Diagnosing Feline Rhinotracheitis

Feline rhinotracheitis also known as feline upper respiratory disease complex is a disease that affects the oral cavity, the sinuses, the nasal and the air passages of the pet. The disease may be caused by the herpes virus (also known as the rhinotracheitis virus) or the calcivirus.

Transmission of Upper Respiratory Disease

Feline rhinotracheitis can be spread through the air or through direct contact with an infected cat. The virus may also be spread through the nasal and ocular discharges or through saliva. However, if an infected cat leaves saliva or nasal discharges on different objects, these contaminated objects may also transmit the virus.

Symptoms of Feline Rhinotracheitis

The symptoms of feline rhinotracheitis may vary depending on the cause of the disease, the age of the cat and the health condition of the pet. Typical symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Corneal ulcers, in rare cases
  • Muscle pain
  • Lack of appetite
  • Secondary bacterial infections
  • Abortion, if the cat is pregnant

The incubation period lasts between 2 and 14 days and the symptoms will be present for up to 4 weeks.

Diagnosing Feline Rhinotracheitis

The upper respiratory disease may present symptoms that will not necessarily point to this condition, so there will be need for tests to diagnose the cat.

A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing will be performed to detect the rhinotracheitis virus.

A test known as virus isolation may also be used to detect the disease.

If the cat presents conjunctivitis or ocular discharges, a test that involves the fluorescent staining of cells scraped from the conjunctiva may also be used.

The vet will also consider the vaccination history of the cat and detect any possible secondary bacterial infections.

Let the vet know if your cat has been in contact with cats that may have been infected with the herpes virus.

If the cat has chronic rhinotracheitis, the immune system must be tested to determine if the cat is not affected by the leukemia virus (FeLV) or the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

Treatment for Feline Upper Respiratory Disease

The feline upper respiratory disease is a condition that requires extra care. The cat’s eyes and nasal passages must be periodically cleaned; nasal decongestants may also be used.

Due to the fact that the cat may lose his sense of smell, you must ensure that he eats and drinks enough. Keep the cat in a warm room at all times.

If bacterial infections occur, the vet will prescribe some antibiotics. If the cat has eye ulcers or conjunctivitis, these must be treated with eye drops or topical ointments. If the cat displays severe symptoms, he should be hospitalized and fluid therapy must be administered. Typically, the disease will go away in 2 to 4 weeks.

In immunocompromised felines, the upper respiratory disease may reoccur and immunity boosters will be needed. The cat may get supplements or lysine for the ocular problems. In some cases, alpha interferon may be administered to chronic feline rhinotracheitis patients.