Cat Flu Symptoms

Cat flu symptoms vary according to the virus that infects the cat. Although cats are given several vaccinations to reduce the occurrence of cat flu, the disease affects cats in all age groups. Young pets and older cats are most susceptible to the flu.

Cat flu is an upper respiratory infection that's caused largely by two viruses. The feline herpes virus type 1 (FHV-1) and the feline calcivirus (FCV) are commonly known infections that cause cat flu. Feline herpes virus, formerly known as feline virus rhinotracheitis is a more severe infection. It affects the throat, sinuses, pharynx and membranes in the cat's eye.

Symptoms of Feline Herpes Virus (FIV-1) Include:

  • Conjunctivitis
  • Swollen and inflamed eyes
  • Eye discharge that could consist of pus
  • Corneal ulcers
  • Nasal discharge
  • Inflamed nasal lining (rhinitis)
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Dehydration

The symptoms of FHV-1 eventually subside within 3 weeks. However, certain cats have chronic nasal and eye infections after exposure to the FHV-1 virus. Symptoms exhibited vary in each individual cat. The strain of virus generally determines the type of symptoms observed. Cats that are pregnant need to be promptly treated for feline herpes virus as the infection passes from the mother to the kittens.

Symptoms of Feline Calcivirus (FCV) Include:

  • Mouth ulcers
  • Gingivitis
  • Runny nose
  • Eye discharge
  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Limping syndrome
  • Ulcers in the paws

Diagnosis of Cat Flu

The diagnosis of cat flu is based on the symptoms and clinical tests. A swab test is conducted in most cats with flu like symptoms. The vet will conduct a swab test by taking a swab from the cat's throat and sending it for laboratory culture and analysis.

Treatment and Care in Cats Suffering from Cat Flu

Pet owners should seek prompt medical care if they observe any of the flu symptoms in cats. There is no cure for viral infections in pets. However, the vet will prescribe medication to cure secondary bacterial infections caused by the virus. Antibiotics, eye drops and ointments effectively cure ulcers, conjunctivitis and fever in pets. Cat's suffering from fever should be kept indoors in a warm environment. The eyes and nose should also be frequently washed with warm water.

Cats that develop ulcers in the mouth may refuse to ingest food and water due to the pain and discomfort. Hospitalization may be necessary in certain cases as dehydrated cats have to be put on IV fluids to maintain the electrolyte balance. Since the virus is contagious in animals, other pets should be kept away from cats suffering from FIV-1 or FCV. The home and surroundings should be completely disinfected to prevent the spread of germs.

Cats that recover from feline herpes virus-1 can be carriers of the virus for their entire life. However, feline calcivrus is entirely eliminated from the cat's body within 18 months. There are vaccinations available for both FIV-1 and FCV. It's important to discuss with your vet, vaccines best suited to your cat.