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ASK THE VET

Cats Also Need Rabies Shots : Risk Is Higher Because They Roam More Than Dogs

November 19, 1987|Dr. GLENN ERICSON | For The Times

Q If I don't need to get my cat licensed, why do I need to get him vaccinated for rabies?

A Rabies is a serious viral disease that is fatal to non-protected pets and humans. It is transmitted primarily from the bite of an infected animal through the saliva which carries the virus. The virus is common in wild animal populations, especially foxes, bats, raccoons and skunks.

Because cats are predators by nature and often are allowed to roam free, they actually run a higher risk of contacting an infected wild animal than do dogs. Currently, in the Midwest and eastern United States, the incidence of rabies in pets is higher in cats than dogs.

It is highly recommended that your cat be vaccinated against rabies, even if he is an indoor cat or lives in the middle of your city. Also, rabies vaccination may be required if you are moving to another state or country. If you frequently take your cat with you on vacation or camping trips, it would be wise to make sure it is currently vaccinated.

Rabies vaccines are generally given to kittens at 3 months of age and boostered yearly along with their regular feline vaccinations. A rabies vaccination is an inexpensive insurance for your cat's health.

Q I had my cat treated for tapeworms this summer, and now he has worms again. Why did this recur?

A Tapeworms are common intestinal parasites of both dogs and cats. They often are noticed by the owner as small white or tan mobile segments, similar in size to a grain of rice. They are found most often on the tail or rectum of the pet, or on the stools, and occasionally on the bedding. These segments are shed by the tapeworm as it matures. Each segment carries the infective eggs which are released into the environment.

Tapeworm infestation in cats or dogs causes vague gastrointestinal signs. Occasionally the pet shows signs of abdominal discomfort, accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea. Often the pet will lick at the rectal area or 'scoot' on his hindquarters.

Cats and dogs become infected by eating the intermediate host that is infected with the tapeworm larvae. The most common intermediate host for pets is the dog and cat flea. Occasionally, the human flea, the dog louse, or even rodents can be the intermediate host of tapeworms. The flea larvae, while developing, ingest the eggs from the passed tapeworm segment, thus allowing the eggs to develop into an infective stage. The pet swallows these infective fleas as he grooms himself or chews on skin irritated by fleas. The tapeworm larvae are then released into the intestinal tract and attach to the wall, developing into adult tapeworms. The adult worms mature and start the cycle over again in three to four weeks.

Medication by your veterinarian is important to destroy the adult tapeworms and should be repeated to eliminate the developing larval stages before they become adults. More important, flea control at home is an essential step in preventing tapeworm infection of your pet. Regular bathing, spraying, or dipping of your pet should be done, as well as clearing the yard and house of fleas with the use of foggers or sprays. A veterinarian can advise on what products to use and how frequently to use them.

The elimination of tapeworms in your pet should be a team effort by you and your veterinarian.

Send questions about your pets to Glenn Ericson, DVM, Ask the Vet, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626. Ericson, a practicing Orange County veterinarian, is the incoming president of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Assn.

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