Washtenaw Veterinary Hospital
Focus On: Canine Influenza
Canine influenza is caused by two different strains of a highly contagious virus. This virus is spread through direct contact, nasal secretions, and contaminated objects like toys and bowls. The most common symptom is coughing but dogs can also develop fever and thick nasal discharge and these signs can be mild or severe. Influenza infections often resemble "kennel cough" but dogs don't respond to antibiotics or cough suppressants. Most dogs recover in 2-3 weeks, though secondary bacterial infections can lead to more severe illness like pneumonia. While laboratory tests are available for canine influenza, these viruses are often diagnosed based on clinical signs. If your dog has signs of respiratory illness they should be kept isolated from other dogs. Treatment is mostly supportive care while the dog's own immunity fights off the virus. There are no approved antiviral drugs to treat influenza in dogs but there are vaccinations for each strain of canine influenza
There was an outbreak of canine influenza in Chicago two years ago, but more recently it has been seen frequently in the southeastern part of the country. If you are traveling with your dog this summer we recommend having them vaccinated against both strains of the influenza virus.
Feline Behavior Part 3 - Inter-cat Aggression
While house soiling is the most frequently encountered behavioral issue with cats, inter-cat aggression in multi-cat households is also a common struggle. Feral cat groups are typically made up of related females but domestic cats are often forced to live in groups of unrelated individuals. These cats must share important resources and are often unable to hide or retreat from potential conflict.
Cats are not hierarchical so there are no "dominant" cats. Instead, they form social groups made up of individuals that share resources and are intolerant of feline strangers. The key to a peaceful coexistence of all cats is making sure that each social group has plenty of their own resources. Social groups can be difficult for owners to identify so ensuring there are visual barriers separating different options for each key resource is important. Key resources for cats are food, water, litter boxes, and resting areas.
Inter-cat aggression is most likely to occur when there is restricted access to these resources, one of the cats has a medical issue, a new cat is being introduced to the home, a resident cat returns from a different location (like the vet!), or when there's a large age difference between cats. Feline tension can result in subtle signs like urine marking or clawing at furniture. Passive conflict such as staring or aggressive posturing can also occur and is often overlooked. Cats will use these strategies to reduce tension and avoid confrontation, but once physical conflict has occurred they are not good at diffusing the situation. Overt aggression between cats can lead to lacerations, abscesses, torn ears, and puncture wounds. The chronic stress that leads up to these confrontations decreases their welfare as well.
If there is a confrontation between housemates it is important to separate the cats immediately to help them calm down. They should be reintroduced gradually and only once resources have been redistributed appropriately. Adding access to vertical spaces (counters, cat trees, ledges, etc) can also help maximize the size of the territory. If you are struggling with inter-cat aggression in your home please call to schedule a consult with one of our doctors. We're here to provide additional information and problem-solving strategies.
Look for the fourth and final part of our feline behavior series in the next edition of the WVH newsletter. The last article will address ways to make the trip to the vet less stressful for both you and your cat!