing must be worn while handling infected cats, and a thorough hand wash must be done once finished.


Feline Rhinotracheitis is an upper respiratory infection that occurs in cats.

Cats can get this from other infected cats when they come in contact with their saliva, when surrounded by them in a boarding facility.

Signs of rhinotracheitis include sneezing, discharge from the eyes and nose, ulcers on or in the eyes, high temperature, congestion and lethargy. Preventions for this disease are the core vaccines given to cats, known as the F3. This vaccine may not prevent the cat from getting this disease but will lower the chance of a large infection.

Treatment for rhinotracheitis includes antibiotics and eye ointments.

Cats may be given anti-viral medication known as Famvir, and antibiotics like doxycycline and clavamox.


Feline Calicivirus is a respiratory disease in cats which is passed on when cats come into contact with other infected cats.

Signs of calicivirus include loss of appetite, eye and nasal discharge, ulcers on tongue, hard palate, nose and lips, as well as difficulty breathing.

Keeping up to date with vaccinations play a big role on keeping your cats healthy and preventing these types of diseases.

Cats will need to be hospitalized if it has pneumonia and will be given oxygen to help breathe comfortably. Antibiotics will be given to help prevent and treat any bacterial infections that may appear. Eye drops or ointments can be given to help eye discharge. Some cats may also need a feeding tube placed if they are unable to feed themselves due to inappetence or ulcers preventing them to eat.


Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a disease, which weakens a cat’s immune system making them more susceptible to other medical conditions. FIV is passed from one cat to another via bite wounds, generally from a catfight. Cats with FIV may not show any signs until years later. These symptoms may include anaemia, weight loss, poor or loss of appetite, inflammation of the gums and mouth, dental disease, sneezing, discharge from eyes and nose, and behaviour change.

FIV can be prevented by keeping cats indoors and away from any cats that may be infected. Cats can also be FIV tested and given a vaccination to support this.

There is no treatment for cats with FIV, although cats can live indoors, away from other cats in order to live comfortably. Some cats can be given anti-inflammatory medication and fluids in order to boost their immune system up.

Cats with FIV are generally asked to be kept in a single cat household, indoors only. This means that other cats would not be at risk of getting FIV.


Feline Lukemia Virus (Feels) causes anaemia or lymphoma, which weakens a cat’s immune system and cause infection. Only cats can contract FeLV – this means it cannot be passed on from cat to dog, or cat to human. FeLV is passed from one cat to another, through contact with their saliva, blood and in other cases, urine and faeces. Cats can also get FeLV through fighting and grooming. The cats that are at high risk of getting FeLV are the ones that roam outdoors and visit other cats. Cats with FelV may have symptoms like pale gums, poor coat, fever, weakness and lethargic, enlarged lymph nodes, as well as weight loss and difficulty breathing. While preventing cats from the disease, it may be as easy as making them an indoor only cat, ensuring they do not go outside and play around with other cats. Vaccines can be given if your cat tests negative to FeLV -if you need to put your cat into a boarding facility.

There is no cure for FeLV, though cats can be kept indoors and taken to the vet for regular check-ups to check for deterioration. Antibiotics can be given to cats if they get another infection while diagnosed with FeLV.


Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is a viral disease that occurs in domestic cats. The disease is caused by coronavirus that attacks the cells of the cat’s intestinal wall. Cats an get FIP through direct contact with other infected cats or by using their food bowls or coming into contact with their urine and faeces.

There are two forms of FIP – ‘wet’ form and ‘dry’ form.

Signs from both forms include a high temperature, weight loss and lethargy. The wet form of the disease is about the fluid in the chest and/or abdominal cavity. The dry form of the disease includes inflammation of cells in different organs. If the kidneys are infected from FIP, cats may show signs of excessive thirst and frequent urination.

There is an intranasal vaccine that has been developed to prevent FIP but it is it not known how well it works.

Even though FIP is uncommon, it is fatal in more than 90% of cases, meaning it cannot be treated.



Parvovirus is a disease that affects dogs intestinally or in the heart muscles and blood stream. It is highly contagious and lives in the environment for long periods of time, even if cleaning has been done to eliminate the spread. It can be spread

to different areas by the soles of our shoes or through the infected dogs faeces.

Parvo is usually seen in young puppies that are not yet vaccinated. Dogs may show the following symptoms if they have parvovirus – severe vomiting, blood in their stools, weight loss and inappetence.

The C3 vaccination contains an element, which protects dogs from parvovirus. This vaccine should be given from when puppies are 6 weeks, following your vet’s puppy vaccine schedule, then each year for the rest of the dog’s life.

There is no medication or drug in particular that treats animals with parvo, so hospitalization and treatment include IV fluids, anti-nausea medication and antibiotics to kill any form of bacteria that could get into the bloodstream.

Vets may also recommend not socializing your dog with other animals for a period of time to ensure they are recovered from the virus.


Canine Distemper is a contagious disease that causes respiratory, nervous system and gastrointestinal problems. It is spread through other infected canines by nose to nose contact, nose to urine, vomit or faeces contact. Distemper is usually seen in puppies aged 3-6 months who are not vaccinated.

Signs of Canine Distemper include dry cough, nasal discharge, ocular discharge, anorexia, as well as seizures or paralysis of one or more limbs, and involuntary twitching.

Prevention for distemper is by vaccination and keeping up to date with the puppy vaccinations and yearly adult vaccinations. Treatment for canine distemper includes isolation from other dogs, antibiotics and fluids. The fluid rate for distemper runs under the dehydration state of the dog. Depending on the hydration level of the animal will depend on the fluid rate.

Seeing as that there is no cure and specific treatment available, vet’s may give the dog anti-nausea medication to treat the sickness and vomiting, antibiotics to get rid of the bacterial infection, and anticonvulsants for the seizures if there is any.

If a clinic has a puppy or dog that presents with distemper, they will isolate the dog and generally only have one vet per shift looking after the patient to avoid transmission to another animal.


Canine hepatitis is an infectious virus that affects the liver and can cause death in a short period of time, as little as 36 hours. Hepatitis is transmitted from infected dogs through blood, nasal discharge, urine or faeces and saliva.

A dog with hepatitis might have a high fever, diarrhoea, vomiting, an enlarged liver and abdominal pain. Some dogs may also have bruising of the skin and swollen lymph nodes.

Dogs vaccinated with the C3 will be protected against the virus. These must be kept up to date with to ensure of full protection.

Treatment for hepatitis in canines consists of antibiotics and IV fluids with electrolytes. Some dogs require a blood transfusion if it is a severe case.

Kennel Cough

Canine cough, or Kennel Cough, is a. infectious disease that affects a canine’s respiratory system. It is a highly contagious disease meaning it is easily spread when dogs are in boarding facilities or shelters.

Kennel cough can be transmitted by airborne cough droplets.

Dogs with kennel cough have a dry, hacking cough, gagging or vomiting after excitement, eye and nose discharge, sneezing and snorting, high temperature and are lethargic. Treatment for kennel cough includes giving the KC (kennel cough) vaccination, although it may not cover too much, as well as antibiotics to reduce the risk of secondary infection. The antibiotics may include Doxycycline and Clavamox. Hospitalization for kennel cough is not necessarily required as the mortality rate is low. Receiving the vaccination, antibiotics and being isolated is the most that is required. Dogs with kennel cough are required to isolate and use barrier nursing –i.e. one person monitoring signs per shift.



Calicivirus is a fatal disease that does damage to the rabbit’s liver and gut.

This disease can also cause bleeding internally.

It can be spread from wild rabbits through the air, on clothing and hands of humans. It can also be spread through fleas and mosquitos.

Signs a rabbit may show with calicivirus include lethargy, poor appetite, fever and restlessness. Occasionally rabbits can have blood discharge from the nose.

There is no cure for calicivirus –once a rabbit is infected, it is known to kill from 70-100% of those infected. Treatment for rabbits with this deadly virus is generally only fluids and nutritional support.

The only prevention for calicivirus is keeping up to date with their vaccination of Cylap –this is recommended to be given 2 once a month, then one booster every six months.



Hendra virus is a virus that derives from the flying fox, which can be passed onto horses, causing severe illness and death in some cases. Hendra virus is a zoonotic disease that is most commonly passed from horses to humans.

Horses with Hendra virus may show symptoms of anorexia, fever, respiratory difficultly and loss coordination.

A vaccine for horses for Hendra virus has been out since 2012. This vaccine covers the horse up to 6 months. Horses can be infected for up to 20 days until they show signs. It is important to keep the infected horses isolated away from non-infected horses to prevent transmission. Humans handling an infected horse must wear the correct protective gear.


Strangles is an infectious disease of the upper respiratory tract that affects horses, donkeys and mules. Horses may contract strangles when a group horses mix together, by direct contact with another horse’s mouth and nose discharge, or indirect contact with other horses’ water, food, bedding, stables, and transport floats.

Clinical signs of strangles include loss of appetite, a body temperature of 39 degrees, yellow discharge from the nose, coughing, difficulty swallowing and enlarged glands in the head and neck. Enlarged glands can also form abscesses.

Antibiotics can be given but they are not required for treatment, rather anti-inflammatory treatment if the horse is showing signs of pain or a high temperature. Flushing out abscesses is important to keep them clean once they have burst.

Horses affected with strangles should be isolated for six to eight weeks to prevent the spread. Horses should be in a warm area that is also dust free – this is to prevent anything from gathering in their respiratory tract.

Vaccinations for horses are a good level of protection but should not be given to a horse that currently shows signs of strangles.


Tetanus is a bacterial disease that affects most animals as well as humans. Tetanus is caused by bacteria in soil and droppings entering the body through wounds and infecting the body through the intestines. Tetanus can be transmitted to animals after they eat food off the ground that may be touching contaminated soil or feaces.

Horses with tetanus may show signs such as muscle spasms, protruding third eyelid, muscle stiffness, convulsions and respiratory failure. Most cases of tetanus result in the animal passing away, although if treated early, penicillin can be used at treatment and can have a positive effect on destroying the bacteria.

Horses need to be kept in a dark area that is quiet and away from other animals. These areas reduce the muscle spasms and convulsions that may be sensitized from light and sound.

Tetanus can be prevented with a vaccination –two injections given 4-6 weeks apart, then annual boosters after that.



Distemper is a viral infection that affects dogs, foxes, ferrets. This virus is transmitted through the air with droplets containing the infection. Ferrets with Distemper may show symptoms like anorexia, squinting of the eyes and discharge from the nose. A rash can develop on their chin, lips, nose and eyelids.

Many ferrets begin to develop a cough and signs of pneumonia. The respiratory signs can become so bad that ferrets die from it. As the infection prolongs, ferrets will start salivating and have muscle spasms.

Distemper can live in grass and shrubs for up to 10 days. If animals go into the infected areas, they can contract and spread the virus onto other areas.

Ferrets with distemper can have vitamin A treatment and show improvement, but most treatments are not good enough to eliminate distemper entirely.

Ferrets should be vaccinated at 8 weeks old, and then every 2 weeks after that until they are 14 weeks old. A booster vaccinated is required every year to continue the protection.

Canine distemper virus is 100% fatal in ferrets. There is no treatment for the disease.

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