If your kitty is sneezing, congested, or has watery eyes, feline herpes virus (also known as feline viral rhinopneumonitis) may be the culprit. When left uncontrolled, the virus can become serious and cause eye ulcers and lesions, fever, lethargy, and other awful symptoms that can lead to potentially severe secondary infections.
The virus is spread through any kind of direct contact with other infected cats, especially litter box sharing, eating and drinking out of other cats’ dishes, and mutual grooming. If your cat or kitten was exposed to a lot of other felines, it is extremely probable that its “cold-like” symptoms could be a herpes infection.
Unfortunately, it is an extremely contagious virus – much like pinkeye in humans (conjunctivitis) – that your cat could have come in contact with at a cattery, animal shelter, or anywhere with multiple cats. If your cat is an outside/indoor cat, it could have gotten the virus from a feral cat if there is a feral cat colony nearby. Once the virus is “caught,” it exists in your cat’s system forever, but the outbreaks can be prevented and controlled with proper medication and supplements (similar to herpes in humans).
Don’t panic though; if treated promptly and properly, the virus can be managed and kept at bay so that your cat will only experience momentary discomfort. To minimize the risks associated with recurrent herpes outbreaks in felines, see your vet as soon as you suspect a herpes infection. Your vet will not only help your kitty feel better, but they will also give you the proper instructions and advice to prevent passing the infection to other cats.
10 Tips to Help Deal With Feline Herpes:
1. Learn all you can about the feline herpes virus to ensure you are equipped with the right information and tools to manage your cat’s illness. There is no cure for herpes, and taking care of an infected kitty is a long-term commitment. One piece of good news is that the virus is NOT transferred to humans or dogs. However, if a human or dog comes in contact with an infected cat and then immediately is in direct contact with another cat, there could be a transfer of the virus.
2. Bring your cat to the vet at the first sign of infection or a new outbreak. An antiviral medication can reduce the severity of your cat’s symptoms and reduce the likelihood of complications. Plus, treatment can help your kitty feel better! We will be more than happy to fill your prescription for you at our pet pharmacy!
3. Give your cat any antibiotics prescribed by your veterinarian. These may be necessary to treat or prevent a secondary infection in the lungs, which could be potentially fatal if ignored. Antibiotics are also necessary for treating lesions and eye ulcers.
4. Clean nasal and eye discharge from your cat’s face to prevent skin irritation and prevent transmission of the virus. Use clean, lukewarm water and a soft cloth or cotton ball to gently wipe away wet and dry discharge. Be very cautious to not contaminate any objects or surfaces if you have other cats in the household.
5. Supplement your kitty’s diet with L-lysine or other nutrients, as recommended by your vet. L-lysine is known to suppress the herpes virus and may improve symptoms and control outbreaks. Viralys is regarded as an extremely helpful aid in treating the infection, and comes in several different forms!
6. Unless your cat is having trouble eating, continue feeding as normal. If a reduced appetite or discomfort is significant, speak with your vet. Your cat may need intravenous feeding to prevent dehydration and ensure continued nutrition. Failure to eat or drink enough can further strain their immune system, causing slow recovery, worse outbreaks, and other negative health complications.
7. Make lifestyle changes to reduce as much stress in your cat’s life as possible. Limit travel, boarding, grooming and other stressful events – pretty much anything that is a drastic change in routine or environment. Stress can trigger outbreaks and cause infected cats to shed the herpes virus. To create a calmer environment, ensure that your cat has clean bedding at all times, access to natural light, and also several hiding places to get cozy in and rest. A humidifier could also help relax your cat and enable a speedy recovery!
8. Get your cat vaccinated. The vaccine for feline herpes virus is not 100% effective, but it may reduce recurrence and improve symptoms of the disease. It is commonly included with normal cat vaccinations, but confirm with your vet to make sure that your kitty is protected!
9. Isolate your cat to protect other kitties in your home, and make sure any cat infected with herpes is given her own litter box, food bowl and water bowl. This may be difficult at first, and you may even feel guilty about it – but it is for your cat’s own safety and well-being. When the outbreaks dissipate, it will be easier to have your cats coexist together again, but you will still have to monitor all cats involved to make sure everyone is healthy and happy.
10. Disinfect all surfaces inside your home to protect other cats in your home. Hard surfaces can be sanitized with a bleach solution, consisting of one part bleach to 32 parts water. For surfaces, objects, and fabrics that cannot be bleached, a disinfectant can be used to kill the virus particles. Just make sure that every inch of the contaminated area is cleaned, and you should be fine!
While the phrase “feline herpes” sounds scary, don’t be overwhelmed! If you follow our advice, it will not be a huge issue and will be a minor affliction that you and your kitty can live with!