Cat flu is a viral disease that affects the upper respiratory tract of cats. Though it is not a life threatening condition, it is a very common condition among cats. However, kittens and cats with a weak immune system will be affected by cat flu and can even die out of it. It is therefore very important to check for the symptoms early on and treat it adequately in order to prevent complications.
The common cause of cat flu is the Feline Herpes Virus-1 (FHV-1) and also Feline Calicivirus (FCV). The FHV-1 virus is more dangerous between the two and is also called Feline Virus Rhinotracheitis. Cat flu is very contagious and can spread fast form cat to cat due to this. The virus affects the mucous membranes like the eyes, pharynx, throat, sinus, nose etc.
When the cat flu is caused by FHV-1, the symptoms are generally swollen and red eyes with pus discharge and ulcers in the cornea when it becomes serious. The cat is constantly sneezing as the nasal lining is affected as well. This rhinitis of the nose starts with a clear discharge and moves on to become think and greenish with loss of olfactory sensations.
There would be accompanying fever, loss of appetite and dehydration. If the cat is pregnant while contracting cat flu, this will initiate an abortion and if the resultant kittens manage to live, they too would be victims of cat flu.
When the cat flu is caused by FCV virus, there would be ulcers in the mouth, tongue, lips, nose, palate etc. and also gingivitis. There would be running nose and watery eyes and fever, loss of appetite and depression. The infection can also lead to secondary infection which can lead to pneumonia. Joint pain is a major symptom associated with cat flue due to FCV. Ulcers on the paws are also very common with certain strains of the herpes virus.
At times it also becomes necessary for the cat to remain in the hospital for one or two days if there is too much dehydration and also loss of appetite.
The diagnosis is generally done by checking the symptoms of the cat and also sending a swab of the throat for checking. The presence of one of these viruses will confirm the diagnosis. Treatment includes eye drops and ointments and antibiotics and use of IV fluids for combating dehydration in the cat. The cats must also be kept in a warm and comfortable atmosphere until they recover.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How Does Cat Flu Spread?
Being a contagious disease, cat flu spreads through the discharge from the nose eyes, mouth, bowels, through the bedding, cage hands, etc. It can also be spread through a human being’s body through touching an infected cat and touching another one which is not infected. The virus can live outside of a cat’s body and spread to other cats.
2. How long does cat flu last?
As it is a viral infection, it lasts for about 7-14 days. The cats who have recovered would still have the virus in their body and can remain carriers their entire lifetime if the flue is caused by feline herpes virus. This would mean that at particularly stressful times, it can still get cat flu as the virus is still there.
In the case of feline calcivirus, the cats would be carriers for about a month. After 3 months, most cats are free from the virus and some take up to 18 months to completely eliminate the virus from their bodies.
3. Can Cat flu spread to human beings?
Luckily, cat flu does not spread to human beings, though human contact with the cats can spread the disease to other cats.
Things to Avoid
If you have more than one cat at home, care must be taken to avoid spread to the other cats as well. Isolate the infected cat until it recovers which can be well over 18 months. You must also be proactive as to vaccinate the cats against the virus as there are effective vaccinations available for preventing both the strains of viruses in the body. This can be discussed with your veterinary doctor and adequate measures taken.
Ensure that you catch the symptoms early to prevent complications and treat it adequately to reduce the discomfort. To destroy the virus, household bleach can be used in the ratio of 1:32 to wash the areas where the infected cat has been lodged and also to disinfect the surrounding and washable items.