Chinchilla blanketCat flu is a common illness of the upper respiratory tract of cats of which 80% of cases are caused either Feline Herpesvirus (FHV) or Feline Calicivirus (FCV). Like the human flu, it is contagious and can be spread through contact with an infected carrier and, also like the human flu, there can be health risks associated with the infection.

What are the Signs?

There are many signs of cat flu to be aware of, including:

  • sneezing
  • runny nose and eyes
  • drooling
  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite
  • fever
  • coughing
  • loss of audible noises
  • pneumonia

FHV can cause a severe and potentially life-threatening illness. Ulcers may form on the surface of the eye and the eyelids may become inflamed and swollen, becoming stuck to the surface of the eye. It can also lead to long-term eye complications causing pain and affecting vision and/or long-term infections following damage to the nasal passages and sinuses.

FCV usually causes a milder form of cat flu. In kittens, it can cause lameness and a high temperature. In adults, sometimes the only sign of an FCV infection is painful ulcers, found on the tongue, roof of the mouth or the nose.

What are the Health Risks?

Healthy, vaccinated adult cats often only experience mild symptoms when contracting cat flue. However, if you are a pet parent to a very young or very old cat, one who is immunosuppressed or has not received proper vaccinations, a simple case of cat flu can quickly turn life threatening. This is especially true if secondary bacterial infections set in.

Some complications of cat flu include:

  • dehydration
  • respiratory difficulties
  • starvation, especially as cats lose their sense of smell due to the infection
  • permanent eye damage
  • miscarriage, in the case of a pregnant cat

How Can Cat Flu Be Treated?

Left untreated, symptoms of cat flue can worsen quickly, so take your cat to see a vet immediately if you suspect she has cat flu. While there are no drugs that can specifically kill the infection, there is treatment that is aimed at alleviating the symptoms and fighting off the secondary bacterial infections.

How Can Cat Flu Be Prevented?

The simplest way to prevent your cat from developing cat flu is by having him or her vaccinated as a kitten, and ensuring yearly boosters. Yes, it is possible for a vaccinated cat to contract cat flu, but the symptoms will be much less severe and easier to treat.

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