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Feline Upper Respiratory Infections

General Information:
Cats, often times more so than dogs, are good at hiding how sick they really are.  This post will help you be aware of what to generally look for so that you can better monitor your cat(s) for a common illness termed, "Feline Upper Respiratory" infections.

Upper respiratory infections in cats are common and can have a quick onset.  Remember that your cat's risk of infection is usually higher with multi-cat households, kittens coming from crowded shelters, or if he/she spends more time outside.  It's important to be knowledgeable about some of the most common symptoms to watch for at home.  Some are very obvious, but some not at all.  These may include: sneezing, nasal discharge, eye discharge, but also include the less obvious such as a fever, lethargy, weight loss, and/or decreases in appetite.  

It's vital for you to be aware of a few common causes of upper respiratory infections in your cat.  These are most commonly a combination of viral and bacterial organisms, therefore; contagion is always a concern.  If seeing any of the signs listed above, please SEEK VETERINARY ASSISTANCE RIGHT AWAY AND ISOLATE ANY AFFECTED ANIMALS FROM HEALTHY ANIMALS IMMEDIATELY TO LIMIT THE SPREAD OF DISEASE  This also includes separation of toys, bedding, and food bowls until the proper treatment and recovery is obtained.  Otherwise, infections can be spread back and forth like a football and make recovery much harder for us to solve.  Remember that by far the most common infectious agents include viruses such as Herpes Virus and Calici Virus.  In addition to a potentially suppressed immune system, this can be very serious.  As always, catching a disease or infection early gives us a much better opportunity to help your precious kitty recover AND recover much quicker!

Cleaning Your House:
Remember that bleach is your friend, but always be careful when cleaning and use gloves.  Herpes can live up to almost a day in the environment and Calici up to 10 days.  Ask your veterinarian about a good cleaning protocol for your particular house to limit the spread of disease and keep your cats safe from overuse of household cleaners.  Breathing-in these chemicals can make matters worse.  Keep your pets out of the particular room you are cleaning for at least a few hours.  Air filters can also help limit the concentration of chemical inhalants after cleaning as well as fans for ventilation.     

Treatment:
One very confusing and counterintuitive part of treating feline upper respiratory infections is that most often, even when "viral" related, your cat may be treated with antibiotics (medications that, in general, help fight against bacteria).  Why are we fighting off bacteria when it's most commonly viral you ask?  This is because we often cannot readily kill the primary virus itself, but we can treat supportively and battle secondary bacterial invaders that have taken advantage of the situation.  Treating the secondary infection with or without extra support such as diet/nutrition and fluids, etc, can help your cat feel much better, boost his/her immune system, and successfully fight off the virus.  

Monitoring:
Knowing what to look for is Key.  For additional treatment options and future prevention of upper respiratory infections, remember to do many of these simple (but extremely important) steps listed below:

(1) Keep your kitty up-to-date on his/her vaccinations.
(2) Try to keep him/her active and living environment/litter boxes very clean.
(3) Lower "stress" for your cats.  This may include more playtime and attention.
(4) Ask your veterinarian about starting your kitty on L-Lysine or a multivitamin supplement that may help boost your pet's immune system.
(5) ALWAYS monitor your cat's thirst, appetite, weight, and energy levels at home on a weekly basis and call your vet right away if concerned about any changes.
(6) Monitor for obvious signs such as frequent sneezing, nasal or eye discharge.    

Together, let's keep your cat as happy and healthy as possible with these basic steps!

Dr. Marlon