Thursday, April 23, 2015

Recognizing and Preventing Feline Enteritis

(Reclaimed from Bubblews, where it appeared on February 18, 2014. Image credit: my snapshot of Heather, Queen of the Cat Sanctuary, when she was a little over one year old. She's bigger now, and her dark amber eyes still look brown in some lights. She survived feline enteritis. So did some of her kittens.)

Thanks to Carolroach for the prompt...actually, when I posted this article: conscience bothered me because I hadn't included anything about preventing this disease. So here is what I've learned about diagnosis and prevention.

Enteritis means inflammation of the digestive system; feline enteritis could refer to anything that produces inflammation in the digestive system of a cat. However, the kind of feline enteritis for which I treated my current cats with a charcoal solution is an infection that typically produces ulcers all through the entire digestive tract. If you take a sick cat to a vet who diagnoses this disease right away, it will probably be because the vet sees a nasty little lesion in the cat's mouth. You will be able to recognize this symptom if you see it again.

Other things, including the horror of distemper, can cause a cat to be sick and whiny, reject solid food but slurp up liquids, and excrete solid or semisolid waste outside the litter box (sometimes with visible flecks or streaks of blood). If symptoms persist for more than a day or two and the cat is still walking around, it's probably not distemper or FIV, although those infections can bring out symptoms of almost anything that can go wrong with a cat's body and may produce mouth ulcers. It's also probably not panleukopenia, which ulcerates the digestive tract fast. Vaccinating cats as soon as they're old enough should protect them from distemper; this should be a possibility you and the vet can rule out. If the cat becomes seriously ill, with a high fever, weakness, diarrhea, etc., the vet may test blood and/or stool specimen for other serious diseases. 

If you look up "feline enteritis" on the Internet, you will be redirected to a rather alarming Wikipedia page about feline panleukopenia. One thing the Wikipedia page, as accessed today, accurately shows is the confusion between panleukopenia and distemper. Although both are highly contagious and highly fatal virus infections, they're different virus infections. If your cat has either of these diseases, it will probably need emergency medical care...and my vet would advise euthanasia. The same vaccine is thought to provide immunity to both distemper and panleukopenia--and I'm reasonably sure that what my cats have had was a less serious bacterial infection, since it responds to antibiotics and since I had a mild but definite reaction when exposed to it via flea bites. 

(My current cats' ancestors were rescued from an alley, and when I was first able to get close to them I remember remarking that the friendliest kitten had more fleas than I would have thought could survive on one little animal. They weren't surviving very well on him. So, although cat fleas can't live on human blood either, they don't know this with their little flea brains, and several of them tried biting me. This is one of the hazards of rescuing feral cats.)

In addition to antibiotics and worm treatments for adult cats, and the charcoal remedy for kittens, another thing humans can do to help cats resist infectious diseases is to keep down the flea population. Chemical flea powders are sold in stores; some of these have been removed from the market because they were harmful to cats. Your vet may still recommend a chemical treatment if your cat is covered in fleas or if malnourished fleas are abandoning your cat and attacking you. Natural flea repellents such as pennyroyal are safer, although pennyroyal is so rich in phytoestrogens that just inhaling a lot of its fragrance may affect a female mammal's hormone cycles (including a human's), so it should not be used around females who are or want to become pregnant. 
However, just keeping the house and porch clean can do a lot to prevent flea population explosions. Don't have carpets. Wash any rugs or cushions on which pets rest every few months; boil them if possible. Scrub the porch floor weekly with a mild bleach or Lysol solution. Leave a thin dust of washing soda under rugs and pets' cushions in between vacuuming. If your pet is allowed indoors, you should vacuum daily anyway. After vacuuming rooms where pets have been, burn the contents of the vacuum bag at once, because baby fleas eat dust and dirt and could survive inside the vacuum bag.