This is a common disease in cats caused by either feline herpes or calici virus. The risk of developing cat flu can be reduced by regular vaccination. Unfortunately vaccination will not always prevent infection but can lessen the severity of the disease. Generally cats are most at risk of catching flu if they are in contact with other cats. Although most cats recover from cat flu, it may take several weeks for the signs to abate. The virus often stays in their system for life and becoming reinfected is common.
How do cats get cat flu
Cats become infected if they are exposed to the viruses. This can live on contaminated food bowls and other equipment. Infected cats can also shed a lot of virus particles into the environment such as the outdoors and local neighbourhood. They do this by via their saliva or nasal secretions. The virus can remain alive for up to a week in the environment.
Common signs of cat flu are
- Nasal discharge
- Loss of appetite
- Fever and depression
- However, herpes virus may also cause severe conjunctivitis and/or eye ulcers which can be very painful. Calicivirus may cause ulcers in the mouth, with drooling of saliva. Occasionally, calicivirus has been know to causes lameness and fevers in young kittens.
Cats at risk of cat flu include those
- Young cats and kittens
- Those not vaccinated
Cats diagnosed with this virus stay in hospital. Their care is focused on reducing dehydration and providing antibiotics. A big part of the treatment is helping them become interested in eating again. Ulcers can make it uncomfortable. This is cared for by using appetite stimulants. They are also encouraged to eat with warmed and palatable foods. For those still unable to eat, a feeding tube is used.
Long-term nasal problems can be problematic for cats who recover. This is because the viral infection damages that area. Treatment requires the intermittent use of antibiotics for the remainder of the cat’s life.
Cats that recover have been know to become temporary or permanent virus carriers. This means that they shed the virus into the environment. This occurs even if they have no signs of the disease. Cats that are carriers are most likely to shed during bouts of illness and stress. Unfortunately it has been know to happen when they are boarding.