Facts About the Feline Herpes Virus

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The feline herpes virus is an upper respiratory virus that affects the nose, throat, eyes and larynx of ordinary house cats. The symptoms of the feline herpes virus include a clear, or yellow-green nasal discharge, listlessness, fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, sneezing, and tearing. Depending on the cat’s vaccination status and immune system health, the severity of the infection can range from mild (sneezing and tearing) to severe (life threatening).

Even if your cat has received regular annual vaccinations against the feline herpes virus, he can still become infected, especially if they are on a steroid therapy or have an immunosuppressive disease such as FIV or feline leukemia. Prednisone is a steroid used to suppress the immune system and inflammation response in many traditional treatments in cats including autoimmune conditions, allergies, and osteoarthritis pain. It is because of the drug’s immunosuppressive characteristics that it is advised to keep cats that are receiving the treatment to remain indoors for a period of up to one month after the last treatment is taken in order to allow the immune system to recover.

Feline leukemia and FIV (feline immunosuppressive virus) are both diseases that affect the cat’s immune system and render it unable to fight off most infections. Cats that are infected with these types of diseases will easily contract feline herpes, or any other virus, and will usually exhibit more severe symptoms than otherwise healthy cats.

Feline herpes virus is transmitted via direct nose-to-nose contact, or by coming into live virus particles in the environment. The feline herpes virus is rarely fatal in cats, though secondary bacterial infections or complications, such as dehydration, from loss of appetite can be fatal if not treated. Also, the virus can claim the lives of cats that are immunosuppressed by leukemia or FIV.

Most cats that contract the feline herpes virus are concurrently treated with a round of antibiotics to prevent a secondary bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, from occurring, though the antibiotics will have no effect on the virus whatsoever. Supportive care is recommended to ensure that the cat is receiving water and nutrients during its illness to prevent dehydration and sharp drops in blood glucose levels and to speed recovery.


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