"Cat virus cannot be treated directly. Usually supportive therapy is used to help with symptoms such as dehydration and refusal to eat. Cat's with strong immune systems can recover on their own from most feline viruses assuming symptoms can be treated. Each virus has unique characteristics as detailed below."
There are several different cat viruses. Some of the more common types are described below:
Cat Avian Influenza
Cat avian influenza is a virus that is passed to cats when they bite into an infected bird. It is rare for cats to become infected.
Symptoms of avian influenza in cats include:
- difficulty breathing (dyspnoea)
- rapid death 2 days after onset of the illness
- Neurological signs (circling, coordination problems - ataxia)
Diagnosis is made by taking a sample via a swap from the feces area. If you believe your cat has this virus you should minimize any contact with your cat. Every object your cat has come in contact with such as the litter tray, bowls, blankets etc. need to be disinfected. There are no vaccines for this condition. The virus can be killed with common disinfectants such as bleach.
Feline Panleukopenia (FPV)
The Feline Panleukopenia (FPV) virus is a highly contagious cat virus caused by feline parvovirus. It also goes by the name "feline distemper" (it has nothing to do with canine distemper). It can survive in the environment for months on common indoor items such as shoes and clothes. For this reason alll cats - including indoor cats should be given a vaccination. Usually vaccinations are given at 9 and 12 weeks of age followed by a booster 1 year later.
The virus is also spread by cat's which shed the virus in feces. When a healthy cat comes in contact with the feces then the virus spreads.
Once caught, the virus spreads from cell to cell.
Symptoms of feline panleukopenia includes:
- High fever, anorexia, lethargy
- Diarrhea (not common)
- Sudden death
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
While there is no treatment for the virus itself, it is important to keep symptoms from harming your cat. This includes avoiding dehydration, maintaining some level of food intake and antibiotics to avoid bacterial infection. Vitamin supplements such as vitamin B might be suggested to avoid thiamine deficiency.
Your cat's environment will need to be disinfected with either bleach (Bleach diluted at 1:32 (1/2 cup per gallon) or Potassium peroxymonosulfate (TrifectantTM or Virkon-STM).
A cat can recover from this virus. Note that even a recovered cat can still spread the virus for 2 to 6 weeks.
Feline Herpesvirus (FHV-1)
Feline herpesvirus is often seen in conjunction with feline calicivirus and bacterial infection. It is cat virus that is caught through the mouth, nose or eyes.
Symptoms of feline herpesvirus includes:
- nasal discharge,
- enlarged eyes (conjunctival hyperaemia(
- discharge from the eyes
- lesions in the nose
- facial lesions
- nasal discharge
- loss of appetite (anorexia)
Treatment involves making sure your cat stays hydrated and maintains the intake of food and nutrients. Your cat may not want to eat because nasal problems such as an ulcer may inhibit her sense of smell. One approach is to make food easier to eat by blending it, warming it or selecting a food which contains fish. Your veterinarian may prescribe a medication that stimulates an appetite (cyproheptadine). If this doesn't work then your veterinarian will insert a feeding tube into your cat. Antibiotics are prescribed to avoid any infection.Any discharge from the nose should be cleaned. Eyes should also be cleaned with eye drops or ointment. Vitamins may also be recommended.
Feline Calicivirus (FCV)
Feline calicivirus is a highly contagious cat virus which is why all healthy cats should be vaccinated against FCV. The virus is caught via contact with an infected cat and from your cats environment where the virus can live up to a month.
Symptoms of feline calicivirus include:
- Oral ulcers
- upper respiratory symptoms
- high fever
There is no treatment for the virus with treatment focused on the symptoms. Like other viruses it is important that your cat stays hydrated (drinks) and eats. Antibiotics are prescribed to prevent any infection from forming while your cat's immune system is weak.
There is a natural treatment worth researching called FCV Protect It is a homeopathic vaccine that temporarily relieves feline flu symptoms including sneezing; nasal congestion and fever. It contains natural ingredients that are associated with a lessening of symptoms associated with FCV.
Your cat's environment will need to be disinfected using sodium hypochlorite (5% bleach diluted at 1:32).
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
Feline leukemia is a retrovirus which means it uses cell DNA to replicate itself. This cat virus spreads through direct contact between cats such as when grooming each other or when bitten. The virus can also be spread through "shedding" in the feces or mucus from the nose.
Medical problems that are often seen with the virus are suppression of the immune system, low red blood cell count (anemia) and lymphoma (tumors).
Unlike many of the viruses listed above it does not survive for long outside the host as it is destroyed easily by disinfectants, soap, heating and drying.
Treatment of feline leukemia virus is similar to other viruses where you keep the symptoms from harming your cat while their immune system fights the disease. This includes making sure your cat stays hydrated (drinks) and eats. The medication interferon omega may help with symptoms. Another drug,
AZTazidothymidine) has been tried, but there are side effects that you should discuss with your veterinarian.
Vaccination against this cat virus is usually recommended. Even though house cats are probably not at risk, if the cat comes in contact with other cats, it could be exposed.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
Feline immunodeficiency virus is similar to the human aids virus. The virus is usually transmitted when one cat bites another. The virus can also be passed from a mother to her kittens.
A cat with FIV can be symptom free for years. The virus does depress the immune system causing other problems such as:
- Inflammation of the gums at the base of the teeth (Chronic gingivostomatitis)
- Inflammation in the nose (Chronic rhinitis)
- Lymph node disease (Lymphadenopathy)
- Weight loss
- Kidney failure (Renal failure)
- Inflammation at passage from the mouth to the pharynx (faucitis)
- Chronic infections
It is possible for cats with FIV infection to live as long as cats that are not infected. Cats with the virus should receive checkups from their veterinarian every 6 months and should be neutered so that they do not bite others. The medication Feline interferon omega may help reduce symptoms. AZT may help, but with side effects that should be discussed with your veterinarian.
References for Cat Virus:
S. NewburyKoret Shelter Medicine Program
Center for Companion Animal Health
University of California Davis, Davis, CA, USA.
Guidelines on Feline Infectious Diseases
European Advisory Board on Cat Disease