Sometimes at New Perth Animal Hospital we see unusual cases and we felt this one was important to share. The kitten’s owner agreed with us and gave us permission to write about him.
This little guy was only 4 weeks old so not yet old enough for vaccination.
He came in to see Dr. Claudia because the owner had noticed little crusts and scabs around his face and very sore, ulcerated foot pads as well as a very sore and swollen “bum”.
A closeup of his foot pads
When Dr. Claudia examined him, she also found a large ulcer in the centre of his tongue.
The next day, his littermates showed similar signs.
Today, Dr. Dave examined an unrelated 12 week old kitten with upper respiratory signs and very similar lesions on tongue and foot pads.
Although biopsies and virus isolation (which can be difficult and quite costly) have not been done to confirm the disease, there is a very good chance that these kittens are suffering from a very virulent (more severe than usual) strain of Calicivirus. Several veterinarians across North America have shared opinions with us and we all feel that this must be considered as a possibility.
Calicivirus is a contagious viral disease of cats which is easily spread from one unvaccinated cat to another. Because the virus is airborne, it can be carried on shoes or clothing, so while indoor cats are less at risk, they could still pick up the disease if they are not protected.
Usually, infected cats would only show fever, sneezing and discharge from the eyes and nose and often ulcers in the mouth which can make eating uncomfortable until they heal.
With a virulent Calicivirus infection, both morbidity and mortality risks are higher. This means more cats are at risk of catching the disease and there is a higher risk of losing a patient. (often the very young, the very old or cats whose immune systems are not as healthy for one reason or another)
Protection against Calicivirus is included in the routine vaccinations which are recommended for all cats and usually started at 7-8 weeks of age or older.
Dr. Claudia’s and Dr. Dave’s Izzy and Moe
Veterinary Assistant Beckie helps one of our feline patients relax before his examination by the veterinarian.
When kittens are born to vaccinated mothers, they will receive a certain amount of protection in the colostrum or “first milk”. This immunity is passive and will ultimately disappear, but will hopefully protect them for those critical first weeks of life until they are vaccinated themselves. In the case of our affected young litter, we suspect their mother was not vaccinated and so, did not have protection to pass along to her kittens.
If your cat is unvaccinated, or you are unsure whether he or she has protection, discuss this with a veterinarian. Remember the old saying that an “ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”. Sometimes it really is true.