Respiratory Diseases in Cats

The most common respiratory diseases in felines include the rhinotracheitis and the calicivirus. The respiratory diseases affect the mouth, the air passages and the sinuses of the pet. The respiratory diseases are highly contagious and may be spread through air or body secretions. Periodical vaccinations can prevent respiratory infections in cats.

Causes of Respiratory Diseases

Over 85% of respiratory diseases are caused by the herpes virus 1 and this virus causes the respiratory infection known as rhinotracheitis. The calicivirus may also cause a respiratory infection in cats. In rare cases, the disease is caused by the Chlamydia organism or the Bordetella and other mycoplasmas.

Symptoms of Respiratory Diseases

The respiratory diseases are transmitted through direct contact with an infected feline or through contact with nasal or ocular discharges from an infected cat.

Contaminated bedding and food bowls may also transmit the disease. The viruses may survive in a favorable environment up to 24 hours (the herpes virus) and up to 10 days (the calicivirus).

The symptoms of respiratory diseases vary according to the causing agent; however, there are a few common symptoms present in all feline respiratory diseases:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Eye watery discharges
  • Conjunctivitis, eye ulcers
  • Mouth sores
  • Gingivitis
  • Pneumonia, only in diseases caused by the calicivirus
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Secondary viral or bacterial infections

The symptoms will be more severe in immunocompromised cats and kittens.

Diagnosing Respiratory Diseases

The diagnosing of the respiratory diseases will be made based on the symptoms and by performing a few tests. The vet will need to establish the type of infection and the virus or bacteria causing it. The PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing is commonly used to detect feline respiratory diseases.

If the infections are chronic, the vet will test the cat for the presence of the FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) or FeLV (the leukemia virus), which may weaken the immune system and cause the recurrence of the respiratory infections.

Treatment Options for Cat Respiratory Problems

A treatment for respiratory infections hasn’t been found yet, but the vet will administer treatment to manage the symptoms displayed by the cat.

The removal of the nasal and ocular discharges must be done on a regular basis using a saline solution. The vet will also prescribe some topical ointment for the eyes.

The cat must be kept in a warm environment and if he refuses to eat, you need to use some tricks or even force feed him using a syringe filled with wet feline food. In more severe cases, the cat will have to be hospitalized and receive fluid therapy.

Secondary infections can be treated with antibiotics.

Preventing Respiratory Diseases in Cats

The respiratory diseases can be transmitted from infected felines, so it is important to isolate sick cats from healthy ones.

Periodical vaccinations can be administered to prevent the infections.

Most cats that have been infected with the herpesvirus or the calicivirus will remain carriers of the virus, so they may spread the infection to other felines.