Infectious Diseases in Cats on the Rise
Each year, Banfield Pet Hospital publishes a State of Pet Health Report. This year’s report included data from 850 hospitals. In total, 470,000 cats and 2.3 million dogs were cared for by these hospitals in 2013 and contributed to the statistics reported.
Among the most troubling of the statistics included in the report is a marked increase in certain infectious diseases. “In this year’s report, a marked increase of Lyme disease in dogs and FIV infection in cats is the most concerning — since 2009, the prevalence of Lyme disease in dogs has increased by 21 percent and the prevalence of FIV infection in cats has increased by a staggering 48 percent.”
Let’s look at the individual feline infectious diseases that were the primary focus of the report.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
Since 2009, the incidence of FIV infection has increased by 48 percent. In 2009, approximately 23 cats per 10,000 were reported to be infected with FIV. In 2013, that number increased to 33 cases per 10,000. That’s approximately one infected cat in every 300.
Not surprisingly, intact cats older than one year were 3.5 times as likely to be infected with FIV as spayed or neutered cats of the same age. In addition, male cats were three times more likely to be infected than female cats.
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
Unlike FIV, the incidence of FeLV has remained relatively stable over the past five years. In 2013, 41 positive cats were reported for every 10,000 cats examined. That equates to approximately one cat in every 250.
Other note-worthy statistics include the fact that intact cats one year of age or older were 4.5 times as likely to have an FeLV infection, compared to spayed or neutered cats of the same age. In addition, cats less than three years of age were approximately twice as likely to have an FeLV infection as cats between three and ten years of age. They were three times more likely to be infected than cats over ten years of age.
Feline Upper Respiratory Disease
Upper respiratory infections in cats increased by 18 percent in the past five years. Numbers changed from eight cases per 100 cats in 2009, to almost ten cases per 100 (or nearly 10%) in 2013. Cats less than one year of age were more likely to be infected than older cats, with 18 percent of cats within this age group suffering from an upper respiratory infection. Intact juvenile cats were twice as likely to be infected as spayed or neutered cats of the same age.
The number of cats infected with ear mites has decreased by 28 percent over the past 5 years, representing some good news in the report. About 1 of every 45 cats seen in 2013 were infected with ear mites. Intact cats 1 year of age or older were almost 4 times as likely to have ear mites as spayed/neutered cats of the same age, and cats less than one year of age were eight times more likely to be infected than cats over one year of age.
Needless to say, some of these statistics are concerning, particularly the steep increase in the incidence of FIV infection. At the very least, this report reflects the need to test all cats for the presence of FeLV and FIV. It also indicates the need for regular veterinary care, including vaccinations and spay/neuter. This is especially true for kittens and young cats but, of course, we all know (hopefully) that cats require regular veterinary care and examinations throughout their entire lives.
Dr. Lorie Huston