Treating a Cat's Respiratory Infection


Cats, like humans, can come down with the common cold. However, a minor cold can turn into an upper respiratory infection and if not treated, can result in hospitalization or more chronic cat health problems such as gingivitis, conjunctivitis or chronic breathing difficulties. Knowing what the symptoms are and how to treat a respiratory infection are crucial for effective cat health care.

Ninety percent of feline upper respiratory infections are caused by either Feline Herpes (also called the "Rhinotracheitis" virus) or Feline Calicivirus. These infections can last up to 10 days and can be recurring despite treatment. Typically, cats from a shelter, outdoor cats, Persians and kittens are at the highest risk for getting an infection. The infection can be spread through direct contact via eye, nasal and mouth discharges or through indirect contact such as food bowls or bedding. Although it is not possible for you to contract an infection from your cat, respiratory infections are highly contagious amongst other felines.

Your cat may have an upper respiratory infection if these symptoms are present: sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, cough, ulcers, fevers or a hoarse meow. Cats infected with the calicivirus may start to shed continuously and in huge amounts. If your cat has a loss of appetite, serious congestion, high fever and extreme listlessness, your cat will need hospitalization so that your cat's health can be monitored and more powerfully treated.

Treatment for an upper respiratory infection usually involve antibiotics, which doesn't affect the virus, but attacks secondary bacterial infections. Tetracycline is normally the most popular antibiotic. Your vet may also prescribe nose drops for congestion relief. For cats who are more predisposed to upper respiratory infections, you may decide to opt for a vaccination. There are two types of vaccines: nasal and injectable. With the injectable vaccine, you can choose to have your cat vaccinated for distemper, herpesvirus, calicivirus, and Chlamydophila felis or just for distemper, herpesvirus, and calicivirus. Some prefer to have their cat vaccinated with a nasal injection which seems to provide protection more rapidly. Vaccination can cause side effects in a small number of cats, so it is important to discuss any cat health risks with your veterinarian before making a decision.

To prevent your cat from getting an upper respiratory infection, there are several things you can do. Keeping your cat indoors is the best way to minimize exposure to other cats. Minimizing stress, keeping up to date on vaccines and regular veterinary exams are also ways to strengthen overall cat health. If handling multiple cats, always practice good hygiene and wash your hands thoroughly. By implementing preventive measures, you can be assured that your cat will have a healthy immune system to fight against infection and minimize cat health problems in the future.

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