Vaccine protects against upper respiratory infections

Feline herpesvirus causes an incurable upper respiratory infection of a cat’s nose and throat. This virus causes the Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR) infection. Annual core vaccines protect cats against this infection that affects cats’ eyes, nose, mouth, throat, and breathing.

All cats can contract the feline herpesvirus (FHV-1), but kittens, pregnant cats and brachiosephalic, or flat-faced breeds, such as Persians are more susceptible. Kittens can be infected in utero or as early as five weeks after birth. Multi-cat homes, catteries (boarding or breeding establishments for cats), shelters and kennels can pass the infection because of overcrowding, poor ventilation, poor sanitation, or poor nutrition. Crowded or stressful conditions put cats with compromised immune systems, such as pregnant cats, at greater risk.

Secondary infections complicate treatment

Cats weakened by FHV-1 can also develop secondary infections, and frequently these bacterial infections must be treated along with the respiratory infection and other possible complications, such as conjunctivitis (pink eye)

FHV-1 can be transmitted through coughs and sneezes, as well as eye, nose, or mouth discharge, either directly or on shared items such as food dishes, water bowls, and litter boxes. Cats grooming each other also can pass the virus.

The incubation period after exposure is two to five days, and symptoms tend to diminish within seven to ten days. Cats are contagious for up to three weeks after they develop symptoms and can shed the virus through urine and feces. Cats exposed to the virus can be infected. Vaccinated cats can get FHV-1 and FVR if exposed but with less severe symptoms and for a shorter length of time. This underscores the reason that boosters are important.

Symptomatic cats need examinations.

If your cat or a cat you are thinking of bringing into your home exhibits any of the symptoms, note how long the symptoms have persisted, know as much medical history as possible and call the vet.

A full round of lab work, including the complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry profile and urinalysis, combined with a list of symptoms typically provide enough information for the veterinarian to make a diagnosis. More advanced tests are available, but the results take longer. You can also monitor a wheezing cat somewhat portably using a veterinary ultrasound kit, but this requires some further training to use properly.

Treatment usually involves broad-spectrum antibiotics, medications to address eye infections or eye ulcers, anti-virals for the eyes, and nasal decongestants. Other supportive therapies include frequently cleaning the eyes with moist tissues to remove discharge, using a humidifier and giving the cat an amino acid called L-lysine. The cat client we gave L-lysine liked the supplement well enough to lick the gel from my finger.

Home care is critical

When the cat goes home in your care, proper and sufficient diet and clean water are critical to the cat’s recovery. Because of blocked nasal passages, cats might lose their sense of smell and stop eating. A strong-smelling canned food can entice the cat to eat. With a healthy diet and hydration, coupled with a calm, restful environment, the cat’s prognosis is good.

An infected cat is never cured of FHV-1 and can always have a recurrence. Some infected cats will always be carriers, even if sometimes the virus is latent, or dormant, in the cat’s system. The virus can recur. Stress is a strong factor in awakening the virus. A feline can shed the virus in bodily fluids and exhibit only sporadic or mild symptoms that clear up on their own. Other times, cats will develop a full-blown infection.

Feline herpesvirus is “species specific” and cannot be transmitted to dogs or humans. The same is true of the canine herpes and human herpes viruses.

At Fluffs of Luv, your pet’s care and comfort is our primary concern. We are extremely careful not to spread illness from one pet to another. Therefore, we require all pets to be current on vaccinations. Call us or visit today to schedule visits now and for holidays.


By Beth Crosby


Feline herpesvirus


Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis


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