Feline Upper Respiratory Infection Diagnosis

A feline upper respiratory infection is any condition affecting the mouth, nose, sinuses and breathing passages of your cat. Commonly referred to as URIs, these infections may range from mild and temporary to chronic and debilitating. Upper respiratory infections in cats are typically caused by one of two infections, either the feline calicivirus or feline rhinotracheitis virus. Neither of these diseases poses a significant health risk to your cat in most cases. However, serious diseases like feline leukemia or FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) may cause symptoms that are similar to those of these common URIs.

Diagnosis of your pet's upper respiratory infection is made based upon both a series of tests and upon the symptoms of the disease itself. The two primary viruses cause similar but slightly different sets of symptoms, and your veterinarian can utilize that information in order to make a proper diagnosis.

Diagnostic Examinations

If your veterinarian suspects that your pet is suffering from a URI, he will likely begin by conducting a thorough physical examination of your cat. During this process, he will attempt to isolate and identify your cat's symptoms, including their date of onset, severity and duration. He will also enquire about your pet's medical history and especially about your pet's vaccination schedule against feline leukemia and other related diseases.

In some cases, your veterinarian may order blood work to be done to help identify the offending virus. A polymerase chain reaction test or a skin culture can help to diagnose the URI and attribute it to a specific cause. In many cases, a comparison of the symptoms will be adequate to determine whether your pet is suffering from a URI caused by calicivirus or by rhinotracheitis. Be aware of the symptoms that are unique to these two diseases so that you can help provide information to your veterinarian during the diagnosis.

Clinical Signs of Feline Calicivirus

Calicivirus tends to remain in your cat's system for only about a week. Common symptoms include lesions and ulcers around the mouth and nose, discharge from the nose, limping and pain while walking, and mild loss of appetite. Other symptoms, such as fever, discharge from the eye, and other signs of inflammation and pain are common to multiple viruses and are not necessarily helpful in diagnosing an infection caused by calicivirus. They may, however, be useful in determining that your cat is suffering from a URI rather than some other type of condition.

Clinical Signs of Feline Rhinotracheitis Virus

The rhinotracheitis virus tends to last for 2 to 4 weeks. Cats with this virus tend to have sneezing fits, but do not usually develop open sores or limping. They may also experience a severe loss of appetite, and it is possible that your cat will miscarry if she is pregnant. Finally, cats suffering from rhinotracheitis tend to drool, whereas other viruses generally do not lead to this behavior.

If you suspect that your pet is suffering from a URI or a disease with symptoms similar to a URI, take him to a veterinarian for an immediate examination and diagnosis.