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Veterinary Care for Kittens

The Physical
At Dulles South Veterinary Center, we require a general physical exam once a year for your cat. This is a great way for us to observe your pet’s overall health. You can ask about any concerns you may have, whether they are physical or behavioral. As your cat gets older, it is also a chance for us to be able to keep track of any chronic issues, such as growing lumps or eye changes.

FVRCP (“Distemper”) Vaccine: 
This is a combo vaccine that contains Feline Distemper, Feline Herpes, and Feline Calicivirus. 

*Feline Panleukopenia Virus (“Feline Distemper): This virus is related to the canine parvovirus. It is characterized by the sudden onset of fever, inappetence, depression, vomiting, and decreased number of white blood cells. If infected cats develop symptoms, they tend to have a low chance of survival.

*Feline Rhinotracheitis Virus (“Feline Herpesvirus”): This is a disease that attacks the respiratory system. It has symptoms that include sneezing, nasal discharge, rhinitis (inflammation of the nose), and conjunctivitis.

*Feline Calicivirus: This is another upper respiratory virus of cats.

The series:
This Distemper vaccine is the first series kittens are usually given. It can be started no earlier than six weeks of age. Three consecutive injections are given under the skin, three to four weeks apart. If your cat is older than 12 weeks, he or she will be given two vaccinations in this series. Once the initial series is complete, whether as a baby or an adult, we will booster it one year later, then every three years until they enter their geriatric years.
Rabies Vaccine: This vaccine contains just the rabies component. The rabies virus is spread through the saliva of an infected animal, but under extremely rare circumstances, it can also be spread by air. It is a disease that attacks that nervous system. There are three different forms of this disease with various symptoms:

*Prodormal: characterized by a change in behavior which may include anxiety, solitude and apprehension.

*Paralytic: characterized by lethargy, difficulty swallowing, drooling, and loss of motor skills.

*Furious: characterized by aggression, altered voice, loss of coordination, and hypersensitivity to light and sounds.

The series:
This vaccine is generally given two weeks after the completion of the distemper series. These vaccines are good for one year. They will need to be boostered on an annual basis for the rest of your cat’s life.

Feline Leukemia Vaccine (“FeLV”): The name of this disease is a misnomer; FeLV is not a cancer, but a virus. It is transmitted between cats by saliva or nasal secretion. Initial symptoms include depression, discomfort, and mild fever. As the disease progresses, other symptoms can arise. This can include anemia, diarrhea or constipation, jaundice, and weight loss. The end results of this disease can result in a damaged immune system. Cats can fight off the infection and become totally immune, can become a healthy carrier that never gets sick but can infect other cats, or the cat may become very ill and maintain a compromised immune system for the remainder of its life.

The series:

This vaccine is only given to animals that go outside. FeLV is given once the rabies and distemper series have been completed. It consists of two injections, three to four weeks apart. Once the initial series is completed as a kitten, the vaccine will be boostered once a year.

Other Treatments:
There are several different types of intestinal parasites that we worry about in cats. Parasites include hookworms, tapeworms, whipworms, and roundworms, but we also want to protect them from coccidia and giardia, which are both protozoal parasites. We will deworm your cat with a product called Drontal once a year. We will then have you follow up with us by bringing in a fecal sample to double check. Generally, we ask for this sample three weeks after being dewormed, as this is the length of most of their life cycles.

FeLV/FIV: FeLV is the short form for Feline Leukemia and FIV is the short form for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. For indoor cats, we generally only test them twice. When you bring him or her in as a new kitten, we will test them the first day. It is within the nature of these particular viruses to evade detection for up to six months, showing a false negative on our in-house tests. We will retest your kitten/cat six months after he or she has been removed from an environment where they could have contracted the disease. Because these two diseases are highly contagious, outdoor cats are tested once a year, or any time they come into the hospital to stay. This test is performed using a small blood sample.

Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Preventative: Heartworm disease was originally thought to only be a disease of canines. Recent research indicates that many of the cases originally thought to be feline asthma were in fact heartworm cases. This disease is extremely difficult to diagnose, so the most effective way to combat it is through prevention. There is currently a product called Revolution that not only protects against heartworm disease, but also fleas and ticks. Fleas and ticks are associated with extreme itchiness, allergic skin conditions, and tape worms. Ticks also spread a menagerie of diseases.

Spread the hair between the shoulder blades and apply the tip of the applicator directly on the skin. Apply the entire tube, ensuring as much of the medication gets on the skin as possible. This medication is applied monthly.

Sick Kittens
We have made great strides in preventative medicine for our pets. We vaccinate, deworm, give medications, and do physical exams on a regular basis. Unfortunately, though, no matter how careful you may be, your kitten will get sick at some point in his or her life. When you bring your pet into see us, your history from home could be our greatest aid in understanding what is wrong. Unlike sick humans, sick kittens cannot tell us where it hurts and how they feel. Therefore, any behavior changes you notice are important to discuss with us, no matter how unimportant they may seem.

General categories will be discussed here; it will include the type of symptoms you may see, the most common causes, what you can do at home, when your kitten should be seen by a vet, and the types of questions that may be asked when you get there.

Gastrointestinal Upset
This includes vomiting and diarrhea. Other symptoms of gastrointestinal upset may be loss of interest in food (anorexia), tender abdomen, and lethargy.

– Vomiting
The most common causes for vomiting include an abrupt diet change; dietary indiscretion – eating something they shouldn’t; obstruction – something is lodged in their stomach or intestines, intestinal parasites, ulcers, sour stomach from fasting or stress, or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

When you bring in your kitten, we distinguish between self-limiting and life threatening.

Self-limiting generally includes bouts of vomiting that include one or two episodes, a generally normal attitude, no diarrhea or other symptoms in general, and no abdominal pain. In these cases, you can try resting their intestinal tract by not feeding anything from 12 to 24 hours. Start by feeding small meals of a bland diet (we can either send home a bland diet or you can cook them boiled chicken breast). Once your kitten has been okay for a couple of days, you can begin slowly switching them back to their regular diet. Take about a week: gradually remove amounts of the bland diet and replace them with the regular food. If the vomiting recurs, have your kitten seen immediately by a veterinarian.

Life threatening means that without medical intervention, your pet become dangerously dehydrated. This generally includes continual vomiting to the point of retching, abdominal bloating, vomiting with diarrhea and lethargy, obvious abdominal pain, vomiting in an animal losing weight, or multiple episodes of vomiting in animals under twelve weeks old. Depending on the type of symptoms your animal is displaying, we may need to test blood values, take radiographs, and/or hospitalize with IV fluids and medications.

The most common causes for diarrhea include an abrupt diet change, dietary indiscretion – eating something they shouldn’t, intestinal parasites, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or food intolerance/allergy.

There are different levels of severity when it comes to diarrhea. It can be mild; in this case the stool is very soft but has a little bit of form to it or the animal may be having diarrhea but normal activity level. In severe cases, the stool is like water, very dark in color, has large amounts of blood in it, or occurs very frequently. There may also be straining with no stool produced.

Depending on the severity of the diarrhea, you could either be sent home with some oral antibiotics and a bland diet or, if it is much worse, we will need to put your animal on IV fluids and medications to ensure hydration levels are maintained.

Questions to expect:

–  How long has your pet been having diarrhea?
–  How frequently?
–  What is the consistency of the diarrhea?
–  Does this vary at all?
–  Have you seen any blood in the stool?
–  When was the last time they ate?
–  How is their appetite?
–  What type of food do they normally eat?
–  Did you change food recently?
–  Do they get treats? If so, what kind?
–  Is there anything around the house that your pet could have eaten?
–  Are you missing any toys?
–  How is your pet’s attitude?
–  Is your pet vomiting?

Ear Problems
Symptoms of an ear infection include scratching at the ears or neck region, shaking of the head, obvious redness or swelling of the opening of the ear canal and sometimes the ear flap, excessive debris, and a foul odor from the ears. Cats that have just had a bath are especially at risk, as water can get down the ear canals and create the perfect environment for microorganisms to grow out of hand.

When you bring your pet in, generally we will take a swab of the inside of the ear and make a microscope slide from it. This way we know specifically what type of infection it is and how many organisms there are. Occasionally, if we see a particularly ominous type of bacteria, we may need to send out a sample for a culture.

Questions to expect:

–  How long has he or she been displaying these symptoms?
–  Does he or she have a history of ear infections?
–  Have you seen any discharge?
–  If so, what color?
–  Have you noticed a foul odor?
–  Has your pet gone had a bath recently?
–  Has your pet been itching anywhere else?
–  Have you noticed any skin issues anywhere?

Respiratory Issues
Lower respiratory issues are usually associated with some type of coughing. This coughing can be dry, produce mucous, or sound somewhat muffled. Along with the lower, you could also have upper respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, nasal or eye discharge, whistling or wheezing noises produced while breathing, and/or swelling to the nose or face.

The most common causes of upper respiratory issues are generally viral. A couple of the most common viruses are Felines Herpes Virus and Feline Calicivirus.

You need to worry about your kitten when they cough frequently, especially if they have any other symptoms. These symptoms could be discharge from the eyes and/or nose, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and others.

Questions to expect:
–  How long has your pet been coughing?
–  How frequently?
–  What type of cough is it? Can you imitate it?
–  Is there any sneezing?
–  Is there any eye or nose discharge?
–  If so, what color is it?
–  How is their appetite?
–   When was the last time they ate?
–   How is their attitude?
–   Is your pet vomiting?
–   Is your pet having diarrhea?

Eye Problems
Sometimes your pet will exhibit squinting or excessive redness around their eye. You may also see the third eyelid swell or they may have discharge from the eyes. Eye problems can be very serious, as they get worse very quickly. If you notice your animal’s eyes are abnormal, it is best to get them to a vet as soon as possible so they can be treated appropriately.

Depending on the symptoms your cat is exhibiting, your vet may try several approaches. One of the most common tests performed is called fluorescein eye staining. This is a stain applied to the eye to see if there has been any trauma to its surface. Often times, this determines the type of medication that can be used in the eye.

Questions to expect:

–  How long has your pet’s eye looked like this?
–  Has he or she been rubbing at it?
–   Any squinting?
–  Is it one of both eyes?
–   Have you seen redness around the eye or eyelids?
––  Have you seen any discharge?
–   If so, what color?
–  What consistency?
–  Has your pet been coughing or sneezing?
–   Any nose discharge?
–   If so, what color?
–  Any lethargy?
–  Could anything have gotten lodged in her eye that you know of?
–   Has your pet been in tall grass or fields recently?
–  How is your pet’s appetite?

Skin Problems
Skin issues can come in many different forms: they can have dry, flakey skin; moist sores; scabbing; itchiness; general redness; pustules; pimples; lumps; or general abrasions.

Spaying and Neutering
If you are not planning on breeding your animal, it is important to have them spayed or neutered for several reasons. It eliminates the risk of unwanted pregnancies. It is also beneficial as reproductive cancers are relatively common among intact animals; females can also develop a life-threatening disease of the uterus. Removal of the sexual organs eliminates these types of illnesses.

We generally perform this surgery on animals around six months old.  Spay surgery can be done in a traditional manner with a larger incision and slower recover time, or it can be done utilizes the laparoscope. By using the laparoscope, we are able to make a smaller incision and directly visualize the ovaries. This smaller incision and precise cutting lead to a faster recovery time, reduced need to pain medication, and lower post-operative complication risk. We do not recommend waiting much longer than six months as this is about the age when dogs and cats come into sexual maturity. There is often an extra fee associated with spaying a female dog or cat in heat, as the surgeon must be careful not to tear the tissue of the blood engorged organs.

Pre-Anesthetic Blood Work

We require all animals brought in for surgery to have a basic blood panel run. Though most puppies and kittens are healthy and have no internal medical conditions that are of concern, they may be suffering from a birth defect that shows no outward clinical signs. Many times, if there is a problem with a puppy or kitten’s kidneys or liver, they may not be acting sick, but the bloodwork will tell the doctor that the values of those organs are out of normal range. This could postpone the surgery temporarily or the doctor could recommend never anesthetizing your animal.

If we have no indication that there could be problems with your puppy or kitten’s health, we will run the standard preoperative bloodwork.

Prep Profile:

Blood Glucose (GLU)–The results of this test can tell the doctor if an animal is hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) or hyperglycemic (high blood sugar). Hyperglycemia is a symptom of diabetes, and other diseases, which is a condition that needs serious and immediate attention.

Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) and Creatinine (CRE)–These two substances are cleared from the blood by the kidneys. If there are increases in their values, there could be serious compromise of one or both of the kidneys. The kidneys are responsible for excreting most of the sedatives and anesthetics into the urine and therefore out of the body. If these enzymes are elevated, additional bloodwork, urine analysis, radiographs, or intravenous fluids may be needed.

Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT)–This is a liver enzyme. If this enzyme is increased, it could indicate inflammation or damage of the liver. Because the liver is responsible for metabolizing most sedatives and anesthetics it is imperative that it is functioning properly. If enzymes are elevated, additional bloodwork, radiographs, or an ultrasound may be needed.

Alkaline Phosphate (ALP)-This enzyme is made by a number of different tissues in the body. An elevated value could    indicate liver, muscle, and bone disease. Animals that are rapidly growing can have an elevated value due to bone development.


Total Protein (TP): This tests the general health of your animal by looking at the amount of protein in the blood. If the TP happens to be very low, it could indicate liver or kidney issues.

Packed Cell Volume (PCV): This measures the hydration level of the animal by separating the solid portions of blood from the liquid.

According to a study done by HomeAgain, 10% of all pets will be lost at some point in their lifetime. Though collars help animals find their way home, they can easily slip off while out on the streets. Microchips are good for life, they can only be surgically removed, and any facility with a scanner can identify your pet.

We recommend a microchip be implanted in your pet while they are under anesthesia. While it is not extremely painful to have them implanted while awake, it eliminates discomfort if your pet is asleep. We will send home an application that you fill out and send to the company. For a minimal annual charge, HomeAgain will hold your personal information and give you a call if someone finds your lost cat.