Has your vet informed you that your cat has herpes? Herpes in cats is caused by a virus called Feline Herpes Virus Type I. It causes an array of symptoms, and there is no actual cure, which means that your cat will remain infected for the rest of his or her life. So, as a cat owner, it is important that you know all you can about this condition so you can provide the best lifelong treatment and care for your furry feline. Here are the basics.
What symptoms does herpes cause?
Much like herpes in humans causes "outbreaks," so does herpes in cats. In other words, your cat will go through long periods of time during which he or she does not offer any symptoms. Then, he or she may have an outbreak, during which the symptoms flare up. Eventually, this outbreak will subside and your cat will be symptom-free for another period.
During an outbreak, a cat may experience any of the following symptoms:
- Respiratory symptoms like sneezing, nasal discharge, and coughing
- Depression and lethargy
- Ulcers on the eyes and inflammation of the pink tissues around the eye
- Loss of appetite or a decreased appetite
What can a veterinarian in the area do for your cat?
While there is no treatment that will cure your cat, there are treatments that will ease an outbreak. Your vet may give your cat an antiviral medication when he or she starts showing any of the symptoms above. The antiviral medication will help your cat fight off the active virus, shortening the outbreak and easing the symptoms.
In addition to antiviral medications, your vet may also prescribe medications to keep your cat comfortable. Moistening eye drops may help ease the itching of conjunctivitis, and decongestants can ease some of the sneezing.
One problem that often arises in cats with herpes is secondary bacterial infections. Basically, when your cat's immune system is "busy" fighting a herpes outbreak, your cat is left more prone to bacterial infections. These infections usually occur in the respiratory tract and generally, they just make your cat's symptoms worse. Your vet can take a culture of your cat's mucous to test whether or not he has a secondary bacteria infection. If he does, your vet will prescribe an antibiotic to help your cat fight off the infectious bacteria.
Can you prevent an outbreak?
There is no way to completely guarantee that your cat won't have another herpes outbreak, but there are a few steps you can take to reduce the frequency of outbreaks. Keep your cat's environment as stress-free as possible. For instance, minimize the number of visits from strangers, avoid introducing dogs and other animals to the home, and provide your cat with plenty of hiding spaces within the home.
Can you have another cat when you have one with herpes?
Feline herpes is easily spread from cat to cat through bodily secretions like saliva and mucous. Since cats almost always engage in mutual grooming, it's very difficult to keep a cat with herpes from infecting his housemates. So, if you do not already have other cats, it's not wise to adopt another cat when you have one with herpes. There's no vaccine for herpes, so this is not an option for protecting other cats.
If you have several cats and one has been diagnosed with herpes, there's a good chance all of your cats either have herpes or will soon. Arrange to have your vet test them, and if they start showing symptoms of an outbreak, inform your vet so they can give you the proper medications.
If you have any remaining questions about feline herpes, talk to your vet. The more you know, the better caretaker you'll be for your sick kitty.