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Herpes virus in the cat: symptoms and treatment [veterinarian's recommendations

Herpesvirus in a cat

Cat's nose is a very common disease, especially in young kittens, as well as in animals with concomitant chronic diseases or treated with glucocorticoids.

The disease is caused by several different pathogens, causing various clinical symptoms of varying severity. Not all pathogens that cause catarrh can be completely combated - after developing an illness and withdrawing the main clinical symptoms, the disease turns into a chronic or dormant (or latnet) form.

It belongs to such pathogens herpesvirus.

What the classic symptoms of an infection look like herpesvirus? Whether it is life-threatening for animals? And does every animal it comes into contact with herpesvirus will show clinical signs? How to care for a cat that shows signs of disease?

In the article below, I will describe the infections herpes virus in cats.

  • The cause of the disease
  • Herpesvirus in a cat, clinical signs
  • Latent infection
  • Diagnosis of herpes virus in a cat
  • Herpesvirus treatment in cats
  • Prevention of disease

The cause of the disease

Herpesvirus it is a microorganism that is often isolated from the feline body. It can inhabit its various areas - nose, conjunctiva, respiratory epithelium, but also the genital tract.

Infection occurs during contact with sick animals, especially with secretions from the nose, eyes, respiratory tract. Kittens most often get infected from their mothers during the daily care procedures. The pathogen can also be transferred to blankets, lairs and hands of the owner. Infection can also occur when sharing cat bowls or litter boxes.

The most susceptible to infections are kittens, around 3-8 weeks of age, chronically ill animals (carriers of FIV, FeLV) and cats staying in large groups of animals (animal farms, shelters).

Cats are attacked by the feline herpesvirus type 1, known as FHV-1. It belongs to the enveloped viruses that contain DNA.

The pathogen is quite resistant to environmental conditions, at low temperatures, without exposure to light, it can retain the ability to become infected for months. In warmer temperatures, above 17 degrees Celsius, it dies in minutes. However, it is not very resistant to disinfectants, disinfectants and UV rays.

Herpesvirus in a cat, clinical signs

Herpes virus in a cat symptoms

Rarely, herpesvirus occurs as a single pathogen, most often its infection is additionally complicated by chlamydia, calicivirus and various bacteria, including the physiological flora.

The infection and the development of disease symptoms occur 2-7 days after contact with the pathogen. The infection itself may last 10-14 days, but complications after the disease may last longer. In some animals, clinical signs may not develop - such cats become asymptomatic seeders.

Clinical symptoms can be divided into two main groups - ophthalmological and concentrated in the respiratory system, both groups can occur simultaneously.

Herpesvirus mainly causes infections of the upper respiratory tract. The virus attacks the epithelial cells of the nasal mucosa, causing increased mucus production, sneezing and severe irritation.

There is a discharge from the nose, first serous, and then (after a bacterial complication) - purulent or muco-purulent.

As the disease progresses, the mouth and throat become infected. The gums become sore and swollen, as is the back of the throat.

Occasionally, on the cheek mucosa there may appear small, vesicular lesions filled with serous fluid. The lesions do not involve the tongue (unlike calicivirosis).

Swallowing is quite difficult and the entire mouth becomes sore. The large amount of discharge in the nasal cavities and the difficulty in breathing make the cat's sense of smell significantly worsen.

Loss of smell combined with sore mouth makes the cat refuse to eat, reluctant to drink water, not at all interested in food intake. In severe cases, the disease can lead to cachexia and death of the animal.

Another symptom of herpes virus infection are infections and damage to the eyeball, so:

  • conjunctivitis,
  • keratitis,
  • anterior uveitis,
  • eyeball ulcers.

The initial symptom is swelling of the conjunctiva and increased production of tears - the eyes become moist, watery, severe hyperemia and swelling of the conjunctiva are noticeable. The third eyelid may be protruding.

The cat may feel photophobia, blinks its eyes, and avoids going out into sunlit places.

In combination with severe swelling and the constantly increasing amount of discharge, the eyelids may stick together. A large amount of discharge and bacterial complications can lead to corneal ulceration, and severe itching in this area, caused by sticky eyelids, a large amount of discharge on the eyelashes, and the swelling of the conjunctiva causes animals to damage the eyeball by rubbing their eyes with their paws.

Herpes virus infection is especially dangerous in breeding, pregnant cats. It causes a weakening of the function of the placenta, weaker blood flow through the placenta, as a result, it may lead to miscarriage and death of embryos inside the uterus.

Surviving kittens are born weak, small, and show poor life functions.

They very often die at an early age.

They are also prone to all kinds of infections and infections.

Occasionally there may be a so-called self-limitation of the disease. About 10-14 days after the onset of the first clinical symptoms, they begin to spontaneously resolve.

Such cats become carriers of the virus and any decrease in immunity may cause disease symptoms to recur. Symptoms include mainly previously infected areas (i.e. if the infection mainly affected the eyes - there will be an outflow from the conjunctival sac, if it showed symptoms from the respiratory system - the cat may start coughing).

Latent infection

As I mentioned above, it is not always possible to completely eliminate the presence of herpes virus from the cat's organism after getting a cat runny nose. Studies report that after infection, the virus colonizes the trigeminal ganglia until the end of a cat's life in almost 97% of infected animals. Only about 3-8% of animals are able to completely control the microorganism.

In many cases, the disease passes into a latent phase, i.e. a latent infection. During a latent infection, the animal may show mild-looking clinical signs throughout its life, or periodically, in the event of a decline in immunity, caused for example by severe stress or a coexisting disease, it may show slightly more severe disease symptoms.

The most common symptom of latent herpesvirus infection is mild gingivitis with no apparent cause (no plaque, tartar or malocclusion that irritate the gingival mucosa).

Breath becomes stale, cat is reluctant to eat dry food, may avoid biting one more painful side of the mouth, and avoid ingestion of water.

His body weight is losing, in addition, the cat shows reluctance to care - his coat is sticky, dull, tangles appear.

The condition can worsen when plaque and calculus build up on the teeth.

Herpesvirus may also affect the relaxation of the alveolar ligaments, and the constant inflammation in the oral cavity promotes the development of resorptive erosions and the development of periodontal diseases. The situation is quite dangerous, because many caregivers do not pay due attention to the condition of oral hygiene, and they report to the doctor only when the symptoms are really strongly expressed.

Early dental intervention may, however, slow down the development of more serious diseases.

Another symptom of latent infection may be a continuous serous discharge from the conjunctival sac.

After catarrh catarrh disease, changes in the structure of the eyeball often occur - conjunctival adhesions appear, the nasolacrimal canal may also be narrowed, or its patency may be completely lost. Excess tears do not drain properly from the conjunctival sac through a tubule, which makes the area around the eyelids slightly moist all the time.

Sticky and wet hair can cause chafing, which in turn creates great conditions for the development of microorganisms that can cause inflammation of the skin of the eyelids and the facial part of the skull.

Diagnosis of herpes virus in a cat

The diagnosis is usually made on the basis of fairly characteristic clinical symptoms.

Due to the prevalence of asymptomatic infections, virus transmission by healthy cats and limited shedding in some phases of infection, laboratory tests are at high risk of false-positive and false-negative results. However, there are laboratory tests that can confirm the infection.

For tests, usually a conjunctival swab is taken in the case of ophthalmic symptoms, a nasal swab in the case of a runny nose, or a swab from the genital tract (in the case of abortions or ineffective mating of breeding cats). Blood sampling and antibody titre testing is not a recommended test - a false-positive result can be obtained in cats that have been vaccinated regularly.

Herpesvirus treatment in cats

Herpesvirus treatment in cats

An important aspect of treatment is adequate knowledge of the course of the infection. Medicines used in therapy are designed to reduce the activity of the virus, not its complete elimination - it is impossible.

Treatment is based on the improvement of the patient's health, reduction of clinical symptoms, but it is impossible to completely cure the infection caused by herpesvirus.

Primary treatment should include the control of clinical symptoms.

In the case of mainly ophthalmic symptoms, the sick animal should be administered drop preparations, limiting the risk of bacterial complications. The eye area should be subject to special hygiene - regular use of disinfectants and removal of any remaining secretions is key in reducing bacterial complications.

It is recommended to use moisturizing preparations (herpesvirus causes impairment of the function of goblet cells in the conjunctiva, it disturbs the quality of the tear film - the eye is not properly moistened), preferably with hyaluronic acid or panthenol.

The cat should wear a protective collar throughout the treatment so as not to cause mechanical damage to the eyeball with sharp claws. It is worth noting that, which is often not enough, an ordinary collar is not enough, because cats are looking for protruding elements, edges, horns to rub their itchy eye against them. It is then necessary to use a specialized ophthalmic collar with a frame at the front.

Once excessive tearing has subsided, regular eye checkups are important to ensure that the nasolacrimal tubules are not narrowed or obstructed.

Symblepharon, i.e. the adhesions of the conjunctiva with the cornea, eyelids and sclera, is a dangerous complication after the disappearance of clinical symptoms. They prevent the correct opening of the eyelids, block the nasolacrimal canals, and can also cause corneal clouding and even perforation of the eyeball.

In the event of adhesion, surgical intervention and separation of connected tissues may be considered, but this procedure carries a high risk of failure - adhesions may reappear after surgery.

In the event of respiratory symptoms, it is important to introduce systemic antibiotics to limit the bacterial complications of the infection.

The most commonly used preparations are amoxicillin with clavulanic acid or tetracyclines. It is important to use a thinning agent to help in expectoration and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents to reduce fever. Inhalations from physiological fluid can be very helpful.

It is important to use antiviral and virostatic drugs that reduce the activity of the virus in the infected tissues.

Positive effects can also be brought by the use of agents that increase immunity (preparations based on beta-glucan). In the case of viral infections, the use of lysine preparations is recommended.

A large amount of arginine is required for the herpesvirus to multiply. However, it is impossible to limit its consumption. Lysine competes with arginine for a place in proteins, so its daily use limits the multiplication of the herpes virus.

A very important aspect is feeding a sick animal. As mentioned above, a sick cat has a much weaker appetite due to sore mouth and a weakened sense of smell. Food for a cat fighting infection should be tasty, warmed up (and therefore more aromatic) and finely chopped so that it does not require a lot of involvement of the chewing apparatus.

In cases of extreme reluctance to eat, force feeding is recommended, preferably high-energy food. The cat's dehydration should be monitored and, if necessary, appropriate fluid therapy should be given.

In treating a herpes virus infection, it is very important to ensure a calm environment and minimize stress. The disease activates in times of stress and decreases in immunity. For particularly sensitive cats, it is recommended to use a pheromone collar or sedatives during the therapy.

Prevention of disease

Can the disease be prevented?

Regular vaccinations must be observed to prevent infection. Unfortunately, even getting an infection does not protect against re-infection - in the case of infection caused by herpesvirus, the cellular response and local immunity of the mucous membranes are very important, and in some cats - convalescents there are even no antibodies in the serum.

As mentioned above, the virus can also cause latent infections. Young kittens should be vaccinated at 9 weeks of age. The cat should be vaccinated again after 3-4 weeks. If a kitten grew up in an environment with a history of herpes virus infection, the vaccination should be additionally repeated at 6-7 months of age. Revaccination should be carried out once a year. Vaccines contain a live, attenuated (or inactivated) virus, so it is not recommended to routinely vaccinate pregnant cats.

In order to limit the spread of infections in breeding farms, it is recommended that female kittens raise kittens in an enclosure that is isolated from the rest of the herd. This reduces the stress on the mother and the amount of pathogens in the immediate vicinity of young animals. Restriction of contact should continue until the young animals are vaccinated.

An important aspect of prevention is to reduce stress in elderly cats or cats that have weakened immunity (for example, carriers of FeLV and FIV). If there is a moment of stress in the cat's life, for example, the departure of the owners and the care of a stranger, it is worth strengthening the cat's immunity by administering beta glucan or lysine preparations for 2-3 weeks.

As I mentioned, the use of silencing or pheromone preparations can be helpful. When introducing new animals to a herd of cats, a 2-week quarantine period should be applied.

Sources used >>

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