OBJECTIVE To determine the incidence of and risk factors for clinical feline herpesvirus (FHV) infection in zoo-housed cheetahs and determine whether dam infection was associated with offspring infection.
DESIGN Retrospective cohort study.
ANIMALS 144 cheetah cubs born in 6 zoos from 1988 through 2007.
PROCEDURES Data were extracted from the health records of cheetahs and their dams to identify incident cases of clinical FHV infection and estimate incidence from birth to 18 months of age. Univariate and multivariable Cox proportional hazards models, controlling for correlations among cheetahs with the same dam, were used to identify risk factors for incident FHV infection.
RESULTS Cumulative incidence of FHV infection in cheetah cubs was 35% (50/144). No significant association between dam and offspring infection was identified in any model. Factors identified as significant through multivariable analysis varied by age group. For cheetahs up to 3 months of age, the most important predictor of FHV infection was having a dam that had received a preparturition FHV vaccine regimen that included a modified-live virus vaccine versus a dam that had received no preparturition vaccine. Other risk factors included being from a small litter, being born to a primiparous dam, and male sex.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE This study provided the first population-level characterization of the incidence of and risk factors for FHV infection in cheetahs, and findings confirmed the importance of this disease. Recognition that clinical FHV infection in the dam was not a significant predictor of disease in cubs and identification of other significant factors have implications for disease management.