Fecal testing

Fecal tests are important to diagnose intestinal parasites in pets and can be run on fresh stool samples either in the clinic or at a reference lab. Most common parasites (roundworms, hookworms, whipworms) shed eggs regularly into the feces and can be found by “floating” them onto a slide using a special solution in the clinic. These parasites are also easily treated by routine “deworming” given in 3 week intervals until the fecal test is negative. However, these common “dewormers” do not treat infections such as Giardia and coccidia which require different, specific medications. Giardia is also very difficult to diagnose in the clinic, and is best tested for by sending a fecal sample to a reference lab for testing. Many heartworm preventatives also protect dogs and cats against the common intestinal parasites, but again, not against all infections, and yearly fecal testing is recommended to treat infections before they become infestations.

Feline Calicivirus – (part of FVRCP vaccine)

This virus is a common cause of upper respiratory infection with ulcerations of the mouth/ tongue and varying amounts of sneezing, coughing, nasal and ocular discharge, and occasionally secondary pneumonia (mainly in young kittens). Ulcerations of the lips, nostrils, and skin may also be present, but generally the symptoms are mild. Less commonly, affected kittens may begin limping and develop a fever with diarrhea +/- seizures. Many times, these kittens are also infected with FIV, and thus, have a worse prognosis. Most cats/ kittens do recover, and many become life-long carriers and will shed virus and display symptoms periodically in times of stress. Calicivirus is part of “feline respiratory disease complex” which is caused by feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus, Chlamydia psittaci, or mycoplasmas. It is often not possible to identify the causative agent, however, this is not necessary to begin treatment. The best prevention is vaccination by a veterinarian beginning at 8-9 weeks and repeated every 3-4 weeks until 20 weeks of age, then every 1-3 years as an adult.

Feline Distemper (Panluekopenia) – (part of FVRCP vaccine)

This is the feline version of parvovirus, and is most commonly found in shelters or feral cats, but can affect any unvaccinated kittens or cats. Survival rate is increased in older kittens and adult cats, that may not ever show symptoms of the disease but may go on to become carriers and continue to shed the virus in their feces. Usually, the symptoms of fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and sometimes neurologic signs such as loss of coordination or tremors when walking are more severe in young kittens. There is no specific treatment, but without supportive care including antibiotics, fluids/electrolytes, and medications to treat nausea and diarrhea the virus can become life-threatening. The best prevention is vaccination by a veterinarian beginning at 8-9 weeks and repeated every 3-4 weeks until 20 weeks of age, then every 1-3 years as an adult.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

This virus is spread mainly by bite wounds, not by casual contact (similar to HIV in humans). *Note- FIV is not transmissible to dogs or humans. Symptoms may develop 6-8 weeks after infection, however, many cats live normal lives for years before any signs of illness are noted. Infected cats may develop a fever and leukopenia (low white blood cell count) as well as neurologic signs. Kittens should be tested for FIV (although vaccination is uncommon) since infected cats will have an altered immune system making them more susceptible to other diseases and will be carriers that can infect other cats. However, it is possible for maternal antibodies that are passed to the kitten from its mother could affect the test. If the initial test is positive, the kitten should be rechecked in a few months, as the initial result could have been false due to maternal antibodies. The best way to protect your kitten or cat from this infection is to keep them strictly indoors, particularly if there are known feral cats in the area or your cat has a tendency to get into fights.

Feline Luekemia Virus (FeLV)

FeLV is shed in the saliva, milk, urine, and feces of infected cats and is easily transmitted to other cats by either biting or casual contact (e.g. shared water bowls, grooming, nose- nose contact through screen doors, or contact with saliva, urine, or feces on the grass). Once infected, the cat may initially develop a fever and enlarged lymph nodes, then 2-4 weeks later may become anemic (low red blood cell count) and thrombocytopenic (low platelet count). Loss of appetite and weight loss may also be noted. If the cat mounts a successful immune response, they may fully recover, never show symptoms, and not become carriers of the disease. However, those that test positive for the disease are carriers and are likely to go on to develop symptoms related to anemia (low red blood cell count) and immunodeficiency (weakened immune system). These cats also have a high likelihood of developing cancer, such as lymphoma, and have a shortened life span (many die within 3 years if diagnosis). All kittens should be tested for FeLV and then vaccinated if they are at high risk of infection. At risk kittens and cats are those that go outdoors (even on screened-in porches), those that live in areas where there is a high feral cat population, or live in a home with a FeLV positive cat. If the cat is strictly indoors, then it is at low risk of contracting the infection and do not necessarily need the vaccine. If you have a new kitten, and are unsure if it will be allowed outdoors later in life, it is best to have the kitten vaccinated by a veterinarian and provide them with the protection early on, then discontinue later if the cat remains “indoor-only”.

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis – (part of FVRCP vaccine)

Rhinotracheitis refers to inflammation of the nasal cavities and the trachea. This infection is typically caused by feline herpesvirus and leads to acute upper respiratory infection with sneezing, coughing, ocular and nasal discharge, and sometimes inflammation/ ulceration of the cornea. In young kittens, a life threatening pneumonia can sometimes develop due to secondary bacterial infection. Most cats recover, and become life-long carriers and will shed virus and display symptoms periodically in times of stress. This is similar to the herpes simplex virus in humans which causes “fever blisters” around the mouth in times of stress, but may otherwise remain dormant in the body. FVR is part of “feline respiratory disease complex” which is caused by feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus, Chlamydia psittaci, or mycoplasmas. It is often not possible to identify the causative agent, however, this is not necessary to begin treatment. The best prevention is vaccination by a veterinarian beginning at 8-9 weeks and repeated every 3-4 weeks until 20 weeks of age, then every 1-3 years as an adult.

Fleas

A small, wingless, blood-sucking insect which are common external parasites found on animals. Fleas can cause severe allergy problems in dogs and cats and result in recurrent skin infections and chronic pruritis (feeling itchy). They also carry tapeworms and infect pets when they swallow the flea. Fleas are particularly a problem in Florida due to the warm temperatures, and the veterinarians at our clinincs recommend that your pet be on monthly flea prevention, all year- round to prevent infestations in your home.

Fluids

The body is composed of fluids that are continually in motion such as water, electrolytes, and other substances. The fluids move in and out of the cell membranes; fluid inside the cells is called intracellular and fluid outside the cell is called extracellular. The maintenance of a proper balance between the intracellular and extracellular fluids is essential to the health of your pet. There are many diseases that disturb this balance, a few examples are heart failure, kidney disease, infections that cause vomiting or diarrhea, and diabetes. It is sometimes necessary to supplement the body with fluids in order to help restore the balance- this is commonly done by subcutaneous (SC) or intravenous (IV) infusion of fluids. The SC method is mainly used in mild cases of fluid loss or dehydration, since a relatively small volume of fluid can be deposited into the subcutaneous space (the space between the skin and the underlying muscle/tissue). For more severe illness or for patients that require blood transfusions, the intravenous (IV) route is used after placement of an IV catheter.

Fungal culture

Also known as “DTM” (dermatophyte test media) this test is used to detect infection with ringworm which is a fungus that causes hair loss and itching in animals and humans. To perform the test, a few hairs are plucked from the root in areas around the lesion and placed in a sterile culture tube/ plate. They are then incubated at room temperature for up to 14 days and checked daily for signs of growth which is indicated by a color change in the media on the plate. There are multiple treatments for ringworm, depending on the size and distribution of the lesions/ areas of hair loss.