Just like humans, cats are susceptible to all kinds of illnesses, including both bacterial and viral infections. One possible health problem they may experience is feline herpes. While this sounds like a really scary condition, it is actually manageable. Unless you have already had a cat with this problem, you might not even be aware that feline herpes exists. Here is everything you need to know about feline herpes.
What Is Feline Herpes?
The official name for feline herpes is feline viral rhinopneumonitis and it is also known as feline herpesvirus type 1. This is an infectious viral disease that affects both domestic and wild cats. It is one of the major causes of conjunctivitis and respiratory infections. It can be spread from one cat to another in many ways, including mutual grooming, sharing food or water dishes, and using the same litter tray.
Humans can also get a virus called herpes, but this is a completely different viral strain. It is not possible for a human, or other animals such as a pet dog, to contract feline herpes from a cat. It is also not a sexually transmitted infection like one strain of the virus by which a human can become infected.
What Are the Symptoms of Feline Herpes?
The symptoms of feline herpes can vary significantly from one cat to the next. In fact, some cats do not display any symptoms at all. While this is good for them, it is not good for the other cats they live with as they can still pass on the virus if they are carrying it and the other cats may display problematic symptoms.
Some of the most common symptoms relate to the eyes and the respiratory tract. These may include conjunctivitis, nasal discharge, sneezing, coughing, and a fever. In serious cases, feline herpes can also result in empyema and frontal sinusitis.
However, these symptoms can also indicate conditions other than feline herpes, so it is important that you get these symptoms checked out by a vet who will make an accurate diagnosis. In most cases, cats will get flare-ups of their symptoms. This means that they may go months without displaying any of the symptoms associated with this viral condition and then suddenly display symptoms that were not there the day before.
This condition is particularly dangerous to kittens and younger cats. If they contract feline herpes, they can develop a form of pneumonia that can lead to death. It is also believed that feline herpes is the cause of flat-chested kitten syndrome.
How is Feline Herpes Diagnosed and Treated?
Once the herpes virus is in your cat’s body, it will remain there for the rest of its life. This is called being a carrier of the herpes virus. Although it is not treatable, it is possible to minimize the risk of contracting this illness and also to manage the symptoms.
By giving your cat all the necessary vaccinations as a kitten, it is less likely to contract feline herpes. Even if it does get feline herpes at a later date, the symptoms the cat suffers are likely to be less severe than those experienced by an unvaccinated cat.
If you suspect that your cat has feline herpes, your vet will conduct a physical examination to look for clinical symptoms of this condition. Even if your cat is not currently experiencing the symptoms, there are still steps that your vet can take to make a diagnosis. This will usually involve a blood test to check if the cat is a carrier of the virus.
If your cat is diagnosed with feline herpes, a vet will prescribe appropriate medication to treat the symptoms as and when they occur. In many cases, this involves a prescription for antibiotics to treat the specific symptoms. There is not an antiviral that has been specifically developed for this viral strain.
Having a cat that is a carrier of feline herpes is a concern if you have other cats in your home. Although you cannot completely eradicate the risk of the virus being passed on, there are steps you can take to reduce this risk. Household disinfectants contain chemicals that will kill this virus if it is on surfaces in your home, so regular cleaning using such products is the easiest way to minimize the risk.