Feline flu causes sneezing and conjunctivitis in cats – 08/05/2023 – Gatices

If your cat has a runny nose, sneezing and conjunctivitis, it is possible that he has rhinotracheitis, also called the feline flu.

The disease is responsible for 80% of respiratory pathologies in kittens, explains Elisangela Trentin, a veterinarian specializing in felines and owner of the Bigodes e Focinhos Cat clinic, in Vila Prudente, in the east zone of São Paulo.

Symptoms manifest themselves according to the severity of the disease and mainly affect the respiratory tract, with sneezing, coughing, hypersalivation and serous or purulent coryza. The animal may have fever, lack of appetite, conjunctivitis accompanied by purulent secretion (in these cases, corneal ulceration may occur) and skin lesions on the face or nose. Calicivirosis can also occur, which are ulcerated and painful lesions on the tongue.

“The main infectious agent of rhinotracheitis is feline herpesvirus 1, calicivirus and the bacteria chlamydia felis. But other viruses and bacteria that affect the respiratory tract of most domestic cats also cause the infection. Some of them even have transmission between men and domestic or wild cats, such as, for example, the type A influenza virus and the bacteria Mycoplasma sp, bordetella bronchiseptica, Streptococcus equi zooepidemicus It is Pasteurella”, it says.

Although adult cats are subject to the disease, kittens are more susceptible to rhinotracheitis, reveals the veterinarian. This is because the youngest have not yet completed the formation of the immune system or because they live in overcrowded environments, conducive to the disease.

Healthy adult cats can also be carriers of some viruses or bacteria that cause the disease, which make them potential transmitters, given that the infection usually occurs when they are kittens, through direct contact – aerosols of droplets of salivary or eye secretions and contaminated objects.

More than 90% of cats become asymptomatic carriers of the herpesvirus for life. In situations where the immune system is compromised, viral recrudescence may occur, making the animal symptomatic and transmitting.

“Rhinotracheitis manifests itself after the incubation period, usually between 2 and 6 days after infection. The symptoms and latency remain for approximately 10 to 14 days, and in most cases the animal’s own immune system fights effectively the infection”, reports the specialist.

The diagnosis is clinical, made by the veterinarian based on the symptoms. In 80% of cases, the herpesvirus is present and is responsible for most of the symptoms, followed by the calicivirus, says Trentin. The standard diagnostic test for detecting the agent is PCR (isolation of the agent and detection of its genetic material). Common blood tests are unreliable because they can confuse the agent with the immunity promoted by vaccination.

The veterinarian says that the treatment varies according to the severity of the disease. The vast majority of patients have symptoms that bother, but do not bring major complications. In some cases, analgesics, antipyretics, antibiotics and appetite stimulants are prescribed.

Depending on the condition, the infection can leave sequelae such as chronic sinusitis and rhinitis, loss of smell, impairment of ocular lubrication due to damage to the lacrimal glands, impairment of the eyeball, which can lead to blindness in cases of complications due to corneal ulcers, especially in puppies affected in the first weeks of life.

The best way to avoid complications is to start treatment with a veterinarian as soon as the first symptoms of the disease appear.

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