We would like to say thank you to the breeder who sent us this photo, as you can see this is very ill little kitten. He has a feeding tube inserted into his oesophagus. This procedure was taken because he would not eat his food due to the loss of his sense of smell. We are pleased to say that this little boy survived but it did cost this breeder hundreds of pounds along with hours of intense nursing. When the time was right, he was given away to a understanding caring home as he almost certainly would have been left with respiratory problems.
This kitten was bred by a person with high standards of care and highly respected in the cat fancy, it is therefore vital that none of us are under any false illusion this could never happen to us. We also need to remember that vaccination of kittens and cats is no guarantee that they will not fall foul of these awful diseases.
Read more about this in the FAB paper below:
Despite vaccination, cat flu remains a common problem in many breeding colonies. The disease is apparently mild in some households and restricted to a minor outbreak of sneezing that improves with no treatment. In other colonies, the disease is much more severe and can leave kittens with chronic disease and difficult to sell, or cause deaths of individuals or entire litters. Breeders who do have a problem with cat flu can spend a lot of time and money on investigation, and even then are still at a loss with how to control the disease.
Cat flu is an important cause of illness and death in breeding colonies and its control needs to be approached in a sensible manner. Good control of flu may involve re-homing or neutering of some breeding stock.
What is cat flu?
Most breeders will agree that they know what cat flu is. It is an infectious respiratory tract disease of cats, often seen in kittens in the breeding household and seemingly not affecting the adults. The typical combination of symptoms includes discharge from the nose and eyes, ulcers in the mouth, reluctance to eat and drink, sometimes coughing, fever, difficulty breathing and, rarely, death. Which symptoms occur probably depends upon a number of factors, including not only the infectious agent present but also on management factors within the colony.
There are many causes of cat flu. Probably the most common are the two upper respiratory tract viruses, feline herpesvirus (FHV, also known as feline viral rhinotracheitis [FVR]) and feline calicivirus (FCV) which, along with a bacterium called Bordetella bronchiseptica, are most commonly detected in cats with typical signs of cat flu. Although Chlamydophila disease is often discussed at the same time as flu, in cats with Chlamydophila felis infection the signs are almost always restricted to the eyes and the serious flu signs are not seen.
Probably the most common source of infection for cats in pet homes is sick cats, especially if the new cat or kitten comes from a rescue colony or from another pet home where the cats are unvaccinated. In breeding households the disease can be caught from sick cats, but also important is the role of the apparently healthy carrier cat (see below). In order to understand this it is important to think a little about the individual infections.
This bacterial infection has become recognized as a problem in cats only recently. Although well known in other species, until 10 years ago it was not really reported in the general cat population. In breeding colonies, in combination with FHV and/or FCV, it can cause fatal pneumonia, with death of entire litters within hours or days. On its own (in experimental studies) this bacterium usually causes a mild nasal discharge and perhaps a slight cough. In experimental studies there also appears to be a carrier state, and queens have been shown to shed bordetella in the post-kittening period.
The role of bordetella in cat flu is still being investigated and several studies on this bacterium are in progress. It is now possible for researchers to ‘type’ different strains and what makes some strains cause disease is an area under active study. Using this strain typing system, it has also been shown that this bacterium has, in a small number of cases, been transmitted from dogs (in which it causes kennel cough) to cats.