Live Beyond 9 Lives: How to Spot FVR in your Cat

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This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.

Have your ever heard your cat sneeze and noticed watery eyes, a runny nose or even congestion? While it may appear that your cat has caught a cold, there are actually several possibilities that make up feline upper respiratory issues. One of the most common causes is feline herpes, or feline viral rhinopnumonitis or FVR.

The virus is a leading cause of upper respiratory diseases, conjunctivitis, and inflammation of the eyes. FVR is very common and affects a large percentage of cats, but it’s important to remember herpes is not always the cause of your kitty’s upper respiratory symptoms.

 How does a cat get feline herpes?

FVR is caused by the Type 1 feline herpes virus, which like most of its peers, is species-specific. Also like other viruses, feline herpes is passed through direct contact with viral cells that are secreted in an infected cat’s saliva, nasal discharge and tears.

A previously healthy cat can get infected when it shares a litter box, food or water dishes with other felines. The virus can also be passed through mutual grooming or even through contact with viral cells shed onto an inanimate object. One of the most common means of transmission is from pregnant cat to the kittens in her womb.

Once a cat is infected with feline herpes, an incubation period of up to five days usually passes before the kitty starts showing symptoms.

Just like the human form of the virus, feline herpes will remain in the cat’s body forever. Though it largely remains dormant, the virus will become active from time to time, leading to the symptoms mentioned below for about 10-20 days. The cause is most often stress, which is why frequently these symptoms appear during boarding, traveling, moving, or even introducing a new family member or pet into the house.

What are the symptoms of feline herpes?

Unfortunately, many of the symptoms of feline herpes can also indicate other diseases. Some common feline herpes symptoms are:

  • Frequent and repeated sneezing
  • Discharge from the nose and eyes
  • Conjunctivitis and/or lesions around the eyes
  • Chest and nasal congestion
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drooling

These symptoms can also turn into an upper respiratory infection if left untreated. If you notice fever, loss of appetite, drooling, or colored discharge from the eyes or nose, please see your veterinarian immediately.

How is feline herpes treated?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for feline herpes, and the virus stays in the cat’s body forever. The good news, however, is that the disease’s symptoms can be treated easily. Once your veterinarian has determined that they are not caused by other issues, he or she can prescribe oral antibiotics or antiviral medications if needed.

For mild flare ups, lysine treats or paste can help control symptoms and even reduce the number of flare ups. Eye creams can also reduce any inflammation and irritation of the lining. As with any medical issue, please do not administer any medication to your cat unless you have discussed it with your veterinarian.

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