Feline Upper Respiratory Virus

Feline viral upper respiratory tract disease is caused by the Feline Herpes Virus or Feline Calicivirus Infection. Any aged cat can become ill, but the disease most often attacks kittens or weakened individuals.

Kittens may be exposed to the viruses from their mother, even if she has no symptoms of illness. The viruses may also be spread by transmission from cat to cat by sneezing, coughing, mutual grooming, or contact through clothing, hands, bedding, or food bowls.

Common signs of the infection include:

  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Discharge from the eyes and nose
  • Swelling or redness in the tissues of the eye (conjunctivitis)

Occasionally, the disease can spread to the lungs and cause pneumonia. In some cats, ulcers may appear in the mouth or on the cornea of the eye.

Diagnosis is usually based on symptoms and age or environment of the pet.

Treatment is aimed at the symptoms of the disease. Antibiotics are often used to reduce the chance for secondary bacterial infections in the respiratory tract or eyes. Fluid therapy may be needed for pets that become dehydrated or feverish. Good nursing care is essential to a speedy recovery.

Often, these ill cats will not eat or drink well on their own, and may not groom themselves as usual. Extra nutritional support may be necessary. Most cats recover with good nursing care and treatment. However, more serious complications are possible, especially if underlying diseases are present.

Important Points

  • Use all medications as prescribed by your veterinarian.
  • Monitor your pet's progress carefully and have him/her rechecked if there are any concerns.
  • Separate any ill pets from others and use separate feeding, bedding and grooming items.
  • Wash your hands after handling to reduce the chance of disease transmission.

If you have questions about this or any medical topic, please contact your Banfield hospital today.