Cat Flu Signs and Symptoms

Cat flu symptoms are usually caused by the feline herpes virus. Symptoms of cat flu usually include upper respiratory distress. The virus that causes cat flu is not fatal in healthy adult cats. Here's what you need to know about cat sickness from the flu, and its symptoms.

Causes of Cat Flu Symptoms

Cat flu symptoms are generally caused by the feline herpes virus, FHV-1. This virus is very contagious, and can be spread by cats even when they aren't showing symptoms. Once your cat contracts this virus, he'll have it for life.

Feline herpes virus usually causes an initial outbreak of cold symptoms in cats. Once this initial outbreak has passed, your cat's immune system may succeed in suppressing the virus for long periods of time. Symptoms of cat flu could recur if your cat experiences any type of stress or sickness.

Cat flu symptoms might also be the result of feline calcivirus, or FCV. Symptoms of feline calcivirus are similar to those of feline herpesvirus. However, they also include ulceration of the mouth, tongue, lips, palate and paws. Joint pain may occur and may appear to shift from one leg to another.

Common Symptoms of Cat Flu

Signs and symptoms of a cat sick with the flu include:

  • Inflammation of the eyes, leading to conjunctivitis. The eyes become swollen and red; secondary infections could occur, as well as corneal ulcers.
  • Nasal discharge and sneezing. Discharge might be thin and clear, but turn thick and green as the disease progresses. Some cats can lose their sense of smell, leading to a loss of appetite.
  • Cats with feline herpes virus symptoms may run a fever and become depressed. They may refuse water and suffer dehydration.
  • A pregnant cat may lose her kittens if she's infected with feline herpes virus. Kittens born to a mother infected with feline herpes virus may contract the virus from their mother.
  • Cats infected with feline calcivirus may limp, or suffer ulceration of the mouth, tongue, lips, palette and paws.
  • Cats with feline calcivirus may experience intermittent joint pain.

Treatment of Flu Symptoms

There's no cure for viral forms of cat flu. However, you can keep your cat comfortable until the outbreak runs its course. The eyes and nose should be bathed frequently in warm water to keep them from becoming clogged with discharge. Eye drops or ointment may be prescribed to treat the symptoms of conjunctivitis.

Antibiotics might be needed to treat the secondary infections that can occur, as a result of the tissue damage don't by the cat flu virus. Corneal ulcers should always be examined by a vet. Cats who have lost their sense of smell may lose interest in food; tempt them with strong-smelling foods, such as tuna or sardines.

Often the symptoms of cat flu are mild enough to be treated at home, but severe symptoms may require hospitalization. Dehydrated cats may need to be hospitalized and put on an IV drip to restore fluids to their bodies. Mouth ulcers may cause your cat to stop eating, as they can be quite painful; in this case, your cat may need to be hospitalized and fed intravenously.