Feline Herpes Virus (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis)

Where is the herpes virus found?
  • Frequently occurring worldwide.
  • Causes about one half of all respiratory diseases in cats.
  • Infected cats can become carriers.

How can my kitten get infected?
  • Transmission of the feline herpes virus can be direct or indirect contact with nasal secretions from infected cats.
  • Cats become infected by inhaling virus particles.
  • Stress may trigger shedding from asymptomatic individuals.
  • Feline herpes virus affects cats most commonly between  3 to 18 months of age.
  • Incubation period is 2 to 5 days.
Nasal discharge in a cat.
What are the clinical signs?
  • Common clinical signs include:
  • Other clinical signs less commonly seen include:
  • The virus may cause a generalized infection similar to that seen in young puppies infected with canine herpes virus.
  • Abortion is often seen if the mother is infected during week 6 of gestation.
  • Ulcerative keratitis and bronchopneumonia are often seen with a feline herpes virus infection.
  • Cats that recover from infection should always be considered as potential carriers of the virus.
  • A milder form of these clinical signs may be seen in vaccinated animals.

Conjunctivitis in a cat.
Is there a treatment available?
  • Antiviral drugs can be quite costly.
  • Topical antiviral drugs may be indicated for use if the cornea of the eye is severely affected.
  • The use of oral "lysine" (an amino acid) can also be used to prevent viral replication.
  • Oral Interferon, a natural immune system modulator, is inexpensive and can also be used to prevent viral replication in theory. There is currently, however, little scientific evidence supporting its use in regular treatment regimes.
  • It is, however, important to provide supportive care and treat any symptoms.
  • Antibiotics may be indicated for secondary bacterial infections.
How can I prevent infection?
  • Vaccines, including an intranasal vaccine, are available.
  • Immunity is of short duration and several series of vaccines are required for continual protection of young animals.
  • Killed vaccines should always be used in pregnant cats to protect the litter.

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