Sunday, February 21, 2010

Feline Herpesvirus

Is your cat sneezing or suffering from a runny nose and weepy, swollen eyes? Feline herpesvirus (FHV-1) may be to blame.
Also called rhinotracheitis, it's one of the most common upper respiratory viruses in cats. It cannot be cured, but it can be treated. After the initial infection, the virus lays dormant in the nerves of the face, and flare-ups may or may not occur, depending on the strength of a cat's immune system and other environmental stressors.

How the Virus Is Spread
Of infected cats, about 80% become lifetime carriers of FHV-1. Of those, 30% can pass the virus to other cats -- not humans or other animals -- even when symptom-free; it is spread via sneezing, mutual grooming, and contaminated food and water bowls.

Unfortunately, tests for FHV-1 aren't always reliable. But the virus is so common that many vets suspect it first as the culprit behind most upper respiratory infections.

Because FHV-1 can't be cured, treatment is aimed at eliminating nasal congestion, poor appetite, eye pain, and eye damage that might impair vision. Reduce stress by keeping your cat indoors in a warm, quiet environment. Also, bolster your cat's immune system -- during and after infection -- to reduce the chances of flare-ups. A healthy diet and plenty of exercise can help with this. Ask your veterinarian about the following treatments, including potential side effects:

Antivirals (some may be toxic at high doses)
Antibiotics (for secondary bacterial infections only)
Steam treatment (vaporizer)
Nonmedicated saline nasal drops
Over-the-counter decongestant drops
Appetite stimulants
L-lysine (amino acid that may promote recovery and reduce outbreaks)
Vaccination (can't prevent, but may minimize infection)
Enterococcus faecium SF68 (probiotic that may offer immunity-enhancing benefits, according to preliminary research)

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