One of the most common infections in cats is upper respiratory infections – these infections, just like upper respiratory infections in people, are most commonly caused by viruses. However, viruses are different in cats than people. Upper respiratory infections in people are most commonly caused by cold and flu viruses, whereas in cats, the most common upper respiratory viruses are the herpes virus and calicivirus.
The feline herpes virus (FHV-1) commonly causes symptoms such as sneezing, oral and nasal discharge, congestion, redness of the eyes, etc. Cats can contract the virus when exposed to other cats who are showing clinical signs of an upper respiratory infection; this happens commonly in catteries, humane shelters and pounds, boarding facilities and when cats are allowed outdoors to play with other cats. The good news is it’s not infectious to people.
Vetoquinol, a veterinary products manufacturer, has made L-lysine available for cat owners with pets that are infected with the herpes virus (FHV-1). Just like most herpes virus infections, once you’re infected you’re infected for life. Flare-ups can occur any time there is stress or illness.
What’s unique about herpes viruses is that the virus is dependent on arginine (an amino acid) for development of the normal viral proteins. Without arginine, the virus cannot make the proteins that are essential for replication. L-lysine competes with arginine for making these proteins, and with L-lysine in the way, the proteins are not made normally which means the virus cannot replicate. Essentially, this means there are less virus particles around for the body to fight off, and with supplementation of these products may hasten recovery time from a flare up of the herpes virus and will also decrease the virus shedding, possibly making it less likely to be transmitted to another cat.
There are several products available for use in single or multi cat households in the form of treats, gels and powders in palatable gel and powder formulations that may make it easier to treat those nasty upper respiratory infections!