Feline Herpes Symptoms and Treatment
congestion, watery eyes and nose....Has your cat caught a cold? It could be
feline herpes, also known as feline viral rhinopneumonitis (FVR),
rhinotracheitis virus and feline herpesvirus type 1 (FHV-1), and one of the
most common causes of upper respiratory infections in cats. Many cats are
exposed to this virus at some point in their lives.
What Are the Symptoms of Feline Herpes?
- Sneezing “attacks”
- Discharge from the nose and eyes
- Conjunctivitis or pink eye (inflammation of the eyelid)
- Lesions in and around the eyes
- Eye ulcers
- Loss of appetite
Cats weakened by the virus may also develop secondary infections.
How Do Cats Get Herpes?
The most common way for the herpes virus to spread is through
contact with discharge from an infected cat’s eyes, mouth or nose. Cats can
catch this virus by sharing litter boxes, food and water dishes with an
infected cat, as well as by mutual grooming. An infected pregnant cat might
also pass the virus on to kittens who are still in the womb. Because the
virus is highly contagious, it is common in catteries, shelters and multi-cat
Some cats who become infected with feline herpes are latent carriers. Even
though they will never display symptoms, they can still pass the virus on to
other cats. Stress can cause these carriers to “shed” the virus,
exhibiting mild symptoms, which clear up on their own after a few days.
Which Cats Are Prone to the Herpes Virus?
Cats of all sizes, ages and breeds are susceptible to feline
herpes. However, cats in crowded or stressful conditions or with weak immune
systems often develop more severe symptoms, as can kittens, Persians and other
Can Human Beings or Dogs Catch Herpes from Cats?
No. Humans and dogs are not at risk for catching feline herpes,
and cats cannot catch the strains of herpes that humans carry.
How Is Feline Herpes Diagnosed?
Diagnosis can be challenging, and is often based on a
combination of symptoms, health history and lab tests.
How Is Feline Herpes Treated?
Once infected, the majority of cats do not get rid of the
virus. However, symptoms can be treated. Veterinarians may prescribe oral
antibiotics or antiviral medications to help ease symptoms, and drops or creams
may be used for conjunctivitis or other eye irritations. With medication, good
nutrition and tender loving care, most cats will make a successful
Please note, any cat developing an upper respiratory infection should be
under veterinary supervision. A brief exam by a veterinarian will help to
determine if your cat requires medication, has a fever or is dehydrated.
If a cat is just sneezing, but is otherwise acting normally, no treatment will
likely be needed. However, if a cat begins to show nasal discharge, loss or
appetite or other symptoms, there is evidence of a secondary bacterial
infection and cause for starting antibiotics.
Please do not administer any medication to your cat unless you’ve discussed it
with your veterinarian.