Stress and respiratory disease

by Sharon Kutsop

How big of a role does stress play in respiratory disease? If you work in animal welfare, you likely know it plays a large role.

Upper respiratory infections are likely the most common infection in a kennel or shelter environment. Every day in shelters, URI leads to loss of life and prolonged stays. There are many factors which lead to kennel cough and kitty colds, but stress inevitably increases the likelihood of infections occurring. Numerous diseases in canines and felines lead to URIs, and there are only vaccines for a few of them – and even those are not 100% effective.

Upper respiratory infection in a cat

This adoptable cat is feeling the effects of both stress and an upper respiratory infection.

Research shows that the amount of stress an animal is under will have a direct effect on their ability to fight off the diseases they are exposed to. In addition to following the basic guidelines of vaccinations, sanitation and isolation of ill animals, managing the stress in the environment can greatly minimize susceptibility to the existing respiratory pathogens. Avoiding overcrowding is key to keeping stress at a minimum with both cats and dogs. For cats, offering a hiding place reduces stress. If nothing else, a litterbox with a towel in it will give them some sense of security and ability to “hide”.

Magik is showing no signs of having an URI, and looks rather happy.

Magik, available for adoption from Farmington Animal Control in CT, is a healthy, happy shelter cat.

Enrichment programs go a long way with both dogs and cats. If you are short on volunteers there is no need to worry – this does not have to be anything too time consuming or fancy. Mental stimulation through obedience training, food puzzle toys and light play/games are all great examples of fun stress relievers. See some of our enrichment blogs for more tips.