Understanding Cat Flu: A Common Feline Respiratory Disease

Nearly all cats will suffer from a feline respiratory illness of some kind during their lifetime. Pet owners commonly refer to a feline virus or upper respiratory infection as a cat flu. This terminology is incorrect. These conditions are termed "cat flu" because they comprise feline respiratory symptoms that reflect symptoms of a human flu.

Although feline respiratory infections are a common medical condition, they can nevertheless be fatal in certain circumstances, and should therefore be treated immediately.

Recognizing Cat Flu

Cat owners should be able to identify the symptoms of cat flu in order to provide quick and appropriate treatment for their pets. Cat flu is most often characterized by any number of the following effects:

  • Discharge from the nose, mouth and eyes
  • Fever
  • Sneezing or difficulty breathing
  • Weight loss
  • Infection of the eye or mouth

Cat flu strikes most often in young kittens and older cats with compromised immune systems. Most cats are immunized against infection, but it is still possible for an immunized cat to contract a mutated version of the virus. If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, take him to a veterinarian for a prompt examination.

Causes of Cat Flu

Although the symptoms of cat flu may be easy to recognize, it can be much more difficult to determine the source of your cat's condition. A number of viruses and infections can lead to similar symptoms. Some of these viruses pass quickly from your cat's system without treatment, while others may threaten your cat's life.

Among the most serious causes of flu-like symptoms in cats are feline herpes virus and certain strains of bacterial infection. Because these conditions and far milder cases may have no symptomatic differences, it's important to have a sick cat examined quickly.

Treating Cat Flu

The proper treatment method for your cat's flu depends upon the veterinarian's diagnosis of the source. Flu viruses are constantly adapting, and it's difficult to create medicines that are effective against them. Most flu virus treatment regimens for cats consist of remedying and moderating symptoms of the virus, and stabilizing the cat's health long enough for the virus to leave his system. Certain antibiotics may be helpful in doing this.

Although there are very few drugs consistently prescribed against feline flu viruses, veterinary medicine is constantly progressing. Most recently, interferon and other drugs have seen increased attention as means of slowing the spread of certain viruses in animals. Speak with your vet about the most recent developments in veterinary medicine that may pertain to your cat's case of the flu.

Besides medicinal treatment programs, it's important to care for your cat while he has the flu. Encourage your cat to eat regularly and drink fluids by offering him easy-to-chew foods, or food that has been watered down. Because feline flu is contagious, it's important to keep an infected cat isolated from other pets for a few days, until the virus recedes.

Feline flu is a common illness, and one that most pet owners will face. It pays to familiarize yourself with the causes, symptoms and treatment options for feline flu, as this will ensure that you're prepared to help your cat if he should contract the disease.