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Common Ailments/Parasites and Treatments


Common Illnesses

Upper Respiratory Infection (“URI”) in Cats

Feline upper respiratory infection (URI) is extremely common in kittens and cats rescued from animal shelters. Many cats enter shelters already silently carrying the viruses that lead to illness; vaccines are partially effective at best; and specific treatments are limited. Factors such as overcrowding, poor air quality, poor sanitation, stress, concurrent illness, parasitism, poor nutrition, and other causes of immunosuppression predispose to disease.

Info for foster homes:

  • Keep cats isolated. Some pathogens can spread even to otherwise healthy, vaccinated pet cats.  Medication and other treatments should be given to cats with URI after other cats in the home have been handled.
  • Practice good hygiene, such as hand washing, after handling cats suffering from URI. If you have your own cats and your foster cats are sick, you may want to wash up and change clothes after handling/medicating the foster cats before handling your own cats.
  • Treatment:

    There is no single “drug of choice” for treatment of URI. For cats in a pet home with mild illness, antibiotic treatment may be un-necessary. For cats with more serious illness, our veterinarian may recommend antibiotics such as Clavamox or Azithromycin. Nebulizer treatments may also be recommended.  Always advise your Foster Mentor or rescue contact of worsening illness, as well as any change in color of the discharge coming from the nose, e.g. clear to yellow or green.

    Some cats may lose their interest in food when suffering from URI. In that case, we tend to begin syringe feeding and monitor closely for dehydration.

    Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (“CIRDC”) or Kennel Cough in Dogs

    Extremely common illness affecting many of the dogs rescued from animal shelters. It is common to use the term “kennel cough”, “infectious tracheobronchitis” and variations on “canine infectious respiratory disease complex” interchangeably. However, this is an overly simplistic view of a complicated syndrome. Disease is not limited to the trachea, nor does it always manifest as coughing. Clinical syndromes of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC) may include sneezing, nasal and ocular discharge, and sometimes lower respiratory and/or systemic disease.

    Info for foster homes:

  • Always remember that vaccines do not completely protect a dog that is exposed to kennel cough. For maximum protection of your own dogs, they should receive the canine kennel cough vaccine at least 1 week and not more than 1 year before bringing in foster dogs into your home.
  • Keep dogs isolated. Some CIRDC pathogens can spread even to otherwise healthy, vaccinated pet dogs (e.g. canine influenza).  Medication and other treatments should be given to dogs with kennel cough after other dogs in the home have been handled.
  • Refrain from bringing your foster dog to pet stores, dog parks, obedience training, or other places young puppies may visit as long as the dog is showing any symptoms of illness. Remember some dogs infected with serious illness such as canine distemper may be infectious to others while showing only mild signs themselves.
  • Dogs can continue shedding some of the infectious agents associated with kennel cough for some time after recovery. The risk is greatly reduced once all signs have resolved. However, adopters should be asked to keep their new pet away from areas where animals congregate, such as dog parks or obedience classes, for two weeks after recovery.
  • Treatment:

    There is no single “drug of choice” for treatment of CIRDC. For dogs in a pet home with mild illness, antibiotic treatment may be un-necessary. For dogs with more serious illness, our veterinarian may recommend antibiotics such as Doxycycline or Clavamox. Nebulizer treatments may also be recommended.  Always advise your Foster Mentor or rescue contact of worsening illness, as well as any change in color of the discharge coming from the nose, e.g. clear to yellow or green.

    Common Parasites


    Hookworms and roundworms seem to be very common, whipworms less so. These can be contagious, if your pets eat or play in the foster’s stool. It is usually not noticed, but can be present if the dog has diarrhea or bloody stool. If your dog is having diarrhea, please contact us and we will provide the necessary medicine. The fecal test done at the vet will show presence of this. If regular fecal removal is not practiced in your home, the eggs for these worms can stay in the ground soil for up to 5 years. Hence, it’s important to regularly clean up after your pet. Hookworms and whipworms are treated with Panacur, which is given for 3 days in a row and then repeated in 3 weeks. Roundworms are treated with Pyrantel, which is given once and repeated in two weeks.


    This is NOT contagious. Tapeworms are caused by ingesting fleas, eating dead rodents, etc. They are long, flat worms that can be seen in your dogs feces. These worms in the feces are body segments and not the full worm. They will die in the stool. They look similar to rice. They do not show up in a fecal from a vet. If you notice this in your foster’s stool, contact us and we will provide you with the pills necessary to eradicate the living worm. Usually one dose of 1-3 pills kills the worms.

    Ailments Affecting the Skin

    Demodectic Mange, aka Demodex

    Usually affecting dogs, this skin condition is caused by a type of mite that is believed to be present on all dogs. However, due to an inability of the immune system in some dogs to control the mite population, they can have an overabundance of the demodex mite, causing fur loss, skin irritation, itching, and other symptoms. Demodex is diagnosed by the veterinarian performing a skin scrape, where they scrape some of the skin off of the dog and look at it under the microscope to confirm the presence of the demodex mites. Demodex mange is NOT contagious to other pets.


    Demodex mange is typically treated by a long-term course of Ivermectin given orally.

    Sarcoptic Mange, aka Sarcoptes

    Sarcoptic mange is a skin condition affecting both cats and dogs. Much like demodex mange, it is caused by a mite — the sarcoptic mite. It is also diagnosed by a skin scrape. Unlike demodex, sarcoptic mange is contagious to other pets and people. A pet with sarcoptic mange should be kept isolated in a cage, crate, or room such as a bathroom. Gloves should be worn when handling the sarcoptes-infected animal. Bedding should be washed regularly.


    Sarcoptic mange is typically treated by two doses of Ivermectin or Advantage Multi, given two weeks apart. A skin scrape should be repeated after the second treatment to confirm that the mange has resolved.


    Contrary to its name Ringworm is not a worm at all but a fungus. In the past, because of the circular lesions made by the fungi they were thought to be caused by worms, hence the name ringworm. It does not however always grow in this pattern. There are 3 types of ringworm, one type is the same fungus typically referred to as “athlete’s foot”. When this fungus grows anywhere other than the bottom of a person’s foot, it is called ringworm. The fungi live on the surface of the skin and in the skin follicles feeding on dead skin tissue and hair. The usual symptom is a round hairless lesion. The characteristic “ring” that we see on humans doesn’t always appear as a ring on animals. This lesion will grow in size and often become irregular in shape.  The fungi cause the hair shafts to break off and this results in patches of hair loss. Ringworm is commonly found on the face, ears, tail and paws. The lesions are scaly and may or may not be itchy and often the skin is reddened and inflamed.

    Transmission can happen by direct contact with another infected animal or person. It can be passed from cats to dogs and visa versa and from pets to humans and from humans to pets. The fungal spores can live in the environment for a long time and can be found in carpets, bedding, grooming equipment, etc and can infect an animal when it comes into contact with them. The incubation period is 10-12 days. This means that following exposure to the fungus, about 10-12 days will pass before any lesions occur. In many cases ringworm can be spread by contact with infected soil. The fungus can live for months in soil if the nutrients are right.

    Humans can contract ringworm by touching an animal with ringworm. Ringworm can spread while petting or grooming cats or dogs with ringworm. You can also get ringworm from cows, goats, pigs and horses.

    Healthy adult cats or dogs usually have a resistance to ringworm. Young cats and kittens and puppies are more susceptible because their immune system hasn’t fully developed. Many cats and dogs are carriers of ringworm but show no symptoms. They can, however, infect other animals or humans.


    Diagnosing ringworm is not easy to do. The veterinarian will look at the possibly infected animal by using a Wood’s lamp; ringworm should glow a fluorescent green when viewed under this special ultraviolet lamp. The veterinarian may also take a scraping of the pet and send it in for a culture. If ringworm is suspected, treatment is begun immediately as diagnosis is difficult and time consuming.


    Topical anti-fungal sprays and creams will typically be directed for use. Lime sulfur dips are also usually prescribed by the vet.  Dips should be given twice a week and can be given at home or by our veterinarian. Please be aware that Lime Sulfur will stain clothing and jewelry and will cause temporary yellowing of the cat or dog’s hair. It also smells very strongly of rotten eggs. Follow the instructions for mixing the dip listed on the bottle.

    Another important component of treating ringworm is to decontaminate the environment.  Use bleach mixed at 1:10 on any surface that you can at least every other day. It will kill 80% of the spores. Vacuum on a daily basis a dispose of vacuum bags which will contain the spores. Steam cleaning of carpets and furnishings will also kill a large number of the spores – this is best done after the pets have left the home.  Don’t forget your foster’s bedding. Wash all bedding in very hot water with detergent that contain color safe bleach. Confine the fosters to one room of the house or in a crate to avoid spreading spores all over the house.

    Lime Sulfur Dipping at Home Instructions:

  • Lime-sulfur should be used at 4 ounces to the gallon. Do not pre-wet the cat.
  • When mixing the dip it is important to put 4 ounces of the lime sulfur in the mixing container FIRST and then add the warm water. This will give you the correct dilution.
  • The lime-sulfur treatment is very important to reduce ongoing environmental contamination. Lime-sulfur can be applied with a garden rose sprayer with nice warm water. We use a half-gallon sprayer.
  • It is recommended to wear heavy duty dishwashing gloves during the dip.
  • Remove jewelry and wear old clothes.
  • Keep the nozzle of the sprayer very close to the cat’s skin so the spray just flows over them like a shower. Let the solution ‘coat’ the hairs. You must soak the cat to the skin.
  • Use rags to gently sponge on dip around the face and inside their ears, on their little noses, etc. These areas are most important and tend to be the most difficult to resolve.
  • Dipping the cats directly into a bucket containing the solution is most effective.
  • Do NOT use the sink or tub for dips – use an old tub or bucket as the lime dip WILL STAIN anything it comes in contact with.
  • Do not rinse off the solution
  • Do not towel dry off the animal, let it “drip dry” in a crate that is in a warm area, free of drafts. Continue to protect them from becoming cold until they are completely dry.
  • When using the “bucket” method, you can use the same solution for multiple dips (on the same day). Start with the least symptomatic animal (few or no lesions) and work up to the one with the most lesions last.
  • When disposing of the lime dip after the baths, it is safe to rinse down the drain, just be sure to rinse it with lots of water to prevent staining.
  • Good Lime Dipping Videos