Feline herpesvirus (FHV) is one of the most common viruses that affect cats. It is a major cause of upper respiratory and eye infections in cats. Although very common in cats, this virus does not affect humans and other animal species such as dogs and ferrets.
However, this disease is easily transmitted from one cat to another through coughing, grooming, sneezing, and generally cats sharing a household with an infected kitty. Mostly, kittens contract this disease from their mothers, and the virus may remain dormant in their systems.
The symptoms of feline herpes vary greatly from one cat to another. Usually, some cats develop symptoms as soon as they get infected while others may have episodes throughout their lives.
What are the common symptoms of feline herpes virus?
Conjunctivitis is the reddening and inflammation of the white part of the eye. Usually, most cats develop mild conjunctivitis on one or both eyes after feline herpesvirus infection.
However, other kitties may be affected by the disease more severely and have nasal and eye discharges, conjunctivitis, sneezing, and coughing. Also, others may develop ulcers of the cornea which can be very painful and cause damage to the cat’s eye. The cornea is the clear part of the cat’s eye. Corneal ulcers are also known as dendritic keratitis.
2. Upper respiratory infection (URI)
In most cases, FHV manifests itself through URI in cats. Your cat may start coughing and sneezing after FHV infection. These signs usually last from a few days to a few weeks. Therefore, take your cat to the vet immediately you notice these symptoms to start treatment.
3. Feline Herpes Virus associated dermatitis
In severe cases of FHV, the cat may develop skin inflammations and ulcerations. Usually, these ulcerations and inflammations manifest themselves around the cat’s nose and eyes.
How is Feline Herpes Virus Treated?
FHV treatment mainly aims at managing the clinical symptoms to reduce the complications. Thus, there is no specific cure for FHV. Therefore, once a cat contracts it, he will have the virus for life. Feline herpes virus diagnosis is done through a laboratory test. Your vet will discuss with you’re the available testing modalities while examining your kitty.
Treatment of FHV depends on the cat herpes symptoms your cat is exhibiting. Therefore, if your cat has infection affecting the eyes, your vet may administer and prescribe topical eye medications.
It is important to seek vet attention immediately your notice eye infections to prevent permanent damage to your cat’s eyes. Your veterinarian may also administer antibiotics to your kitty to prevent bacterial infections secondary to this viral infection.
Additionally, if your cat is suffering from nasal congestion, they may benefit greatly from humidifiers. For instance, you can take him into a steamy bathroom for about 10 minutes several times a day to ease the airway congestion.
Moreover, it is important to note that a cat with nasal congestion may have a decreased sense of smell. Thus, they may have a low appetite. It is therefore important to feed them with highly palatable food with a strong smell to help improve their appetite and get them to eat.
After the kitty recovers from the FHV infection, chances are high that he may become a carrier of the disease. Hence, the disease goes into remission but the cat can still infect other cats. The recurrence of this infection could be as a result of an illness or stress.
Stressors like moving into a new house, introducing a new pet, and traveling can reactivate the virus hence cause reinfections. Therefore, it is paramount to avoid these stressors to your cat to avoid reinfections.
Feline Herpes Virus Vaccine
FHV vaccine is included in the feline vaccination schedule. The vaccine helps minimize the symptoms of feline herpes virus infection but does not prevent outbreaks in the future. Also, the vaccine does not cure cats that are already infected with the virus.
How is FHV spread from one cat to another?
- Direct contact with saliva and nasal secretions through grooming.
- An uninfected cat inhaling sneeze cough droplets from an infected cat.
- When a healthy cat shares food bowls and litter boxes with an infected cat.
- Contact with inanimate objects such as beds, toys, and furniture that have been contaminated with the virus’ particles.
The FHV can survive on the surface as long as it stays moist. Luckily, the secretions dry up within a short time and once they dry up, the virus dies. Therefore, if your cat has FHV, it is important to disinfect the surfaces in your household to kill the virus and prevent it from spreading. You can use a bleach solution or use hot water and detergent to disinfect.
After contact with the infected cat, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water. Ensure that you pay attention to cleaning between your fingers and nails with a nailbrush. Thereafter, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
How to help your cat if he is infected with feline herpesvirus
- Clean his eyes frequently to prevent to discharge from drying upon his skin and making him uncomfortable.
- Introduce a humidifier in his environment to help with the congestion.
- Create a peaceful environment for him, also, avoid stressors as they may make the situation worse.
- Ensure that your kitty feeds well and drinks plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
Feline herpesvirus life expectancy.
Does feline herpesvirus affect a cat’s life expectancy?
FHV is not curable. However, with proper management, an infected adult cat can live a long and healthy life. FHV does not necessarily affect a cat’s lifespan so do not panic if your kitty gets infected. Visit your veterinarian and they will advise on what you need to do to keep your cat healthy and prevent flare-ups.
However, FHV can be deadly to small kittens. This is because, FHV may cause loss of appetite in cats and when a small kitten stops eating, it might be fatal for him. Feline herpesvirus affects the cat’s immune system making the cat susceptible to fatal bacterial infections.
Therefore, ensure that you feed your cat with healthy foods that will strengthen his immune systems. A balanced diet rich in proteins, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants would be perfect to promote a strong immune system. Additionally, veterinarian help is advisable immediately after an outbreak.