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How Do Cats Get Upper Respiratory Infections

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How Do You Treat An Upper Respiratory Infection

Treat Upper Respiratory Infections in Cats

Prevention of URIs is key. The FVRCP vaccine contains FHV-1 and FCV viruses. Kittens should have a series of FVRCP vaccines starting between 6-8 weeks and given every 3-4 weeks until they are older than 16 weeks of age. Adult cats should receive 2 vaccines 3-4 weeks apart if their vaccine history is unknown or they were never vaccinated before. Cats get a booster 1 year after the initial series then every 3 years. Vaccination can reduce the severity of the symptoms and the length of illness with an URI.

Stress reduction can prevent the outbreak of URIs. Cats can experience stress from many different sources- being indoors, living in a multi-cat household, access to resources is limited, other cats coming into their field of vision outside, change in routine, etc. We can help reduce our cats stress in many ways. The best resource for information on what causes stress in cats and how to help is found here:

What Are The Symptoms Of An Upper Respiratory Infection

“The typical upper respiratory infection involves the nose and throat…”

The typical upper respiratory infection involves the nose and throat, causing symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion, conjunctivitis , and discharges from the nose or eyes. The discharges may be clear or may become purulent . With FVR and FCV, the cat may develop ulcers in the mouth. Other, less specific symptoms of an upper respiratory infection include anorexia, lethargy, fever, enlarged lymph nodes and blepharospasm . In severe cases, the cat may have difficulty breathing. Most cases of URI in cats last seven to ten days.

How Contagious Is Uri And Can Your Own Pets Contract It

URI is contagious to other cats. Most cats are vaccinated against it . However, the vaccine is not 100 percent protective, so its a good idea to isolate cats who are showing signs of the illness, and wash your hands after handling sick cats.

In general we recommend you isolate all new arrivals in your household for eight to 10 days after adoption, to give them a chance to settle in and make sure they are not getting sick. Generally, URI is not contagious to healthy people nor to other animals.

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How To Diagnose Upper Respiratory Infections In Cats

So, you made it to the veterinarian. Before you spend hundreds of dollars on blood work, lets talk out what your cat will need.

When it comes to diagnosing a URI, theres no cheap or readily available blood test for it. There are specific blood tests that can be used to look for an increase in antibodies to these URI viruses, but this is rarely done due to cost and limited practicality . Likewise, there are tests to actively detect the URI virus in eye, mouth , or nose scrapings . Finally, there are smears of the conjunctiva of the eye that can help detect certain cells that are seen with a URI this is often done by veterinary ophthalmologists to rule out certain eye changes, and is especially important with chronic eye disease . However, please note that these tests arent common and typically should be done by a veterinary specialist.

So, now what? How does your veterinarian make the diagnosis of a URI? Its typically based on physical examination findings and historical findings . Blood tests arent routinely performed with URIs, unless your cat is sick enough to be hospitalized. If thats the case, then I do recommend doing a complete blood count and chemistry panel to rule out underlying dehydration, anemia, infection , viral infections , or metabolic problems.

Cat Flu Upper Respiratory Infection

Upper Respiratory Infections in Kittens

17th August 2018

Cat flu, or upper respiratory infection is a very common disease that can vary considerably in severity, and on occasions can even be life-threatening.

In the vast majority of cases, disease results from infection with feline calicivirus or feline herpes virus . Clinical signs include sneezing, nasal discharge, conjunctivitis , ocular discharge, loss of appetite, fever and depression. Mouth ulcers, coughing, excessive drooling of saliva and eye ulcers may also be seen. Very young, very old and immunosuppressed cats are more likely to develop severe disease and possibly die as a result of their URI, usually due to secondary infections , lack of nutrition and dehydration.

Typical ocular and nasal discharges of cat flu

Infection with feline herpes virus can cause serious eye damage

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How Are These Viruses Spread

Feline upper airway infections are spread in the same way as the common cold: a healthy cat comes in contact with an object that has been used by an infected cat for example, a shared food bowl or toy. Frequently disinfecting shared items can help reduce transmission risk. Feline calicivirus can also be spread when a healthy cat uses the same litterbox as an infected cat. And, just like the common cold, your hands can play a role in spreading viruses, so if you touch a sick cat, wash your hands before touching another cat!

Even after they are no longer sick, many cats that have been infected with feline herpesvirus and calicivirus can transmit these viruses to other cats. Therefore, seek professional veterinary advice before introducing a new cat with an unknown vaccination history into your house, or before placing your cat in an unfamiliar setting with other cats, such as a boarding facility.

What Cats Are At Risk Of Uris

URIs are common, as the causative viruses are widespread in cat populations. Typical risk factors include:

  • Cats kept in large groups or colonies such as breeding catteries, rescue centres and feral cat colonies in these situations the viruses are able to spread easily
  • Unvaccinated cats
  • Kittens
  • Elderly and immunosuppressed cats are more vulnerable to developing severe disease

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How To Prevent Cat Flu

Since upper respiratory infections are highly contagious, its hard to prevent them from spreading. It is best to keep a new cat away from other cats in your house for two weeks to reduce spread of diseases. If one of your cats develops cat flu, keep them quarantined until the symptoms clear.

Although not always 100% effective, there are vaccines available that protect against feline herpes virus and feline calicivirus. Talk to your vet about the options available for your cat.

Most cats recover from cat flu fully if they are treated early on before the condition worsens. If you suspect your cat may have cat flu, take them to the vet right away.

1Does My Cat Have Cat Flu? Blue Cross.

2What Is Cat Flu And How Is It Managed? RSPCA Knowledge Base. .

3Treating Upper Respiratory Infections in Cats. PetMD. .

4Treating Upper Respiratory Infections in Cats. PetMD. .

5What Is Cat Flu And How Is It Managed? RSPCA Knowledge Base. .

6Cat Flu Upper Respiratory Infection. International Cat Care. .

How Is An Upper Respiratory Infection Treated

Upper Respiratory Infection (URI) in cats

Most cats with an uncomplicated upper respiratory infection can be treated symptomatically at home. Your veterinarian may prescribe an eye medication to be applied topically if your cat has a purulent eye discharge. Although viral infections do not respond to antibacterial drugs, broad-spectrum antibacterial drugs may be prescribed in an effort to prevent secondary bacterial infections from complicating the disease, particularly in kittens. Primary bacterial upper respiratory infections caused by Bordetella or Chlamydophila will be treated with specific antibiotics that are effective against these diseases.

“Most cats with an uncomplicated upper respiratory infection can be treated symptomatically at home.”

Cats with nasal or airway congestion may benefit from increased environmental humidification, such as being taken into a steamy bathroom for 10-15 minutes several times per day. Some cats will benefit from nose drops if the nasal discharge is particularly severe or the nasal tissues become painful. To minimize irritation from nasal discharges, it is often helpful to wipe them away from the cat’s face or eyes with a moist tissue. Since cats with a respiratory infection will have a decreased sense of smell, they often have a decreased appetite feeding a highly palatable canned food may help improve their appetite. In some cases, an appetite stimulant may be prescribed.

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Recommended Protocol: Bordetella Bronchiseptica

  • Indications for vaccinating cats against B bronchiseptica are generally limited to high-density housing environments, where the risk for exposure to infected cats or dogs is known.
  • Kittens appear to be at greatest risk, especially if coinfected with FHV-1 or FCV.
  • A single dose , administered into 1 nostril, can be administered as early as 8 weeks of age annual revaccination is recommended for cats at risk for exposure.

Are Certain Cats Prone To Upper Respiratory Infections

Age, vaccination status and physical condition all play a role in a cat’s susceptibility to upper respiratory infections, but cats who live in multi-cat households or shelters are most susceptible. Veterinarians have found that stress plays a role in causing outbreaks of URI, and cats in any shelter, cattery or boarding facility are generally experiencing high levels of stress. Cats who have recovered from URI can become carriers, and may experience recurrences when stressed.

Certain breeds like Persians and other flat-faced breeds have a predisposition to develop upper respiratory infections due to their facial structure.

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How To Prevent Upper Respiratory Infections In Cats

Lastly, how do I prevent my cat from getting a URI? The first step in prevention is appropriate isolation. For example, if you just adopted a new kitten, that kitten should be isolated into a separate area away from the other house cats for at least 7-10 days. This will allow time for acclimatization and responding to treatment, if indicated, as well as prevent spread of infection.

The second step to prevention is through appropriate vaccination protocols. Work with your veterinarian to make sure your kitten or cat is healthy, and is up-to-date on vaccines. URIs can be potentially minimized by appropriately vaccinating. However, vaccines will not prevent the latent stage of URI complex. It will, however, minimize the severity and longevity of the URI disease process. That said, unfortunately, many kittens and cats that are in catteries or shelters may be exposed to URIs prior to vaccination, resulting in a chronic environmental problem within that facility.

There are two main types of vaccines that are used: intranasal and injectable . The intranasal is typically only used in young kittens . The benefit of intranasal vaccines is that it takes effect very quickly and works locally . Rare side effects include the development of mild signs of a URI from the vaccine . The injectable vaccine is used more commonly in older kittens and cats, but takes longer to mount an immune response.

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What Causes Upper Respiratory Infections In Felines

Cat Health Issues

A feline URI is typically caused by one or more bacterial or viral agents in the body. Many agents could cause the infection, but the most common virus that causes a URI is the Feline Herpesvirus Type-1. This virus is also sometimes called feline viral rhinotracheitis. The most common bacteria that causes a URI is Bordetella. These two agents are responsible for over 90% of all URIs in cats.

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What Should I Do If My Cat Has Upper Respiratory Disease

Properly isolate infected cats to protect other pets living in the same environment. Minimize stress. Keep your cat up to date on vaccines as recommended by your vet. Vaccines for upper respiratory disease in cats may not actually prevent infection, but they help lessen the severity of the disease in some cases.

How To Treat Nasal Congestion In Cats

Take care when instilling saline nose drops to not introduce too much saline into the nostril. You can add a drop or two to the end of a cotton bud and squeeze the liquid into the nostril. Saline usually causes the cat to sneeze which can help to clear the nasal passages. Remove eye and nasal discharge

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How Can This Disease Be Prevented

Since upper respiratory infections can be caused by a variety of different disease agents, it is not always possible to prevent upper respiratory disease in cats. However, the standard ‘core’ vaccines that are given to cats provide protection against feline viral rhinotracheitis and feline calicivirus. There is also a vaccine that protects against feline chlamydiosis this vaccine is considered to be ‘non-core’ and its use is recommended only if your cat has a reasonable risk of exposure to this disease. There is also a vaccine against a rare but especially serious form of calicivirus known as hemorrhagic calicivirus. Because there may be an increased risk of vaccine reaction with this particular vaccine, your veterinarian will discuss the risks and benefits of its use in your cat. None of these vaccines will completely prevent an infection from occurring if your cat is exposed to the disease, but they will significantly reduce the severity of the infection and shorten the length of the illness.

All of these vaccines need to be boostered on a regular basis – your veterinarian will advise you on the recommended booster schedule for your individual cat, typically every one to three years depending on vaccine and antigen.

Causes Of Upper Respiratory Infections

Why is your cat sneezing? Symptoms, diagnosing, and treating upper respiratory infections

The vast majority of upper respiratory infections, known as URIs, are caused by viruses: feline herpesvirus , feline calicivirus, and feline panleukopenia. Herpesvirus and calicivirus are by far the two most common ones seen by vets, accounting for 80 to 90 percent of all URIs.

Some upper respiratory infections, however, are caused by bacteria. The most common of these are Bordetella bronchiseptica and Chlamydophilia felis. Very rarely, a bacterial infection called Mycoplasma may be a contributing factor.

Cats with feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus are much more prone to getting URIs than others, and kittens are also in great danger from URIs because they have not developed full immunity or been vaccinated. Elderly cats may also be more likely to develop upper respiratory infections.

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What Is An Upper Respiratory Infection

Feline upper respiratory infection is a complex of viral and bacterial agents that cause the signs of an upper respiratory infection such as sneezing, congestion, coughing, runny eyes, nasal discharge, and fever.

The two viruses responsible for 90% of all upper respiratory infections in cats is herpesvirus and calicivirus. The good news is that most cats recover well in a short period of time.

Management Length Of Stay And Uri

Crowding, with its associated problems, is undoubtedly the single greatest underlying risk factor for respiratory disease in shelters. Increased population density leads to a greater risk of disease introduction, higher contact rate between animals, reduced air quality, and often, compromises in housing and husbandry. Unfortunately, crowding of shelter cats is not uncommon. In some cases this is due to insufficient facilities to humanely house stray cats for a required holding period or make a reasonable number available for adoption. Even when facilities are adequate to house stray and an optimal number of adoptable cats, some shelters have not identified an optimal capacity beyond which they are not able to keep cats healthy or maximize live release. Given the abundance of cats in need of homes in most communities, crowding will inevitably occur unless capacity is established and some policy is in place to balance the number of cats admitted with the number released alive on an ongoing basis .

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Upper Respiratory Infections Information For Breeders

07th September 2018

Upper respiratory infections remain a common problem in many breeding colonies.

The disease is mild in some households and may be restricted to minor outbreaks of sneezing that improve rapidly. In other situations, the disease is much more severe and can leave kittens with long-term disease, such as chronic rhinitis . Occasionally, the infections can be so severe as to cause deaths of individuals or entire litters of kittens.

Breeders who do have problems with URIs can spend a lot of time and money on investigation, but even then can struggle with how to control the disease its control needs to be approached in a sensible manner but is not always straightforward.

When To Take Your Sick Cat To The Veterinarian

Upper Respiratory Infections in Cats

Keep in mind that cats who are around a lot of other cats are the ones who are most likely to get a URI. If you adopted a cat from a shelter, make sure to take them in for an examination regardless of if they have any symptoms or not.

Rest and proper care are crucial for getting your kitty back to normal. Many cats recover within a couple of weeks. Still, its hard to know the right time to take them to the vet. Here are some URI signs that your cat needs to see a professional:

  • Not eating for 24 hours
  • Green or yellow discharge from eyes and nose
  • Difficulty breathing

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What Are The Symptoms

The symptoms seen in cats are like what we would see in a person with a cold. You may notice sneezing, lethargy caused by a fever, discharge from the eyes and/or nose, red and puffy eyes, depression, decreased appetite, sores in the mouth , drooling, eye ulcers, or squinting. For some cats, the symptoms may be very mild, while other cats are very ill from the URI. Healthy cats without symptoms can also be carriers. They are shedding the virus and infecting other cats but not show any signs of illness.

Keep Your Cat Comfortable

Upper respiratory infections can be miserable for your cat. Here are some things that can help make them more comfortable.

  • Cool mist humidifier helps to moisten their nasal passageways
  • Warm their food this allows your cat to smell their food better, which will entice them to eat
  • Tip: If you feed dry food, you can add water to the food and heat slightly in the microwave. Check the temperature of the food before feeding.
  • Get a water fountain cats tend to drink more from fountains cats with upper respiratory systems tend to get dehydrated
  • Use dust-free litter dusty litter can irritate already inflamed nasal passages
  • If you use a covered litter box for your cat, offering them a second choice that is uncovered may help decrease the amount of dust inhaled. Monitor your cat closely. Some cats object to changes in litter boxes and litter. If they start or continue going outside the litter box, go back to what they like.
  • Avoid any aerosols or carpet fresheners since the smell can be irritating
  • Use a warm damp compress to clean your cats eyes and nose of discharge
  • If you have other pets, be sure your sick cat can get to a peaceful place to rest
  • Ask your veterinarian about nasal saline flush to help clear nasal congestion and help with sneezing
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