Respiratory Diseases in Cats

Cats are prone to many respiratory diseases. The most common are infections of the nose, upper respiratory tract and eyes. The causes of upper respiratory infections (URI) are viruses and bacteria. Less commonly, these organisms invade the lower airways (trachea and lungs). Cats also get non-infectious respiratory diseases like asthma.

Feline Respiratory Virus
Two highly contagious virus is to blame for most respiratory infections in cats. These are Feline Herpesvirus-1, which causes feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR) and feline calicivirus (FCV), which causes the disease with the same name. Both organisms are easily transmitted through sneezing and contact between cats. They can also be spread on hands, clothing and lifeless objects.

Signs of FVR are sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, which may be thick and green, fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and drooling. Non-vaccinated kittens and cats are often seriously ill and may even die. Signs of FCV is similar but there are differences. The nasal discharge in cats with FCV are wet. FCV can also cause mouth ulcers, diarrhea, and arthritis. Some cases of FCV progress pneumonia, but most cats eventually recover. Although laboratory tests are sometimes used, FVR and FCV is usually diagnosed based on a physical examination.

Treatment is aimed at reducing symptoms and preventing secondary bacterial infections. Liquids are administered, since dehydration is common, especially if the cat does not eat or drink. Decongestants and antihistamines help with nasal problems. Antibiotics not kill the viruses, but are prescribed to sick cats to avoid getting bacterial infections. Cats with FCV and FVR also benefit from being kept warm, stress-free, and is fed to happen. Heated, are highly recommended tasty food, baby food taste like meat, tuna flavored cat food, or veterinary diets designed for sick cats. Most cats recover within one week or two.

It is difficult to completely prevent viral respiratory infections, but vaccines are very valuable. Vaccinated cats are less sensitive, and if they get any of these viruses as they usually have only mild symptoms. The combination vaccine given to most cats protects against both FVR and FCV. Keeping cats indoors and to avoid exposure to stray animals is also favorable. If you handle other cats, wash hands and change all contaminated clothing before handling your own cat. The virus can linger in the environment for several days, but cleaning with diluted bleach will remove them.

Bacterial Diseases
Two types of bacteria have been linked to respiratory diseases in cats. Chlamydophila felis (formerly Chlamydia psittaci) causes inflammation of the eyelids and watery eyes. It is spread by direct contact between cats and is treated with antibiotics. There is a vaccine for cats at risk.

Bordetella bronchiseptica causes disease similar to viral disease, with one important difference. Coughing is uncommon with other diseases, but is common in cats infected with Bordetella. Bordetella is highly contagious and can be transmitted between dogs and cats. Bordetella is a serious problem in shelters and other places where many cats are housed. Its significance for individually owned cats are still under research. A vaccine has recently become available for cats Bordetella, but it is especially recommended for cats at high risk, such as those in shelters. Check with your veterinarian to see if your cat would benefit from vaccination against bacterial respiratory diseases.

Other Diseases
Cats, other respiratory diseases as well, but they are uncommon. Feline asthma similar condition in humans. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Emergency treatment may be needed for acute episodes. Asthma isn’t cured but can be controlled with medication.

Cough and breathing difficulties may also be a sign of heartworm in cats. This usually disappears within one to two years, but there is no treatment. It can sometimes be fatal. Cats can be protected against infection with heartworms using a monthly medication. Ask your vet whether your cat needs heartworm preventative medication.

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