Feline Calicivirus Symptoms

Feline calicivirus is an infection that causes upper respiratory diseases in cats. The strain of virus that infects pets often determines the severity of calicivirus present. Since feline calicivirus is contagious, pet owners should promptly diagnose cats that exhibit any symptoms of upper respiratory infection. Although the disease affects cats of all age groups, pets kept at boarding facilities and cats with weak immune systems are more susceptible to it. In addition, kittens and cats over 10 years of age are at greater risk of contracting viral infections.

Transmission of Feline Calicivirus

The most common form of transmission is through direct contact with nasal and eye discharge of infected cats. Pets living within close proximity to cats suffering from eye discharge are more likely to become infected. In addition, food or water bowls contaminated with the virus may serve as a carrier of infection to healthy pets. Pet owners who keep cats at boarding facilities should ensure a safe distance between individual units, and separate food and water bowls.

Symptoms of Feline Calicivirus Include:

  • Nasal and eye discharge
  • Ulcers in the mouth or palate
  • Periodontal diseases such as gingivitis
  • Inflammation of the nasal lining
  • Lameness in the joints

Other Symptoms of Feline Calicivirus

Since the type of symptom exhibited differs in individual pets, some cats may suffer from runny nose and mild fever. Calicivirus that's not treated promptly can lead to pneumonia and often causes chronic gingivitis. Some pets also become depressed and incapable of consuming food and water, due to the discomfort caused by the virus. Pets suffering from persistent symptoms despite treatment require further diagnosis to determine underlying health conditions.

Diagnosis of Feline Calicivirus

The vet will perform a thorough physical examination of the cat and consider the cat's risk of previous exposure to the virus. After obtaining the medical history, the vet will perform a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test that detects the DNA of certain strains of viruses. PCR tests provide quick results and are preferred over other methods of testing. The vet will also obtain a sample of the cat's conjunctiva to diagnose secondary bacterial infections. Oral ulcers are often a strong clinical indicator of feline calicivirus. If feline calicivirus is undetected, the vet will perform fluroscein stain testing to diagnose corneal ulcers associated with feline rhinotracheitis. Other diagnostic tests include testing for the feline aids virus and feline leukemia virus.

Treatment of Feline Calicivirus

The aim of treatment is to support the cat with IV fluids to prevent dehydration. Although antibiotic medicines are prescribed, they're generally used to cure secondary bacterial infections present in the eyes, nose and mouth. Cats suffering from calicivirus should be given plenty of rest and prevented from roaming outdoors. Sick cats should also be kept away from healthy pets.


Although feline calicivirus doesn't lead to death if pets are treated with medication, the cat may become a carrier of the virus and shed it during times of stress. It's best to vaccinate cats for calicivirus as early as 6 weeks of age. Yearly booster injections may also be necessary for certain pets.

Talk with your vet about vaccines that should be administered to cats to protect them from viral diseases. All cats should receive core vaccines to safeguard them from fatal infections.