Updated: Dec 12, 2019
Watery eyes, sneezing, a runny nose, seems like symptoms of the common cold; however, in our feline friends it can be indicative of Feline herpesvirus, also called Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis. Feline herpes can sound rather terrifying, especially with the connotations that herpes has for humans. However, it is actually a common disease in cats and is not as scary as it sounds!
Feline herpes is a disease that targets only cats, both domestic and wild, but it is highly contagious. It targets cats of all ages, especially those with weakened immune systems. Feline herpes is also one of the major causes of upper respiratory infections in felines as well as the major cause of conjunctivitis, which is the inflammation of tissues around the eyes, especially the lining of the lids.
This disease is transmitted through direct contact with particles of the virus. This can be done through saliva or the discharge from the eyes or nose of an infected cat. Hence, the virus can be transmitted directly by contact with another cat or from a surface that an infected cat came into contact with like a water bowl or a litter box. This is why cats that come from crowded living quarters such as shelters, outdoor cats, or multi-cat households are at the highest risk for contracting and spreading this disease. After coming into contact with the disease, it can two to five days before the symptoms start to appear and the symptoms usually remain for ten to twenty days. Even after the symptoms disappear the virus and the affected cat will always be a carrier of feline herpes and the virus can flare up during times of stress.
The most common symptoms are reminiscent of flu or cold symptoms in people. This includes symptoms like sneezing fits, nasal and eye discharge, and fever. This disease also displays numerous symptoms involving the eyes of infected felines, including inflammation around the eyelid, eye ulcers, and squinting. Feline herpes also commonly triggers secondary infections since the cats that have the virus are more susceptible to other infections due to their weakened immune system.
It can be difficult to tell if these symptoms are an upper respiratory system, eye infection, or feline herpes. That is why it is important to go to a veterinarian in order to get a proper diagnosis. Ensuring that information about a cat’s background, including where it was adopted, if it came into contact with any strays, or was possibly exposed to another feline herpes cat is essential and should be communicated to a veterinarian as it can aid in getting a diagnosis in a timely matter.
There is no cure for Feline herpesvirus. Antibiotics can be used in order to treat secondary infections, but it doesn’t change the infected status of a cat. Products with Lysine can be used in order to attempt to support the immune system in an attempt to aid with the flare ups from the virus, but it is not a cure or guaranteed to work.
Feline herpesvirus may sound like a terrifying diagnosis when a veterinarian says it, but it is a common and manageable disease. Knowing the symptoms and what to look for can be great in order to try and prevent spreading the disease, but our infected feline friends can live healthy, pur-fect lives right in our lap even if they have Feline herpesvirus!