Kittens can suffer from a number of different diseases. Fortunately, many of these diseases are either easily treatable or preventable. Some of the most common disease problems seen in kittens are listed below, along with the proper method of treatment or prevention.
Intestinal parasites and kittens
Intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, coccidia and Giardia, are common in kittens. All of these parasites can cause diarrhea.
Many, if not most, kittens are born with roundworms and hookworms, which are easily obtained from the mother before birth or shortly after birth through the milk. There are a number of medications that can safely and effectively “deworm” a kitten, getting rid of these parasites. These medications include pyrantel pamoate, fenbendazole, piperazine and many others.
Tapeworms are frequently seen in kittens that have fleas. A intermediate host, such as the flea, must be present in order for a kitten to become infected. Other intermediate hosts include small prey animals. Medications that kill tapeworms include praziquantel. Care must be taken to eliminate the exposure to the immediate host as well. Controlling fleas and preventing your kitten from capturing prey animals is necessary to prevent infections with tapeworms.
Coccidia and Giardia are both protozoan (one-celled) parasites that can infect kittens. Coccidia can be treated with sulfadimethoxine. Giardia can be treated with fenbendazole, metronidazole and other medications. Preventing or controlling infections with coccidia or Giardia requires strict sanitation.
Infectious diseases in kittens
Upper respiratory infections are among the most commonly seen diseases in kittens. Common symptoms include sneezing, coughing, runny eyes and a runny nose. Vaccinations are available to protect against the two most commonly encountered causes of upper respiratory infections: the feline calicivirus and the feline herpesvirus (also known as the feline rhinotracheitis virus). Though vaccination will not prevent upper respiratory infections completely, vaccinated cats tend to have less severe and shorter lasting infections.
Feline panleukopenia (or feline distemper) is another commonly encountered infectious disease in kittens. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, lack of appetite and fever. Infection can be fatal. Vaccination against feline panleukopenia is effective in protecting kittens against this virus.
Ringworm is another infectious disease that be seen in kittens. Ringworm is caused by a fungus which infects the skin. It causes hair loss and itchiness. It is also extremely contagious to other pets as well as to people who handle the kitten. Several products are used to treat fungal infections. Oral medications include ketoconazole and similar products. Shampoos and dips are also frequently recommended as part of the treatment.
External parasites in kittens
Fleas are the most common external parasite found on kittens. Fleas are insects that feed on the blood of their host. They can cause anemia if the kitten is severely infested. They can also cause itchiness and hair loss. There are numerous topical products available to control fleas. Follow label directions carefully when using these products. Never use a product intended only for dogs on your kitten.
Lice are less commonly seen than fleas but are occasionally found on kittens. Lice are species-specific insects. This means that a pet owner cannot get lice from their cat or give their kitten lice. Several of the topical flea control products also control lice. There are a number of shampoos that can be used to treat lice also.