Cat flu is the broad-spectrum name given to a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract in felines. It is a frequent disease in cats and though not usually fatal in previously healthy adult cats it can cause death in both kittens and immuno-suppressed older cats
Cat flu is most commonly caused by the Feline Herpes Virus-1 (FHV-1), or Feline Calicivirus (FCV)
Feline Herpes Virus is the more serious of the two. It is also called Feline Virus Rhinotracheitis --an older term for the virus. Feline Herpes virus infects the membranes of the eyes, sinuses, the lining of the nose, pharynx, and throat. Cat flu normally is a very contagious disease and can spread rapidly from cat to cat.
When the virus affects the membranes of the eyes—Conjunctivitis--the eyes are swollen and red with a discharge that is frequently filled with pus when secondary bacterial infection invade. Occasionally the cat may develop corneal ulcers.
When the virus affects the nose, sneezing is one of the most familiar symptoms. The nasal linings are inflamed--Rhinitis There is also a discharge from the nose which begins as a clear fluid. The discharge then turns bulky and green as the disease advances. Felines can often lose their sense of smell.
Often the feline runs a fever and usually feels ill. Cats will often lose their appetite and sometimes become dehydrated. Even though they are dehydrated they may refuse to drink water.
The most widespread symptom of Feline Calicivirus is ulceration of the mouth and tongue, lips palate, and now and then the tip of the nose. The gums can be affected by gingivitis. Drooling can happen depending on the severity of the mouth ulcers.
The calicivirus causes cold-like signs which result in runny nose and eyes. The infection can affect the membranes of the eye but doesn’t cause eye ulcers.
Diagnosis is made by your veterinarian. She/he will make this diagnosis based on symptoms and can have the diagnosis completed by taking a swab from your cat's throat and sending it to the laboratory for testing.
Cat flu is rarely fatal in previously healthy cats. Infected cats will necessitate intensive nursing and support. Kittens are more at risk from cat flu than adult cats.
There is no cure for a viral infection still the feline can be kept as comfortable as possible by keeping him/her warm and treating the symptoms. Your veterinarian may prescribe eye drops or ointment for the conjunctivitis.
Corneal ulcers must be looked at by your veterinarian who will advocate appropriate treatment.
Discharging nose and eyes should be bathed regularly with warm salty water.
Secondary bacterial infection can be treated by your veterinarian with antibiotics
Mouth ulcers can be serious and cause your cat to stop eating. Your veterinarian needs to be consulted if your cat has stopped eating and drinking. At times the cat has to be hospitalized and force fed because the mouth ulcers are so painful the cat repudiates eating altogether...
Dehydrated cats may need to be put on intravenous fluids and this will entail spending a day or two in hospital.
If the cat has lost his/her sense of smell he/she will lose interest in food. Encourage your kitty to eat by offering strongly smelling food such as sardines or mackerel.