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Cat Flu - Reduce the Risk and Prevent Your Cat from Getting Sick

17.10.2022 - Reading time: 5 minutes

Eine Katze ist beim Tierarzt

When a cat sneezes, for example because its nose is itchy, it is a funny sound at first. But beware: if the cat is increasingly snuffy and eye and nose discharge are added, there is very likely a serious illness behind it. The unspecific term "cat flu" seems far too harmless for a potentially fatal course of the disease. Colloquially it summarises medical and much more specific diagnoses such as feline pneumonia, feline rhinitis or, for international communication, "cat flu" or FURD ("feline upper respiratory disease").


When the cat sneezes: causal research

Cat flu is a rather unspecific term for various diseases of the respiratory tract and mucous membranes in the head area of the cat. The individual forms of cat cold are triggered by viruses, bacteria and occasionally both in parallel and are infectious. Cats can become infected through contact with each other, but droplet or smear infection via food, objects and even humans as intermediate carriers is also possible. The pathogens are mostly spread via body fluid: when the cat sneezes or salivates, fine secretions are sprayed in which the viruses and bacteria can survive for a while even without a host. Cats are highly vulnerable to infection: In case of a cat flu, you should therefore visit the vet immediately.

The following viruses and bacteria have been identified as pathogens for the different forms of cat cold:

  • Felines herpesvirus-1
  • Felines calicivirus
  • Feline chlamydiosis
  • Feline Bordetella infection (bacterium)
  • Feline mycoplasma infection (bacterium)

Good to know: Viral feline rhinitis cannot be transmitted from animals to humans as a zoonosis, while bacterial forms such as chlamydiosis and Bordetella infections carry a certain risk of interspecies infection. The most careful hygiene measures must be observed. The exact diagnosis of the pathogen can only be made by laboratory tests. The germs cause different clinical pictures in detail, but their symptoms show many overlaps. Therefore, regardless of the specific origin, one can speak of a characteristic clinical picture.

Eine Katze ist beim Tierarzt.

What are the symptoms of cat flu?

Cat flu strikes the cat through the head: the eyes, the mucous membranes of the nose and throat and the respiratory tract up to the lungs are affected. The disease breaks out about five days after infection and initially manifests itself in general malaise. The first signs are fever, reduced appetite, cough and cold, sometimes accompanied by vomiting. In rare cases, however, these accompanying symptoms can be absent. Typical clinical symptoms are sometimes purulent discharge from the nose and eyes, conjunctivitis, corneal damage, swelling of the lymph nodes, ulcers or vesicles on the tongue and mucous membranes. In severe cases, necrosis of the nasal mucous membranes and miscarriage may occur in pregnant cats. If the cat flu spreads to the respiratory tract, breathing difficulties, rattling breathing noises, respiratory infections up to pneumonia and nasal catarrh are expressed.

How can you treat cat flu??

The best help against cat cold is prevention: There are appropriate vaccinations against herpes and calici viruses which can trigger cat cold. Vaccinations like these should be given to the kitten in the first weeks of life, the vaccination protection must then be boosted at regular intervals. In the meantime, medications are also in use that have a prophylactic effect against bacterial infections.
If the cat is already ill, the vet will bein treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics, antiviral proteins that stimulate the immune system, among other things, and, if necessary, locally applied bacteriostatic drugs. These inhibit the spread of viruses and bacteria and thus the effects of the disease. In order to determine what medication to use, the vet will take a blood sample and swabs from the tongue, eyes and conjunctiva to identify the pathogen and to rule out diseases with similar pathological manifestations, such as allergies or asthma.
In order to relieve the respiratory symptoms of the animal, in addition to the medicinal measures you can try to have the animal inhale the appropriate essential oils, for example camomile oil. Careful removal of discharge and keeping the nose and eyes clean are also part of nursing care. If the animal shows a lack of appetite, try to motivate it to eat by giving it particularly desirable food. If the animal has difficulty swallowing due to inflammation in the mouth and throat, offer soft food if possible. If the cat refuses water, try to keep it hydrated with a bottle: The cat is thirsty, but swallowing is painful. If the disease has already progressed so far due to delayed treatment that the cat can no longer eat and drink on its own, artificial feeding and infusions are necessary. Don’t let it get that far: If it is detected and treated at an early stage, your cat has a good chance of recovering.

Is vaccination against cat flu useful?

Feline chlamydiosis is particularly common in kittens: unvaccinated cats are often affected by cat flu, especially if they have a lot of contact with other cats in a confined space. The mortality rate in kittens like this is unfortunately quite high. Strays are often contaminated with the pathogens; in cat colonies, cat flu spreads like an epidemic. If there is no possibility of having the animals vaccinated or examined, it is in your own interest to pay attention to hygiene. The treatment of cat flu can be extremely time-consuming and expensive due to vet fees and medication costs. With comprehensive vaccination protection, you can significantly reduce the risk of your cat getting sick: good prevention pays off!


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