Feline calicivirus is a viral upper respiratory infection found in domestic cats. Symptoms include fever, mouth ulcerations, lethargy, conjunctivitis, sneezing, hair loss and loss of appetite. The traditional form of feline calicivirus is essentially “the flu” for cats. Though the traditional form of feline calicivirus can lead to pneumonia, veterinarians know that it is seldom fatal. However, now a new mutated killer strain of calicivirus has emerged in Maryland with tragic consequences.
PRNewswire reports that Jeanne Prinns of Owings Mills, Maryland lost all three of her indoor cats to the disease within days of each other. An employee of a veterinary supply company, Prinns was an exemplary pet owner. Her cats received regular veterinary care and were kept inside, away from other animals. In spite of these precautions, all three of her feline family members perished within rapid succession, leaving her devastated but determined to help others from experiencing the same loss.
Prinns’ story should be a cause of concern to responsible pet owners everywhere, but particularly in Maryland where the virulent strain has been detected.
Like many dangerous viruses, feline calicivirus can be spread from animal to animal through saliva, feces and urine. But what’s so dangerous about the feline calicivirus is that it’s also airborn, which means that even indoor pets who aren’t exposed to infected animals are still at risk. Worse, some cats can remain contagious as latent carriers years after they’ve had the virus.
That means that unsuspecting pet owners can infect their own animals by tracking the disease into the house on their clothes or shoes. The fact that there are so many ways for cats to be exposed to the virulent form of calicivirus may cause pet owners to feel helpless to protect their cats against it. But Fort Dodge Animal Health has come up with a vaccine. The vaccine protects pets against both the traditional strain of feline calicivirus as well as the new killer mutation.
Dr. Marian Siegal of the Metropolitan Cat Hospital on Reisterstown Road, has been urging all her clients to get their cats vaccinated against the outbreak. Dr. Siegal also reported discovering the new killer strain in nearby cat populations, and vaccinating up to fifty cats at one time in her efforts to fight the disease before it becomes an epidemic among Maryland pets.
Other veterinarians in the area are adding vaccination against the killer calicivirus into their core vaccination protocol, so if your cat hasn’t been vaccinated, you may want to make an appointment before it’s too late.