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Common and emerging infectious diseases in the animal shelter

By P. A. Pesavento, B. G. Murphy

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The beneficial role that animal shelters play is unquestionable. An estimated 3 to 4 million animals are cared for or placed in homes each year, and most shelters promote public health and support responsible pet ownership. It is, nonetheless, inevitable that shelters are prime examples of anthropogenic biological instability: even well-run shelters often house transient, displaced, and mixed populations of animals. Many of these animals have received minimal to no prior health care, and some have a history of scavenging or predation to survive. Overcrowding and poor shelter conditions further magnify these inherent risks to create individual, intraspecies, and interspecies stress and provide an environment conducive to exposure to numerous potentially collaborative pathogens. All of these factors can contribute to the evolution and emergence of new pathogens or to alterations in virulence of endemic pathogens. While it is not possible to effectively anticipate the timing or the pathogen type in emergence events, their sites of origin are less enigmatic, and pathologists and diagnosticians who work with sheltered animal populations have recognized several such events in the past decade. This article first considers the contribution of the shelter environment to canine and feline disease. This is followed by summaries of recent research on the pathogenesis of common shelter pathogens, as well as research that has led to the discovery of novel or emerging diseases and the methods that are used for their diagnosis and discovery. For the infectious agents that commonly affect sheltered dogs and cats, including canine distemper virus, canine influenza virus, Streptococcus spp., parvoviruses, feline herpesvirus, feline caliciviruses, and feline infectious peritonitis virus, we present familiar as well as newly recognized lesions associated with infection. Preliminary studies on recently discovered viruses like canine circovirus, canine bocavirus, and feline norovirus indicate that these pathogens can cause or contribute to canine and feline disease.

Publication Title Veterinary Pathology
Volume 51
Issue 2
Pages 478-491
ISBN/ISSN 0300-9858
DOI 10.1177/0300985813511129
Language English
Author Address School of Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis, Vet Med: PMI, 4206 VM3A, 1 Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal diseases
  2. Animal health and hygiene
  3. Animal housing
  4. Animals
  5. Bacteria
  6. Canidae
  7. Canine
  8. Carnivores
  9. Cats
  10. Diagnosis
  11. Dogs
  12. Evolution
  13. Health
  14. Homes
  15. Human influenza
  16. Infectious diseases
  17. influenza
  18. Lesions
  19. Mammals
  20. overcrowding
  21. pathogens
  22. pathology
  23. peer-reviewed
  24. peritonitis
  25. pet care
  26. predation
  27. prokaryotes
  28. Public health
  29. Research
  30. RNA
  31. shelters
  32. timing
  33. vertebrates
  34. Virus diseases
  1. peer-reviewed