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This is not an easy discussion for either the vet or the owner of the cat. However, all giggling aside, this virus is very common to cats. Let me get a few facts squared away upfront:
This virus is everywhere. It can be spread from cat to cat. The most common form of this virus manifests as a cold. Cats, usually young kittens, will develop an upper respiratory infection. They will sneeze. They will have runny eyes. They will look pathetic. An owner routinely brings the kitten into the vet because they have just gotten the kitten and now it’s sick. Vets realize that as a virus, there is not much that we can do except help the pet while the virus runs its course. The typical length of clinical signs (how long the kitten is sick) is 10 - 14 days. The only time medications are used is if a kitten is open-mouth breathing, its mucus is colored or there is a scratch on its eyes. FHV is very similar to another common kitten virus called Calicivirus. Both viruses cause upper respiratory infections (sneezing, runny eyes, drooling, trouble breathing, etc.). However, we tend to consider FHV more when the eyes/nose are involved as opposed to Calicivirus, when the nose/mouth (with ulcers) are involved. Both viruses can be confirmed by running a test on a swab from the inside of the eye (conjunctival scrape). In rare instances, a strain of FHV is considered the likely cause in Fading-Kitten Syndrome. This is when normal, healthy kittens rapidly decompensate and die shortly after birth.
Like other Herpes Viruses, FHV can live in the nerves of a cat and come out (causing illness) at times of stress. For some owners, listening to the fact that they must keep their cats stress free can be a challenge. From a cat’s standpoint, stresses can include new pets in the home, owners' vacation, loss of a housemate, relocating to a new home, construction in the home, rearranging furniture — even just looking at the cat. Vaccinationwith the FVRCP can help to prevent the disease. However, therapy after exposure is focused on preventing future outbreaks. Cats cannot tolerate the antiviral drugs that people take for the human Herpes virus. Instead, cats can be giving L-Lysine, an amino acid (or building block of protein,) which theoretically prevents Herpes from reproducing. If the cats have ocular ulcers or Keratitis, then topical antiviral eye drops, like Cidofovir or Idoxuridine can be applied. Recently, there has been success in treating these cats with Famciclovir orally, to reduce the duration of outbreaks. Finally, have I mentioned that humans can’t get Herpes from their cats? So there is no reason to be embarrassed if your vet tells you that your cat has Herpes!
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The information contained on this site is general in nature and is intended for use as an informational aid. It does not cover all possible uses, actions, precautions, side effects, or interactions of the medications shown, nor is the information intended as medical advice or diagnosis for individual health problems or for making an evaluation as to the risks and benefits of using a particular medication. You should consult your doctor about diagnosis and treatment of any health problems. Information and statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration ("FDA"), nor has the FDA approved the medications to diagnose, cure or prevent disease.
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