In this article Cat Flu is used to refer to Feline Upper Respiratory Disease. This is a complex illness commonly caused by a combination of viral and bacterial infections. All cats are susceptible but kittens with immature immune systems and breeds with facial flattening, like Persians are predisposed and more prone. Once cats are infected, flu-like signs develop within a few days. Herpes Virus usually spreads quickly from one cat to another through sneezing, coughing, grooming and by contact with contaminated items in the environment, such as food bowls and bedding. Mild cases usually clear up with or without treatment in one to two weeks. Up to 80 percent of cats with Herpes and Calici Virus that “apparently” recover become “carriers”. When these cats later become sick or stressed, they shed the virus and act as a major source of infection for the cat community as a whole. Many also experience periodic relapses themselves. Cats with Chronic Herpes Virus suffer persistent and recurrent nasal and eye problems. Conjunctivitis and Corneal Ulcers are the most common eye problems in these cats.
Feline Herpes Virus Type I (FHV-1), Feline Calici Virus (FCV), and Chlamydia Psittaci (a bacterial like organism) are most often responsible. One or more viruses can be present at the same time. Bacteria often also complicate these infections. Ninety percent of Feline Upper Respiratory Disease in cats is caused by two viruses: Feline Herpes Virus Type I (FHV-1), formerly called Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR); and, Feline Calici Virus (FCV).
FELINE HERPES VIRUS
Symptoms of Feline Herpes Virus:
* Red, runny eyes with squinting (conjunctivitis)
* Runny nose, Sneezing
* Loss of Voice
Herpes Virus can also cause:
* Ulcers on the cornea of they eye
* High fever, appetite loss.
WHAT YOU AND YOUR VET CAN DO
* Diagnosis of Herpes Virus can be confirmed with a laboratory test called a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). This test is relatively new and is currently the best and most accurate test available to detect Herpes Virus.
* There is no specific treatment to cure a viral infection. Therapy consists of good nursing care, which veterinarians refer to as supportive care. Keep cats warm, well rested and clean. Nutrition and fluids are essential.
* Because of the ubiquitous and highly contagious nature of Feline Herpes Virus, prevention by annual vaccination is usually recommended. Topical (intranasal) vaccines may be preferable to those available in injectable form for Herpes Virus. The side effects are mild and may consist of sneezing for a few days.
* Clear discharges from the eyes, nose and mouth with cotton balls soaked in warm water.
* Nutrition is essential. These cats often lose their sense of smell, which often causes them to lose interest in food.
*Soft food with a strong odor helps to stimulate appetite in these cats. Puree and warm (to room temperature) a mixture of:
* raw liver – 1 teaspoon, this is a good source of B Vitamins and Iron
* lamb or chicken baby food – 1 teaspoon
* cottage cheese – 1 teaspoon
* 1 teaspoon tuna juice (to enhance the smell)
* ¼ teaspoon brewer’s yeast, which is a source of b Vitamins.
* Keep cats warm and well rested.
* Vitamin supplements can be given by mouth or mixed into food.
* Vitamin E – 100 IU twice a week
* Vitamin C powder – 250 mg twice a day for 14 days
* Multi B Vitamin – ¼ tablet daily
* Vaporize with ½ teaspoon Vicks or 3 drops of Eucalyptus Oil twice daily for 30 minutes to relieve congestion.
WHAT YOUR VET CAN DO
* Recommend antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial problems including pneumonia.
* Prescribe topical eye ointments.
* Recommend nasal decongestants.
Administer fluids to maintain hydration and provide nutrition until the cat’s appetite returns. Forced oral feeding may be necessary in certain cats that refuse to eat. In more severe cases, antiviral drugs such as Interferon may be recommended.
Always contact your vet if your cat:
* Has severe trouble breathing.
* Refuses to eat and/or drink.
* Relapses after initial recovery.
* Has a fever over 104°F.
* Eyes become red, partially close or develop a discharge.
Feline Calici Virus can cause flu-like signs similar to those for Herpes Virus. Cats are infected by inhaling or swallowing the virus and signs of illness are generally apparent a week after exposure. Cats are usually sick from one to four weeks. Most adult cats recover. Kittens are affected more severely and may occasionally die. Cailici Virus can survive up to ten days on contaminated items in the environment like food bowels. Chronic carriers of Calici Virus may develop severe mouth infections, called “Stomatitis” as well as gum infections and mouth ulcers. As with Herpes Virus, there is no specific cure for Calici Virus, supportive care must be given.
FACT: Calici and Herpes Virus are specific to cats and neither may be spread to dogs or humans.)
* Red runny eyes.
* Ulcers on the tongue.
COMPLEMENTARY TREATMENTS FOR HERPES AND CALICI VIRUS
These are geared to suppress both Herpes and Calici Virus as well as to stimulate the body’s natural defenses.
* *L-Lysine – interferes with Herpes Virus replication. The dosage is 250 to 500 mg daily. Use tablets, they are available at health food stores. Crumble and mix into food or break into pieces and give piece by piece.
* *Interferon is an antiviral medication. 30 international units daily is the average dose. This must be a prescribed dose and mixed by your vet, frozen, then thawed and squirted into the mouth. Use this with L-Lysine. Interferon is considered experimental but has not proven harmful in my experience. Interferon is being used to treat several viral problems in cats, including Herpes, Calici Virus, Feline Leukemia Virus, Immunodeficiency Virus and FIP. Ask your vet about this therapy for your cat.
* Vitamins A, C, E – stimulate the immune system.
* Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Feline Herpes Virus is the most common cause of chronic, recurrent and/or non-responsive eye infections, “conjunctivitis” and ulcers of the cornea which is the clear front part of the eye in adult cats.
Echinacea two capsules, ten days on ten days off, helps with mild nasal discharge. A drop of almond or calendula oil applied topically is soothing to sore noses.