Rabies is very dangerous disease that affects both cats and dogs. It is transmitted through contact with the blood or saliva of an animal that is already infected. The virus that causes rabies attacks the brain of infected animals making them more aggressive and thus more likely to bite. Rabies infects a wide variety of wild and domestic animals including bats, raccoons, opossums, skunks, dogs, and cats. Rabies may cause wild animals to behave as if they were tame. It is always dangerous to approach or attempt to pet a wild animal—especially those that seem overly friendly. Rabies is a zoonotic disease which means that it can be passed from infected animals to humans. Symptoms of the disease include anxiety, agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, hydrophobia—the fear of water—and finally paralysis and death. Symptoms usually occur in 2-12 weeks after exposure but may appear sooner or much later. Humans that become infected with rabies can usually be cured of it if treatment is begun soon enough. (Once symptoms appear however, the diseases is fatal in more than 90 percent of cases.) Dogs, cats, and other animals that contract rabies cannot be cured and must be euthanized. State law requires that all dogs and cats be vaccinated against rabies when they are presented for spay-neuter surgery. If your animal has a current rabies vaccination, be sure to bring the animal's rabies certificate with you when you bring the animal in for sterilization to avoid the cost for this vaccination.
Distemper in dogs and distemper in cats are two completely different diseases. Canine distemper is a highly contagious viral disease related to measles. It is very common among unvaccinated dogs. It is transmitted through contact with bodily secretions including saliva, urine, and feces. These secretions can become airborne when a dog coughs or sneezes. Dogs with distemper may salivate excessively which can transfer the virus to food dishes and water bowls. An animal that is infected with distemper presents considerable risk to other dogs in the household--especially if they eat or drink from the same bowl. Such animals should therefore be isolated from other dogs as quickly as possible. Humans cannot contract the disease. Symptoms may take anywhere from 1 to 5 weeks to appear after exposure. Symptoms of the disease include fever, runny nose, discharge from the eyes, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, coughing, breathing difficulty, loss of appetite, weight loss, and thickening of the footpads. Upper respiratory system symptoms appear first. The disease can move on to attack the brain and central nervous system resulting in muscle spasms, seizures, and convulsions. The disease kills roughly half of all adult dogs and up to 80 percent of puppies. Dogs that survive it may be left with neurological effects including twitches and tics. While some research has been done to attempt to find a cure for the disease, there is currently no treatment that is considered completely safe and effective.
Canine Parvovirus is a disease that attacks the canine digestive tract, nervous system, and immune system. It is closely related to the feline distemper virus and likely evolved from it. Parvovirus mainly infects young unvaccinated puppies. It is transmitted by direct contact with contaminated feces (diarrhea) or vomitus. The virus can live in contaminated feces, on the ground and on plants, concrete floors, and other surfaces for at least a year. The virus is not believed to be able to infect humans. Symptoms of parvovirus infection include lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea that may or may not be bloody. Symptoms appear 5-14 days after exposure. The disease may be fatal if not treated promptly, and some animals die even with treatment.
Bordetella, or "Kennel Cough" as it is sometimes caused, is caused by the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria. It causes inflammation of the trachea and bronchi (airways). It is transmitted through airborne droplets ejected when an infected animal coughs or sneezes or through contact with contaminated surfaces. It can easily be spread in kennel and day-care facilities if precautions are not taken—hence the name "Kennel Cough." Symptoms appear 3-10 days after exposure. An animal may remain contagious for days or weeks after symptoms are gone, so it is important to isolate infected dogs even after they seem to have recovered. Symptoms include a dry hacking cough, sneezing, watery nasal discharge, lack of appetite, fever, and lethargy. It is possible for a dog to have no symptoms at all. Such animals may still be contagious. While Bordetella is rarely fatal, having your dog(s) vaccinated is recommended, especially if they are boarded at a kennel or doggie day-care facility.
Canine influenza is caused by a contagious respiratory virus. It similar to strains of influenza that infect humans but is not believed to cause illness in humans. It is transmitted through the air when an infected dog coughs or sneezes or through contact with contaminated objects. Symptoms appear 2-5 days after exposure. Symptoms include coughing, lethargy, anorexia, fever, nasal discharge, and sneezing.
Infographic courtesy of Baker Institute For Animal Health.
Adenovirus Type 2 is a virus that infects the respiratory system. It is related to the hepatitis virus. The virus is spread through respiratory secretions when an animal coughs or sneezes. Symptoms appear 3-10 days after exposure. Symptoms may include a dry, hackling cough, fever, and nasal discharge.
Parainfluenza causes chronic respiratory disease. It is transmitted through the air when an infected dog coughs or sneezes. The virus can be excreted from the respiratory tract of infected animals for up to two weeks after infection. Symptoms appear 5-10 days after exposure. Symptoms may include a dry moist cough, low grade fever, nasal discharge, lack of energy, and loss of appetite.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease. It is zoonotic, which means that can be transmited from animals to humans. The bacteria is transmited through contaminated urine, especially in puddles or in standing water sources outdoors. Symptoms appear 3-20 days after exposure. Symptoms include fever, joint or muscle pain, loss of appetite, weakness, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper) is caused by a virus from the parvovirus family. This virus is related to the one that causes Parvo in dogs. Like canine parvovirus, the disease attacks the digestive tract, nervous system, and immune system. The disease is highly contagious and has a high mortality rate. The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with another infected animal or from environmental sources such as contaminated feces, soil and plants, household surfaces, and human skin and clothing. The virus is very common and can survive for up to a year in harsh conditions. It is resistant to most disinfectants. Panleukopenia does not infect humans. Symptoms appear 4-5 days after exposure. Symptoms of feline distemper include loss of appetite, followed by vomiting and diarrhea. An infected cat may also bite itself to the point of causing injury. The disease can kill a cat in as little as 24 hours. Prompt treatment may save the animal's life, but vaccination against the virus is recommended as the most effective way to protect a cat against this disease.
Feline Leukemia is caused by a retrovirus that attacks a cat's white blood cells. The retrovirus is transmitted through saliva and nasal secretions of an infected cat. It can spread to other cats through bite wounds or by mutual grooming or sharing of food and water dishes. It is also possible for a kitten to become infected while nursing if the mother is infected. This is another reason to make sure that the mother is vaccinated. FeLV has a short life in the environment and is a relatively fragile virus. The disease is not believed to be transmissible to humans. Symptoms appear 2-4 weeks after exposure. Symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, fever, fatigue, weight loss, anemia, diarrhea, loss of appetite. The animal may also suffer from oral infections and a variety of conditions affecting the skin, coat, and eyes. The virus tends to become persistent and depresses the animal's immune system. A cat may also become an carrier--able to infect other cats but showing no outward symptoms.
Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis is a severe upper respiratory infection caused by feline herpesvirus. The virus is airborne and very contagious in susceptible animals. Symptoms appear 2-5 days after exposure. Symptoms include lethargy and signs of respiratory involvement with much sneezing and coughing.
Feline Chlamydiosis is a bacterial respiratory disease that primarily causes inflammation of the feline conjunctiva (tissue surrounding eyes), rhinitis, and respiratory problems. The disease is transmissible to humans by hand-to-eye contact. Symptoms usually appear 5 days after exposure. Symptoms may include low-grade fever, nasal discharge, and sneezing.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is an infection that attacks the immune system. It is transmitted cat-to-cat, usually though bite wounds and scratches. Male cats fight more often than females making them more likely to spread the disease. FIV may also be transmitted to a kitten through its mother's milk. While this is rare, it is still wise to have unspayed females vaccinated to prevent it. Symptoms appear 8-12 weeks after exposure. Symptoms include fever, large lymph nodes, weight loss, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and coughing or difficulty breathing. SNAP tests for FIV to help determine whether a cat has been exposed to the disease. There is a vaccine available, but SNAP does not currently administer it.
When unvaccinated animals are exposed to other animals at dog parks, shelters, veterinary clinics, boarding facilities, groom shops, and similar locations, there is always a possibility for the transmission of infectious diseases. SNAP recommends that all of its clients vaccinate their animals for protection, but--with the exception of the rabies vaccination mandated by state law--we do not require it as a condition of admission for sterilization. We feel it is the guardian’s personal responsibility to protect their companion animals from preventable infectious diseases and that requiring such vaccinations would discourage some guardians from sterilizing their companion animals.