Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis

Feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), sometimes known as the feline herpes virus (FHV-1), is a very dangerous acute disease that affects the upper respiratory system in domestic and wild cats.

FVR Occurrence

Rhinotracheitis can occur in any type of cat and affects cats of all ages in all parts of the world. However, certain factors make cats more susceptible to FVR:

  • Cats that are not vaccinated are more likely to acquire FVR.
  • Cats that have poor nutrition are more likely to get the disease.
  • Cats that have poor sanitation are more likely to get the disease.
  • Cats that live in overcrowded settings are more likely to get the disease. This can include pet adoption centers, animal shelters or even multi-cat households.
  • Cats that live in poorly ventilated areas are more likely to get the disease.
  • Cats under stress are more susceptible to the disease. This can include cats that are exposed to extreme hot or cold temperatures or cats that have a new cat introduced to their household.
  • Kittens are more susceptible to the disease, especially if their mother has the disease.
  • Pregnant cats that are lactating are more likely to get FVR.
  • Sick cats are more likely to be affected by FVR, especially those with weakened immune systems.

How FVR is Transmitted

Cats can get feline viral rhinotracheitis in a number of ways. The disease is carried in a cat’s eye, nose and mouth discharge. FVR can be spread through direct contact with any of these discharges, or through sharing objects, food or water with an infected cat.

Cats with FVR may leave disease particles on bedding, litter, boxes, toys or even on their owners’ clothing. Owners can even aid in the spread of the disease if an infected cat’s discharge gets on their hands and they later touch a non-infected cat.

FVR is not usually transferred immediately from cat to cat. Usually, exposure over a period of a few days is necessary for a cat to acquire the disease.

Rhinotracheitis Symptoms

FVR symptoms vary from cat to cat. Some cats may even be able to carry the virus without experiencing any symptoms at all. However, they can still pass the virus on to other cats, who may get sick and experience symptoms.

Commonly experienced feline viral rhinotracheitis symptoms include:

  • conjunctivitis (sometimes known as pink eye)
  • coughing
  • fever
  • inflammation of the corneas of the eyes (many cats will paw their eyes if this is an issue)
  • loss of appetite
  • quick weight loss
  • runny eyes
  • runny nose
  • sneezing.

Not all cats will experience all of these symptoms. Some symptoms can also indicate diseases or issues other than FVR. This is why it’s important to see a veterinarian as soon as possible if any of these symptoms appear. A vet can provide an accurate diagnosis and treatment options for your cat.

Rhinotracheitis Treatment

Treatment for FVR often depends on the symptoms that the cat is experiencing. Cats that are not eating may require their owners to assist them in eating.

Owners may also need to make their cats as comfortable as possible by:

  • Making sure the cat is getting adequate nutrition: This can be done by keeping food and water close to the cat and ensuring that he is actually eating and drinking regularly. Special treats, such as tuna, may need to be offered to entice the cat to eat.
  • Making sure the cat’s discharge is regularly removed: This is easily done by wiping away any discharge that you see on your cat’s eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Making sure the mucous in your cat’s system is broken up: This can be done by using a humidifier in the room your cat is in or bringing your cat into the bathroom while you are taking a shower.
  • Minimizing stress to the cat: This can be done by making sure the room the cat is in is a comfortable temperature, has the right amount of ventilation and light and has anything he will need close at hand (including food, water, a litter box and any toys that he likes). Cats should remain indoors while they are sick and experiencing symptoms.

Cats that are not eating enough may need more specialized care. If hand-feeding does not work, owners may need to feed their cats through a tube (a veterinarian can demonstrate this process) or intravenous nutrition from a veterinarian or animal hospital may be necessary.

Medications may also be prescribed by a vet as treatment for feline viral rhinotracheitis:

  • Antibiotics can prevent or treat any infections that result from FVR.
  • Decongestants or certain types of drops may help with nasal discharge.
  • Eye ointments can treat conjunctivitis or other eye conditions.

Isolating an infected cat from other cats is also necessary to prevent spread of the disease.

In most cases, FVR is treatable and is not a severe or life-threatening condition. With correct care and nutrition, cats can make a full recovery. However, treatment should begin as soon as possible. If symptoms appear in your cat, see a vet immediately.

FVR Vaccination and Prevention

A vaccination for FVR and FHV-1 is available and is recommended for all cats. However, the vaccine is designed to prevent serious disease from developing and may not prevent mild infections from occurring.

The best way to prevent the disease is to vaccinate your cat and to ensure that he does not come into contact with infected cats.