Preventing Feline Herpes Through Vaccination

The feline herpes virus, also known as FHV-1 or feline virus rhinotracheitis, is a common cause of upper respiratory infections, especially in kittens or adult cats with weak immune systems. The feline virus is very contagious and can cause serious health problems or possibly death.

Preventing the Cat Herpes Virus Through Vaccination

Vaccination is an effective and generally safe method for preventing your cat from becoming affected by feline herpes. The vaccine may not completely prevent cat herpes but it will help limit the severity of infections. Many vaccinated cats never show any symptoms of infection but can still pass on the virus to others so houses with multiple cats should maintain a proper vaccination schedule. The FHV vaccine is a standard vaccination for kittens, along with feline calicivirus which also causes upper respiratory infections. Talk to your veterinarian about when to vaccinate your kitten to help control the spread of feline herpes.

Why Vaccination Is Important

Most cats will be exposed to the feline herpes virus in their lifetime and once a cat is infected he will possibly be a carrier of the virus for the rest of his life. There is no cure for the feline herpes virus and the virus can reactivate at any point in his life, causing respiratory problems and possibly spread the virus to other cats. The virus is common in kittens from animal shelters that have experienced stressful or crowded living conditions. By vaccinating cats early and limited the severity of infections the spread of the virus can be controlled.

Potential Side Effects of Vaccination

Vaccination is considered a safe medical procedure by the majority of veterinarians but there are possibly side effects, including:

  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • sneezing
  • lethargy
  • swelling and pain at the injection site
  • vomiting, diarrhea, breathing problems or swelling due to allergic reactions

The need for booster shots and the frequency of vaccinations is a controversial topic in the veterinary community so talk with your vet about the right vaccination schedule for your cat based on breed, age, lifestyle and household.

Transmission and Symptoms of Feline Herpes

The feline herpes virus is spread through secretions of the eyes, nose and mouth. Contaminated bowls, cages, toys and bedding and contact with humans that have handled an infected cat help to spread this highly contagious virus. The virus can also be passed from mothers to kittens.

Symptoms of feline herpes include:

  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • eye or nasal discharge
  • decreased appetite
  • dehydration and refusing to drink water
  • fever
  • mouth and tongue ulcers
  • conjunctivitis
  • joint pain
  • corneal ulcers
  • lethargy

Secondary bacterial infections are also common with feline herpes infections and usually require antibiotics.