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Shelter cats with infection.

Species: Cat
Breed: N/A
Age: 1-2 years

My friend told me I should talk to you about what is going on at the animal shelter I manage since it is medically related and we only have one vet here who doesn't have much experience yet. So I am looking to get your opinion on this as I want to save all the cats here since we are a no-kill.

For several months our shelter was free of upper respiratory. My new protocols after a year of research before taking this role really helped. We went from 90% uri to 5%. But just recently 10 cats have come down with odd symptoms that aren't really characteristic of uri but is similar to kennel cough.

The affected cats are coughing, wheezing, and some are panting. No sneezing, nasal discharge or eye discharge is present. Normal meowing and they are eating, drinking and playing normally.

We did have more that were doing this but the coughing just went away after a while. I was wondering what could cause this. Some have been doing this for two weeks to three and the vet has no clue what is going on. This week we are treating them all with Clavamox and giving them canned food.

I was wondering if it could be related to poor air circulation. I clean the cages by spraying them thoroughly with Trifectant and then wiping it down with water after 10 minutes (of course making sure the cage is clean first) so I don't think that the amount of chemicals would affect them especially considering it is less toxicity than bleach. And the dishes are also cleaned with Trifectant and rinsed real well.

I am at odds of what it could be and your professional opinion means a lot to me!

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I'm sorry to hear about the situation at the shelter. Things like this are very difficult to deal with. This certainly sounds like some type of respiratory virus. While most respiratory viruses in cats cause runny noses and sneezing, not all of them do.

It sounds like you are doing a good job of cleaning and disinfecting. However, respiratory viruses are airborne and no amount of cleaning will get your facility completely free of virus.

In order to rid the shelter of this virus you are going to need to find a way to completely isolate the sick cats from any newcomers. This means that they can't share air at all. Just putting them in a different room will not work unless you had a building that had sections with completely different ventilation which is not common.

I'm sure that there are shelter protocols already written for situations like this. I am not a shelter vet but I can give you a few ideas of things that could work. One possibility would be to find foster homes for all of the current cats that you have. Once all of the cats are gone from the facility then thoroughly scrub everything from top to bottom and leave the windows open so that the air is exchanging. Ideally it would be best to not take any new animals into the facility for two weeks. Then, at that point, if any of the foster cats are still at all sick then they do not come back into the facility.

I have seen some shelters when faced with chronic respiratory problems that they can't fix that will euthanize the animals that are currently there. This is so difficult to do but if no foster homes can be found then if there is no other solution then the shelter is going to keep on infecting every new animal that comes in and will never have healthy cats again.

Shelter medicine is so difficult. I really hope things go ok.

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Hi Marie, I've been thinking about this a lot during the past few days. I appreciate your time in answering my question. I want to show you one video I captured of a cat coughing.

This is one of the cats coughing. Can you provide any more clues on what it could be from watching this?

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Original Video - More videos at TinyPic

Usually when I see a cat cough like this I think of asthma. But, asthma is not going to be contagious from cat to cat.

I do not have much personal experience with kennel cough in cats as I haven't seen much of it in my area, but this is a possibility.

It's not a bad idea to consider testing some of the cats for heartworm. Heartworm is not as common in cats as in dogs, but it can happen, especially if you live in a Southern climate. Heartworm can cause cats to cough with a cough that sounds like asthma.

Dr. Marie.

Customer reply:

I have just one more thing that I think it could be.Last summer there was water damage to the ceiling. Because the people in charge of the budget did not see the reasoning behind removing the black mold spots I did it myself with a strong bleach dilution. Of course all cats were removed for a week. After that I found it odd that all the cats were healthy for the next few months.

For some reason the same exact symptoms are showing now that it is summer again. But the black mold spots that were present are not showing back up. The bottle did show it offered protection for 6 months on each application. BUT these symptoms usually only show in summer when the air conditioner is running (and perhaps spreading the spores)? Just a thought and wanted to see if you think it would be worth it to get a professional mold removal even though the spots haven't appeared again.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I think that these symptoms would be unlikely to be due to mold, although I must admit that I am not an expert on mold.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.