Feline Hespervirus is a specific virus that affects the cat, and is the cause of a particularly widespread infectious disease called infectious rhinotracheitis. It is one of the diseases against which, normally, the cat is vaccinated as a child, especially to avoid the most serious symptoms because the vaccine is not able to limit the infection, but only to mitigate its symptoms.
Someone calls rhinotracheitis also the cat’s cold, although the cat can not take our cold.
Cat herpesvirus: what it is and how it is contracted
Herpesvirus in cats is a virus that belongs to the same family as other Herpes, which can affect humans or dogs (CHV); but we must point out that these viruses are species-specific, so a sick dog can not infect a cat, nor by kissing the cat can we transmit our Herpes.
Among cats, however, it is a highly infectious virus, which can be transmitted from cat to cat by respiratory tract (a bit like our cold is transmitted), but it can also be transmitted by the mother to the kittens, so it is possible that a kitten already infected.
The cats most at risk are precisely the kittens, particularly sensitive to the virus because their immune system is not that of an adult cat. Herpes do not usually die, but the virus can cause such a high level of debility in the kitten that pathogenic bacteria can take advantage of it and the consequences can be quite serious. In the adult, on the other hand, the symptoms are usually more contained.
The high infectivity of the virus is due to the fact that it never leaves the body, just like our Herpes: when there are debilitating situations for the cat, the infection will return, because the virus remains inside the body in the form latent. For this reason it can be passed on to other cats for life.
Cat herpesvirus: symptoms
The symptoms of Herpes in cats are quite similar to our cold, and include:
- Conjunctivitis, which is the most indicative symptom, especially if the disease has been contracted by a kitten;
- Rhinotracheitis, the inflammation of the nose and trachea leading to nasal discharge and continuous sneezing, which resemble our cold;
- Tears, usually intense with rather dense tears, which correspond to the defensive mechanism of the eye.
- In some cases there may be signs of dermatitis.
As we said at the beginning of the article, cat rhinotracheitis and feline herpesvirus are more or less the same.
To be picky, with “Herpes Virus” indicates the pathogen, with “Infectious Feline Rhinotracheitis” instead indicates the pathology, but the two terms are used as synonyms; although, in fact, there are other diseases in the cat that can lead to inflammation of the nasal cavities and trachea, the term “feline rhinotracheitis” always refers to the Herpes Virus.
The inflammatory symptom of the nose and the respiratory tract is in fact the main symptom of the disease, and in the rhinotracheitis of the kitten it is more serious than that of the adult cat; however, if the disease reappears, as we have indicated, the main symptom will always be that relating to the respiratory tract.
Feline Herpesvirus: cure
The therapy for herpesvirus is special, because as we said once the virus has hit a cat is no longer eliminated.
So you can act in different ways to avoid the symptoms of the disease, which are as follows:
Preventive therapy can be performed, ie vaccination;
Symptomatic therapy can be performed when the virus “comes out” again, correcting the symptoms caused and stimulating the immune system to prevent more serious;
You can try to prevent the virus from recovering power, keeping the state of the immune system high.
The Herpes vaccine is one of the first vaccines that is made, along with that against other infectious diseases. The vaccine allows the immune system to “recognize” the virus, and in this way it is possible to reduce the range of symptoms in the future.
The vaccination coverage is not valid forever, which is why it is very important to also observe the recalls to prevent the appearance of the symptoms. It should be noted that the vaccine is always recommended, although in some cases the kitten may already be infected (by the mother, usually, or by the breeding) before vaccination. If you do not have symptoms, because the virus is latent, it is still better to vaccinate, otherwise we risk leaving “discovered” a still uninfected cat.
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Symptomatic therapy is that done by the veterinarian in the cat that shows the symptoms of the disease.
It is a good rule, even if only in doubt, to isolate the sick cat from others, to prevent the infection from spreading, even if this may not be effective for others may already have been infected.
Other useful therapies are antibiotics if you suspect there is a bacterial infection, and then keep the cat in the best possible condition to avoid being stressed, because stress lowers the immune system and perpetuates the symptoms.
The mucolytics, and the “steam baths” which make it possible to humidify the airways with the purpose of decongesting them, are useful. Since the cat is weakened, it is important to push it to eat, otherwise other complications such as lipidosis are at risk.
Prevention of relapses
In principle, everything that can keep the cat’s immune system in good condition is welcome to avoid recurrences.
There are several products that stimulate the immune system in its work, generally food supplements rather than immunostimulant drugs. Someone also finds benefits with homeopathy to stimulate the immune system.
You can then use some drugs, such as interferon or l-lysine for cats, for rhinotracheitis that are intended to interfere with viral replication, even in this case to prevent the infection from emerging again. Herpes-specific antiviral drugs may also be useful for limiting replication, but this topic is being studied, so the medicines have not yet been approved in veterinary medicine.
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These remedies should be used mainly in stressful situations or at risk, to prevent it from emerging, and are interrupted in the summer and when the cat, essentially, is fine.
But we must remember that, despite everything, the virus is never completely eliminated from the body, so the cat remains a carrier for life; in this case, care must be taken in particular on contact with other cats, for example if we take another cat, because it is highly probable that the infection is transmitted.
However, I would remind you that feline herpesvirus is not fatal unless an immunodepression is created to cause infection of other pathogens; usually, try to prevent the reappearance and cure the cat (with environmental humidification, then aerosol) when the symptoms occur is the best way to make the expression of the virus latent, thus managing to return to an optimal health situation.
The important thing is that if the cat shows symptoms and in particular if it is already sick (of another pathology) or if it is a small kitten, it must be taken to the vet as soon as possible: a timely intervention will prevent the symptoms from worsening and will allow a life that is practically normal and similar to ours when, every year in autumn, the cold virus reappears.