Feline Herpes And Rhinotracheitis

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Feline Herpes Overview

Herpesviridae is the name given to a fairly large family of viruses. Some of these cause diseases in humans (such as shingles and chickenpox). Other members of the same viral family cause different kinds of diseases in animals. So, of these, what does the feline version of Herpes do?

In cats, the most common medical condition caused by a Herpes virus is a respiratory disease. Other viruses and bacteria can also bring about the feline respiratory disease complex with similar symptoms. However, when Feline Herpes virus Type 1 (FHV-1) is identified as the cause, your vet will be more specific and call this Rhinotracheitis.

Feline Herpes – Is your cat at risk?

Whether specifically Herpes Induced Rhinotracheitis, or caused by another virus or bacteria, the Feline Respiratory Disease complex is extremely infectious. It can move from one cat to another by direct contact or by contact with discharge from the eyes, nose, and mouth.

Contaminated food dishes, litter boxes, or even on the owner’s hands, are all possible sources of infection. Sneezing and coughing, shooting tiny droplets in the air a few feet away, are also extremely infectious. Catteries, rescue shelters, and multi-cat households are therefore particularly susceptible to an outbreak of respiratory disease complex among non-vaccinated cats.

This disease can be very dangerous to young kittens, with high death rates. With adult cats, the main risk lies with loss of appetite occurring as the cat’s nasal passages get obstructed and the cat can’t smell her food.

Feline respiratory disease complex, whether induced by a member of the Herpes virus family or through another agent, is not infectious to humans.

Symptoms of Feline Herpes

Feline respiratory disease complex symptoms are similar, regardless of which virus is the cause of the infection. Severity changes from cat to cat, and often changes along the course of sickness. Some cats go through an acute stage before the disease turns into a chronic condition.

Early symptoms usually include bouts of sneezing, eye infection (conjunctivitis), and watery discharge from the nose and eyes. Later on, the cat may develop a fever, along with apathy and loss of appetite. This is often followed by a more severe and purulent discharge from the eyes and nose. When herpes virus-induced Rhinotracheitis is the cause, the cat usually develops a more severe eye infection, sometimes complicated by corneal ulcerations. A spastic cough will also be added to the mix.

Once the acute phase runs its course, cats remain carriers of the herpes virus for the rest of their lives. The infection may be reactivated when the carrier cat goes through periods of stress later on in life, inducing a mild upper respiratory infection.

Treatment of Feline Herpes

Supportive care is the key to treating this disease. The sick cat needs to be isolated and provided with rest and humidification. A cold steam vaporizer can help humidify the room and ease breathing. The sick cat needs to be constantly monitored for signs of dehydration, and fluids should be supplemented according to your vet’s recommendations.

Your cat may need to be encouraged to eat, by feeding special foods suggested as suitable by your veterinarian. If your cat still refuses to eat, loses weight, and becomes dehydrated, seek immediate veterinarian help. In some cases, your vet may suggest antibiotics to fight off secondary bacterial infections.

Some cat owners choose to supplement their cat’s diet with the amino acid l-lysine to prevent and treat herpes outbreaks. Recent studies showed that there is no real benefit in doing so but many of our members supplement their herpes kitties’ diets with l-lysine on a regular basis.

The two supplements mentioned often are Now Foods Lysine Powder, Vitacost L Lysine Powder, and Vetri Lysine Plus For Cats By Vetriscience.

Prevention of Feline Herpes

The best way to deal with this infection is prevention by routinely vaccinating all cats. Special care should be given to breeding cats in catteries, and some vets suggest vaccinating queens before mating and before birth, to minimize the risk to newborn kittens.

A routine vaccination schedule should then be followed with all kittens and cats.

Comments? Leave them using the comment section below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!

12 comments on “Feline Herpes And Rhinotracheitis

jaspurr April 12, 2016
Sorry for not getting back sooner. I upped his l lysine intake to two a day and he responded well to it. He is fine now and I am keeping him on it permanately. It seems it was the receptionist who was putting me off and not the vet. She knew nothing about it. What do you do when the receptionist calls the shots? Anyway I am taking him for a complete checkup this week. Thanks Oliverandmax for the helpful advice
oliverandmax January 3, 2015
For anyone who needs to know, l-lysine powder, such as NOW brand, can be mixed with wet food, I put it in their breakfast...
oliverandmax January 3, 2015
also, cats with herpes need l-lysine for life,l when you stop it the symptoms all come back, you can't miss it, every day
oliverandmax January 3, 2015
can't you see a different vet jaspurr?
oliverandmax January 3, 2015
I don't understand a vet who won't squeeze your cat in, call again and tell them he's quite sick and needs an antibiotic now!
oliverandmax January 3, 2015
Your cat needs antibiotics, you should find another vet, he should be on antibiotics now, and until this episode is over, the entire package given by the vet, AND HE NEEDS TO BE ON L-LYSINE FOR LIFE if indeed he has herpes, vets generally don't tell you this, I have two who are on l-lysine every single day and they have NO FLARE UPS, NONE.  i use something like NOW l-lysine powder, mixed in wet food for their breakfast, and that's it for the day, you would never know they have herpes.
jaspurr January 3, 2015
my cat has feline herpes. He has had several flare ups since I got him and have treated them with anti biotics.. In the meantime I have him on l-lysine and it seems to be helping but he is having another one and I can't get a.vet appt. until next week. What can I do to make him more comfortable. He has lost his appetite and is sneezing and lethargic. He was an intervention cat from a home of 65 other cats. I am very fond of him and hate seeing him like this. Any advice would be helpful.
oliverandmax February 17, 2014
Hi Anne, It looks to me as if the situation is that everyone who knows anything about this situation knows the only way to keep your cat healthy is to give them an appropriate amount of l-lysine daily but that it has not been "scientifically" approved as a treatment, stupid, but it's close to that.  If we who have cats with herpes don't give them l-lysine they keep getting conjunctivitis and worse, thank heaven the information is all over the web.  Spreading the word to spare others the panic I went through is what I like to see, thanks for being on board!.
Anne February 17, 2014
Same here with my own Kitty. My vet knew about l-lysine but I still had to ask for it, as it was not part of his regular routine treatment for the condition. I love how TCS is at the front of cat care, sometimes ahead of the professionals in the field. Again, I really appreciate the comment and already working on the edit!
oliverandmax February 17, 2014
Great, when we got it the vet didn't know we needed l-lysine, kept giving us clavamox, which works for the immediate situation but not long term, I had to read on the web to recognize our situation and how to keep my cats well!!!!!!!!!
Anne February 17, 2014
That's an excellent point, thank you. It's something that often comes up in the forums. I'll edit the article to reflect that.
oliverandmax February 16, 2014
I have two cats with herpes, one brought it to us from a shelter, what's missing here is that cats with herpes need l-lysine daily, do read about that, if you supply the right amount mixed with their food or in treats, your cats will not be sick

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