Preventive medicine for feline patients provides link to comprehensive care
May 01, 2003
We will examine rule number one in relation to feline medicine. Preventing feline illness requires a regimented preventive medicine program that must be comprehensive and involve every member of the veterinary hospital team from the receptionist to the technician to the kennel worker. The veterinarian is the leader of the team and must educate the other members on the essentials of feline healthcare. But first, there must be a written preventive medicine program.
Nutritional needs vary with the cat's age and health status. Kittens should consume growth diets until they reach approximately 9 months of age and can graduate to adult food. In-clinic client education on nutrition can explain how clients should feed adult food in gradually increasing increments over several days to ease the transition from kitten food to an adult diet. Cats entering their golden years should transition to senior cat food in a similar manner. Specialty diets that address dental disease and hairballs are good preventive medicine diets that help avoid these health problems in susceptible cats. All cats should have their weights recorded with each office visit and special attention paid to any significant increase or decrease in weight.
Disease prevention Preventive medicine programs always include vaccinations. Immunization protocols need to be carefully evaluated taking into consideration risk of exposure, disease implications, difficulty of treatment and potential vaccine reactions. Feline immunization is a complex topic and differing views abound pertaining to which vaccines should be administered and the frequency of administration. From a practitioner's standpoint, we should review the basic feline infectious diseases that are addressed by currently available vaccines.
Feline panleukopenia is caused by a parvovirus which is spread by fecal-oral routes. This virus survives for months to years on fomites which favors its transmissibility. Since maternal antibodies interfere with immunizations, a series of vaccinations is given to kittens followed by revaccination a year later, and then every three years thereafter according to AAFP guidelines. Some veterinarians are more comfortable following the vaccine manufacturers' recommendations advising continuous annual re-vaccination.
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is a retrovirus transmitted via respiratory secretions often through the sharing of food and water bowls or litter boxes. Signs of feline leukemia virus are often related to the immunosuppression caused by the virus, although a plethora of symptoms are possible since the virus can lead a host of other problems such as blood disorders and tumors. Vaccination recommendations are based on the age of the cat and the risk of exposure. Cats younger than 4 months of age are more susceptible to infection. Young cats that wander outdoors or kittens living with FeLV positive cats may benefit from vaccination. Since many "strictly indoor" cats eventually find their way outdoors, many veterinarians include FeLV as a routine part of their annual vaccination protocols.