Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis

Feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR) is a respiratory disease caused by a herpesvirus. Probably 45-50% of feline upper respiratory infections are caused by FVR virus. There are two distinct stages in the feline viral rhinotracheitis. They are the acute stage followed by the chronic carrier stage. The disease is transmitted from cat to cat by direct contact via infected discharge from the eyes, nose, mouth; through contaminated litter pans, water bowls, and human hands. The virus is stable outside the host for as short as 24 hours or as long as 10 days. Theres is considerable variation in the severity of illness. Some cats have mild symptoms, while in others the disease is rapidly progressive and sometimes fatal.

Clinical signs appear 2 to 17 days after exposure and reach maximum 10 days later. Illness begins with severe bouts of sneezing lasting 1 to 2 days. This is followed by conjunctivitis and watery discharge from the eyes and nose, which may suggest a cold or flu. However, cats do not catch human colds. By 3rd to the 5th day, affected animals develop fever, apathy, and loss of appetite. The eye/nasal discharge becomes sticky (mucoid) or puslike (purulent). Open-mouth breathing occurs in cats with obstructed nasal passages. A spastic cough, keratitis, and corneal ulceration may be also seen.

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Cats suspected of having the disease sould be strictly isolated for three to four weeks so as not to infect others. Rest and proper humidification of the atmosphere are important. Confine your cat in a warm room and use a home vaporizer. A cold steam vaporizer offers some advantage over a heat vaporizer because it is less likely to cause additional breathing problems.

Feed highly palatable food or strained baby food, diluted with water. Once the cat begins to eat and drink again, the worst of the danger is past. Wipe secretions from the eyes, nose and mouth with moist cotton balls.

Shrink swollen nasal membranes by administering Afrin children's strength nose drops (0.25%). Administer cautiously to prevent rebound congestion and excessive drying out of the mucous membranes.

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Lysine supplementation appears to be a popular intervention (recommended by > 90 % of veterinarians in cat hospitals). There is evidence at multiple levels that lysine supplementation is not effective for the prevention or treatment of feline herpesvirus 1 infection in cats. Lysine does not have any antiviral properties. Furthermore, lowering arginine levels is highly undesirable since cats cannot synthesize this amino acid themselves. Arginine deficiency will result in hyperammonemia, which may be fatal. In vitro studies with feline herpesvirus 1 showed that lysine has no effect on the replication kinetics of the virus. Finally, and most importantly, several clinical studies with cats have shown that lysine is not effective for the prevention or the treatment of feline herpesvirus 1 infection, and some even reported increased infection frequency and disease severity in cats receiving lysine supplementation.1


  1. Lysine supplementation is not effective for the prevention or treatment of feline herpesvirus 1 infection in cats: a systematic review. Sebastiaan BolEmail author and Evelien M. Bunnik BMC Veterinary Research201511:284 DOI: 10.1186/s12917-015-0594-3




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