Like the cat diagnosed with H1N1 last week in Iowa, the most recent case involves a 13-year-old domestic shorthair spayed female that presented with breathing problems, Dr. Carl Prior, owner of Park City Animal Hospital, tells DVM Newsmagazine. Prior and his associate, Dr. Angela West, treated the cat, which the owner described as breathing with its mouth open.
“I was thinking pneumonia or cancer of the lungs; it looked so sick,” says Prior, who first saw the cat Nov. 3 – the day the story broke of the H1N1 case in the Iowa cat.
The cat was placed in an oxygen chamber set at about 50 percent for the first hour, then reduced over the next four to five hours, Prior says. Once the cat relaxed, the veterinarian was able to take X-rays and blood samples. The blood test showed a low white blood cell count, and a human A/B-type influenza test obtained locally came back positive, Prior explains.
He and West hadn’t really considered H1N1 until the story of the Iowa cat broke later that day, and they realized at least one of the owners was suffering from this strain of influenza. Another member of the household was believed to have H1N1, but that case was not confirmed, Prior adds.
A test from Iowa State University (ISU) College of Veterinary Medicine's diagnostic laboratory came back seropositive, he says. So more samples were sent in, including a PCR test, which came back negative. ISU diagnostic laboratory veterinarians were surprised at the negative reading, Prior says, but told him the Iowa cat had tested the same way.
Perhaps the virus isn't shed for very long, Prior suggests, adding that a follow-up blood test at Iowa again confirmed a positive H1N1 diagnosis.
The cat's health improved after several hours in the clinic with antibiotics and oxygen care, and the cat was not hospitalized overnight. Veterinarians at the hospital will continue to monitor the cat, checking its serum every few weeks, and another cat in the household will be tested too, Prior explains.
"It hasn't shown any signs of illness," Prior says, but the veterinarians plan to monitor the cat and watch out for the possibility of cat-to-cat transmission.
While the first case of H1N1 hasn't generated many testing requests from clients, they are asking more questions about risks to their pets, Prior says. He is advising his clients to treat the animal like a sick family member. Owners should avoid direct contact if they are sick themselves, and they should isolate the animal from other pets that might be ill.