Causative Agent:Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR) is caused by a herpes virus that infects the respiratory tract of the cat. This virus often causes problems that look similar to other infections like feline calicivirus and Chlamydia psittaci. It usually takes 2-6 days after the initial exposure before clinical signs begin.
Clinical Signs: Rhinotracheitis infections often cause a fever, discharge from the eyes and nose, and a lack of interest in food. A cat infected with FVR will have an inflamed and irritated nose (rhinitis), sinuses (sinusitis), and eyes (conjunctivitis). Some cats will suffer from ulcers in the mouth and eyes. Most of the time this infection is not life threatening unless young kittens are infected.
Disease Transmission: This virus is spread by direct contact with infectious material. This can occur through a sneeze or cough, or can happen when infected hands or equipment contact a susceptible animal. Cats infected with rhinotracheitis often shed the virus during times of stress.
Diagnosis: An initial diagnosis is often made based on clinical signs. To get an exact diagnosis, samples from the back of the mouth (oropharynx) are collected and sent in to a diagnostic laboratory for virus isolation and identification.
Treatment: The specific treatment depends on the signs that are involved. Initially a cat may require anti-histamine therapy, fluids, and rest, while some severe cases may require antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infections. Other cases may require treatment with an eye ointment/solution to prevent bacterial infections and drying. Cats with ulcers of the eye may require special eye solutions that help relieve pain, heal the eye, and prevent additional infections. Cats with difficulty breathing can benefit from a humidifier or being placed in a steam-filled bathroom. If the lesions in the mouth are severe, the cat may require a canned or very soft diet to help reduce the pain associated with trying to eat hard food.
Prevention: Like calicivirus, rhinotracheitis is a common component in most feline vaccine programs. An annual vaccination program that is established by a veterinarian and followed by the owner is the best prevention. Keeping the pet out of stressful situations like overcrowding and boarding, along with keeping the cat and away from sick animals, can greatly reduce the risk of disease.