Potential Health Concerns in Your New Kitten

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Young Healthy Kitten

Congratulations on bringing home a new kitten! You may be a bit nervous as  there are some illnesses that are common to new kittens. Below are six common health issues to look out for. Just remember that your kitten is less likely to contract a health issue if fed a healthy kitten food.

1. Upper Respiratory Infections

Upper respiratory infections, like feline calicivirus and feline herpes virus, are “kitten killers, especially if the cats are just a few weeks old,” says Dr. Tony Johnson, DVM, DACVECC, Clinical Assistant Professor, Emergency and Critical Care, Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine West Lafayette, IN. Upper respiratory infections in cats are typically caused by bacteria or viruses, which are passed along when other cats sneeze or exhale.


Sneezing is the main symptom of upper respiratory infections in cats, though sometimes kittens will develop a yellow goopy discharge from their eyes and a runny nose. If your kitten is having trouble breathing or refuses to eat, the situation is more serious.


Take your kitten to your veterinarian. “If they’re eating, drinking, feeling comfortable and breathing, it can probably wait until the next day, but otherwise, an emergency visit is best,” Dr. Johnson says. Upper respiratory infections in cats are very hard to treat, especially the viral ones since there are no effective antiviral medications.

Recovery time:

After five to seven days, upper respiratory infections in cats tend to wane. However, some linger longer and the feline herpes virus can even remain dormant in your cat’s body, only to resurface and cause another upper respiratory infection later in life.


2. Feline Distemper

Feline distemper (panleukopenia) is pretty rare, but is very nasty and can be lethal. It’s a virus that attacks your kitten’s immune system, depleting it to nothing, meaning distemper is almost untreatable. Feline distemper vaccines are available and routinely given. Feline distemper is transmitted through the feacal-oral route and even just a microscopic amount of contaminated stool can pass it on.


Kittens with feline distemper are usually extremely ill, suffering from vomiting, lack of appetite, and a horrible, mucus-like white diarrhoea.


Kittens suffering from feline distemper need to be hospitalised and isolated so they don’t transmit this virus. Veterinarians often give them antibiotics and lots of fluids to prevent secondary infections.


3. Intestinal worms

Intestinal worms in cats come in many varieties, all of which are unpleasant and can be dangerous. Roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms, for instance, can burrow into your kitten’s intestine and cause diarrhoea (sometimes with blood), weight loss, and failure to thrive.

Kittens develop worms through ingesting worm eggs from another cat’s feacal matter. Humans can also contract worms (e.g. visceral larva migrans) by eating fruit or vegetables that were in contact with infected soil and not washed thoroughly before eating.


Weight loss and diarrhoea.


Routinely have your kitten dewormed by your vet, beginning at about eight weeks old. There are lots of cat deworming products. These are available over the counter “but veterinarians carry the good stuff,” Dr. Johnson says. Additionally, it's important your veterinarian examines a stool sample to identify which type of worm your kitten has, as certain medications may be better suited for certain types of cat worms.

Recovery time:

Two weeks. Dr. Johnson adds that there’s a re-infection risk. “Kittens can consume the eggs they passed a couple of weeks ago.”


For the complete article on 6 Issues to Watch for in Kittens, visit petMD.

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