To date, there have been several viruses isolated from the respiratory tract of the cat. They are generally highly contagious to other cats and uncommonly can cause fatal disease. The most common symptoms of disease are fever and discharge from the eyes and nose. Sneezing is also common, this disease condition is commonly known as “Cat Flu” or “Cat snuffles”. The acute infection may last from a few days to several weeks. Cats that “carry” the viruses with no outward signs are believed to be the most common source of infection. “Carrier cats”, as they are known, can come down with “snuffles” periodically and especially during times of ‘stress’ or lowered immunity.
Vaccination is still the best prevention. All kittens should have 2 vaccinations three weeks apart at 9 and 12 weeks, thereafter, adult cats require a yearly booster.
The most important part of treatment for clinical infection is supportive medication and home care. Good nursing is important. Crusts around the eyes and nose should be cleaned away as needed. Bathing two to three times daily with warm water is best. Brushing, grooming and gentle handling and stroking all increase the cat’s will to recover.
A veterinary consultation is essential to assess and prescribe medication for your pet. Medication must be fitted to the particular needs of your pet. Supportive antibiotics and eye ointments are often prescribed.
Inhalations are helpful – a bowl of steam alongside a cage or similar container with a towel over both, 10 minutes three times daily may help.
Help with feeding is often necessary since weight loss is common. Fluids are more important than food, so if your cat is not eating, try giving milk. Remember strong smelling foods are best for example sardines, mackerel or tuna. Often clinically affected cats may drink insufficient fluid to prevent dehydration and we may need to administer subcutaneous or intravenous fluids. Gentle force-feeding may also be necessary, as clinically affected cats often have a drastically reduced appetite.
Keep your pet confined to the house while very sick. Do not allow contact with healthy cats.
NOTIFY THE VETERINARIAN IF ANY OF THE FOLLOWING OCCURS:
1. Your pet continues to become progressively depressed
2. You are unable to keep your pet eating or drinking
3. Your pet has trouble breathing
© Forrest Hill Vets (2000) Ltd