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Common Health Threats
Kittens are subject to many different diseases and deformities, just like any other animal. Some diseases, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, are congenital. Most, however, are contracted through viruses, infections, or parasites. Fortunately, vaccinated kittens are protected from many of the most deadly diseases.
Feral cat mothers (sometimes called queens) are more likely than domestic cats to have kittens with health problems. There are many reasons for this:
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- feral cats are likely to have more kittens than they can care for;
- ferals are more prone to have parasites that can cause disease;
- ferals are often undernourished and unable to provide proper nutrition for kittens.
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Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper)
Panleuk, as it is commonly called, is a particularly virulent virus in the Parvovirus group, and is often found in feral cat colonies, or any other areas where large groups of cats gather.Continue to 3 of 15 below.
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Upper Respiratory Infections
A third infectious disease is Chlamydia, which is bacterial and can be treated with antibiotics such as Tetracycline. In addition to sneezing and runny nose, Chlamydia can cause Conjunctivitis (commonly known as pink-eye), which can be spread to humans.Continue to 4 of 15 below.
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Fading Kitten Syndrome (FKS)
FKS is a group of symptoms rather than a single disease. Fosters of pregnant cats and their kittens are well familiar with the symptoms, which may appear shortly after birth, or as late as six to eight weeks. There is no known single cause, although the compromised health of the mother cat undoubtedly weighs heavily.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
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Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
FIV is transmitted by deep bite wounds (saliva to blood), or during gestation (blood to blood), cats are more likely to die of infection or other causes because of their compromised immune systems. Even kittens who survive may be hard to place in permanent homes because of humans' misunderstanding of this disease.Continue to 6 of 15 below.
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Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
FeLV is extremely virulent and can be spread through casual contacts, such as shared food dishes, as well as from the mother cat. While FeLV can be prevented with vaccines, once it appears it can't be cured. It suppresses the immune system so that cats die of diseases they would otherwise be able to fight off.Continue to 7 of 15 below.
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Some kittens are born without hearing. This condition, while incurable, does not incapacitate a cat. White cats with two blue eyes are often, but not always, deaf from birth.Continue to 8 of 15 below.
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Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
While FIP can often be found in areas with large numbers of cats, it can also be found in kittens with a genetic predisposition. While exposure to this coronavirus is widespread, few of the infected cats actually get FIP. The downside is that once contracted, the disease is fatal.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
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Hip Dysplasia is thought to be a genetic disease, although it does not always show up immediately. It is a deformity that can, in many cases, be corrected through surgery.Continue to 10 of 15 below.
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Feline Cerebellar Hypoplasia (FCH)
FCH is commonly caused by Feline Distemper, contracted either after birth or during gestation. As it centers in the cerebrum, CH is a neurological disease, which usually affects motor skills, including the ability to walk and control of the head.Continue to 11 of 15 below.
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Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)
Polycystic Kidney Disease is found most often in Persian Cats and the related breed, Exotics. It is a progressive genetic disease affecting the kidneys, and often not diagnosed until later in life. Conscientious breeders are now testing their breeding queens in an effort to keep the PKD gene out of their line.Continue to 13 of 15 below.
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Several parasites are carriers of dangerous diseases to kittens. The common flea, as well as ticks and mosquitos, can transmit a number of diseases:
Hemobartonella, aka Hemobartonellosis, is a form of anemia. It is potentially deadly in kittens, and they may even need blood transfusions as part of the treatment.
Even if a kitten doesn't get Hemobartonella from fleas, the mere act of the fleas dining on the kitten's blood over a period of time can cause a different, still serious anemia.Continue to 14 of 15 below.
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Veterinarians will almost always treat flea-infested kittens for tapeworms. However, you may be asked to bring a fecal sample from the kitten with you at appointment time, as they are also susceptible to roundworms.Continue to 15 of 15 below.
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If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.