Feline Viral Respiratory Disease Complex
Acute Viral Respiratory Infection continued...
Further signs depend on the particular respiratory virus in question. A cat
with herpesvirus develops a spastic cough. If the surface of the eye is
severely inflamed, the cat may develop keratitis or corneal ulcerations.
In a cat with calicivirus, you may see ulceration of the mucous membranes of
the mouth (stomatitis). This is
particularly disabling, because the cat loses his taste for food and refuses to
eat and drink. Drooling is common. Shortness of breath and viral pneumonia can occur. Secondary
bacterial infection, dehydration, starvation, and
rapid weight loss are all complications that can lead to death.
A diagnosis can be suspected from the clinical signs. It can be confirmed by
isolating the virus from the throat or by specific serologic blood tests.
Because these diseases are highly contagious, these tests are most important
when the disease involves a cattery, a shelter, or a multicat household.
Treatment: Cats suspected of having acute viral respiratory infection should
be strictly isolated for three to four weeks so as not to infect others. It is
important to disinfect any bedding, bowls, cages, or other items the sick cat
has come into contact with by washing them thoroughly with a dilute solution of
bleach and water. Human caretakers should change their clothing, wear
disposable shoe covers, and wash their hands frequently.
For the patient, rest and proper humidification of the atmosphere are
important. Confine your cat in a warm room and use a home vaporizer. A cool
steam vaporizer offers some advantage over a warm vaporizer because it is less
likely to cause additional breathing problems. At the very minimum, keeping the
cat in the bathroom while you shower will help.
Clean secretions from the eyes, nose, and mouth with moist cotton balls as
often as needed.
Chronic Carrier State
Almost all the cats who have been infected with FVR will become chronic
carriers. FVR lives and multiplies in the cells lining the throat. During
periods of stress (such as illness, anesthesia, surgery, lactation, medication with
steroids, or even emotional stresses), the cat’s immunity breaks down and the
virus is shed in mouth secretions. At this time, the cat may exhibit signs of a
mild upper respiratory illness.
Prevention: The most effective step by far is to vaccinate all cats, but
even then, control is not 100 percent. Vaccination will not eliminate the
chronic carrier states.