This is one of the questions that El Port Veterinarios in Altea we receive most often, but the answer is not as simple as it might seem.
What is feline influenza?
Cats, like humans are prone to upper respiratory tract infections and “feline influenza” is the generic name for this disease in the feline world. It is important to know that it is not a zoonotic disease so it is not contagious to humans.
Among cats, the main cause is a virus and the two most common viruses responsible for almost 90% of all infections are: feline calicivirus (FCV) and feline herpesvirus (FHV). Less frequently, bacteria can also be behind a general infection and the two most common bacterial diseases are: Bordetella bronchiseptica and Chlamydophila felis.
In most countries, the standard vaccination protocol provides immunity against these two common viral causes.
How does infection occur in cats?
Cats become infected through contact with other cats that are actively infected and spreading the disease or with cats that are invisible “carriers” of the virus. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the disease, once a cat is infected, it becomes a “carrier”.
This means that it can spread viral (or less frequently bacterial) particles and spread the disease, even if it has not shown any clinical symptoms. The exact period of time during which you can harbor this “carrier” status is still unknown, but it can last anywhere from weeks to years.
Infection can also occur through contact with objects that have been exposed to the infection, e.g. hands that have not been properly washed or dishes that have not been cleaned. Therefore, hygiene is vital to prevent the spread of the disease.
Symptoms of feline influenza
The clinical symptoms of feline influenza can appear suddenly or persist for a long period of time. Also, they can wax and wane depending on the cat’s immunity status, level of stress and level of contact with other cats.
The classic symptoms of this illness include fever, sternness, runny nose, conjunctivitis, loss of appetite and occasionally mouth ulcers or cough depending on the cause.
If you detect one of these symptoms in your cat, it is very important that you isolate him from other cats and make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Diagnosis of feline influenza
Generally the veterinarian will diagnose feline influenza based on a complete physical examination, the cat’s vaccination history, recent stressful events and any contact with other cats.
Specific tests can be carried out to identify the specific cause, but these are usually reserved for critical or long-term cases or outbreaks, for example, in cat shelters.
Treatment of cat flu
Although the clinical symptoms usually disappear on their own, in the same way as with human colds or flus, the veterinarian will provide the appropriate treatment.
Antibiotics are usually administered to prevent secondary infections, and the veterinarian may also indicate the best way to treat the cat in these conditions in the short and long term. This will include appropriate hygienic measures, such as thorough cleaning and disinfection of his room.
Prevention of cat flu
El Port Veterinarios always recommends the vaccination and proper hygiene as the best ways of prevention.
Systematic vaccination during the cat’s infancy helps to strengthen the animal’s immunity against infections. However, if the cat is already a carrier of one of the virus or has an active infection, vaccination will not be as effective.
Controlling stress, maintaining your cat’s health and providing a complete and balanced diet are other key preventive measures to strengthen your cat’s immune system and reduce the risk of disease.
If you have any questions on this or any other topic to help keep our pets healthy, don’t hesitate to contact them.
El Port Veterinary Clinic
Calle La Mar, 159, Altea – 03590 (Alicante)
Phone: +34 966 880 612