Feline Upper Respiratory Infection Treatment

Feline upper respiratory infection is usually caused by feline herpesvirus or feline calicivirus, though it can have other causes, including infection by mycoplasma or bordetella. Often, feline upper respiratory infection is the result of infection by more than one virus that affects the cat's upper respiratory tract, including the mouth, nose and sinuses. There's no cure for feline upper respiratory infection. Symptoms usually run their course in two to four weeks, though some cats may need medication to treat the symptoms and any secondary infections.

Symptoms of Feline Upper Respiratory Tract Infection

Common symptoms of upper respiratory infection in cats include sneezing and discharge from the nose and eyes, corneal ulcers, conjunctivitis, fever, mouth ulcers, gingivitis, fever, loss of appetite and lethargy. Feline upper respiratory infections may develop into pneumonia, and they may cause miscarriage in pregnant females.

Diagnosing Feline Upper Respiratory Infection

Your vet will diagnose feline upper respiratory infection through a physical exam, blood tests and a complete medical history. If your cat's symptoms are chronic, recurrent or last for more than two weeks, your vet will want to test for feline AIDS and feline leukemia, since these viruses cause symptoms similar to those of feline upper respiratory infection.

Treating Feline Upper Respiratory Infection

Treatment for feline respiratory infection usually involves giving supportive care until symptoms resolve themselves, two to four weeks after onset. Keep your cat in a clean, warm, quiet and comfortable place where he won't have contact with other cats, since the viruses that cause upper respiratory infection in cats are very contagious. Increase the humidity in your home, or in your cat's sick room, to ease his respiratory symptoms. Keep his nose and eyes free of discharge by cleaning them often with warm water.

Your cat may need medications to help support his recovery. Your vet might prescribe nasal decongestants, topical medications to treat ulcers and lesions on the eyes and in the mouth, and antiviral medications to help suppress the infection. Even after your cat recovers, he'll still carry the virus, meaning he'll remain infected and able to spread the disease, but he won't show any symptoms himself.

Preventing Feline Upper Respiratory Infection

You can prevent some strains of the viruses responsible for feline upper respiratory infection with a vaccination. However, there are "wild" strains of these viruses for which vaccinations don't exist. If your cat comes into contact with a wild or feral cat that's carrying a wild strain of feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus or one of the other viruses that cause respiratory infection in cats, he could still become infected.

Prevent infection by keeping your cat indoors and keeping his vaccinations up to date. Keep him isolated from cats who are or have been affected by upper respiratory infection. 

If your cat has succumbed to upper respiratory infection, keep him and his belongings away from other cats, since he can still infect them (let your vet know that your cat has had feline upper respiratory infection so that he can take the proper precautions to protect his other patients). Keep your cat as healthy and stress free as possible to prevent subsequent bouts of infection. If your cat is female, do not breed her.