Cat herpes is the most common cause of upper respiratory disease in cats. Kittens and older cats are especially susceptible as are cats in crowded boarding facilities or shelters. There is no cure for feline herpes, so if your cat is infected, you must take special care to see that he doesn't transmit the disease.
Cat Herpes Transmission
Feline viral rhinotracheitis, also known as feline herpes, has two phases, the latent phase and active phase. During the latent phase, your cat will have no symptoms and will not transmit the virus.
During the active phase, which may be asymptomatic, cats shed the virus and may transmit it to other cats through oral and respiratory excretions. The shed virus may be anywhere the infected cat has come in contact such as food bowls, bedding and perches. Cats can contract the virus by coming in contact with these items.
Since feline herpes is easily passed, cats who are boarded in overcrowded facilities or kept in shelters are more likely to contract it. If one cat in the house contracts the disease, it's likely that the other cats will too.
Cat Herpes Symptoms
Feline herpes causes an upper respiratory infection, which means it affects the eyes, nose, throat and sinus areas. Symptoms include sneezing, eye and nose discharge, fever, loss of appetite, depression, ulcers on the mouth and tongue, and pneumonia. A weakened immune system also makes cats more susceptible to other illnesses and bacterial infections.
Because of the nasal discharge, an infected cat's sense of smell is diminished, which greatly decreases his appetite since appetite is so strongly dictated by smell in cats. This can quickly result in dehydration and anorexia, which are very dangerous for your cat.
The first outbreak is usually the worst. Usually, a cat with a healthy immune system will recover from the outbreak and keep the virus in check, which reduces or eliminates the symptoms in future outbreaks. However, outbreaks may increase in frequency and severity during times of extreme stress, pregnancy or other illnesses.
Cat Herpes Diagnosis
It is difficult to diagnose feline herpes as it resembles many other diseases. Your veterinarian will usually take a swab and send the results to a laboratory for confirmation. However, a negative diagnosis does not ensure that your cat is herpes-free.
Cat Herpes Treatment
There is no cure for feline herpes. Infected cats have the disease for the remainder of their lives. Treatment options focus on relieving symptoms of the outbreak and curing secondary infections through antibiotics and antiviral medications.
When your cat is infected, be sure to clear eye and nasal discharge as often as possible. Make sure your cat is eating and drinking as much as he should be. If not, he needs to be given fluids at your veterinarian's office. Try making the food especially enticing by feeding smelly food or adding warm water to enhance the smell.
L-Lysine is an amino acid that has had positive results in suppressing the symptoms of feline herpes, but consult your veterinarian before adding to your cat's diet.
Though feline herpes has no cure, your cat can be made more comfortable through treating the symptoms during an outbreak. During active phase, keep your cat from other cats to prevent spread of the disease.