Feline rhinitis: a serious disease?

Surely you have already had a cold with a constantly running and reddened nose: rest, sufficient sleep and healthy herbal teas usually let the cold pass quickly. Unfortunately, the cat cold of our velvet paws is not so harmless: depending on the degree of the disease, they suffer from unpleasant nasal discharge or even very painful inflammation of the respiratory tract. Therefore, when it comes to cat colds, it's time to take your cat to the vet so that it can be treated effectively.

We tell you how to recognize cat flu, how to help your cat recover and how to protect your cat preventively.

What is feline rhinitis?

Cat cold, also called cat cold complex, generally stands for contagious diseases of the respiratory tract. Such infections are caused by various viruses and bacteria, for example:

  1. Herpes viruses: feline herpes virus (FHV) causes severe inflammation of the upper respiratory tract and conjunctiva. The virus remains latent even after recovery from feline rhinitis, so your cat can transmit this virus throughout its life. Stress and immune-inhibiting medications such as hydrocortisone can cause symptoms to reactivate.
  2. Caliciviruses: common among cats, feline calicivirus (FCV) affects the lower respiratory tract and ulcers form on the gums and tongue. Many cats remain asymptomatic, so the pathogen often goes undetected, increasing the range of transmission.
  3. Chlamydia: These bacteria infect the eyes of the velvet paws and cause conjunctivitis.
  4. Mycoplasma: These cell wall-less bacteria are often found in the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat) of cats. They also occur in healthy animals, but in many cases are not noticeable throughout the cat's life. In some cases, however, they attack their host quite suddenly, triggering feline rhinitis.
  5. Bordetellae: These pathogens (Bordetelles bronchiseptica) are also responsible for kennel cough in dogs and thus transmit across species. Especially in kittens, the pathogens can quickly trigger a tangible pneumonia.

Important: One of the mentioned pathogens can already be sufficient to promote an outbreak of cat cold. Mostly, however, several pathogens are responsible together.

Is cat cold contagious?

Yes, cats transmit the disease by smear infection, i.e. through their saliva and other excretions. If sick and healthy cats sniff each other or if a curious cat examines infected feces, the pathogens can quickly enter the organism. There is also an increased risk of infection in multi-cat households, catteries and cat houses of animal shelters. However, since the incubation period is only two to five days and thus the first symptoms appear early, an illness can usually be treated quickly.

Our tip: The bacterial pathogens of cat flu are zoonoses and may therefore also be transmitted to cat owners. Therefore, if your pet is positively diagnosed, take strict hygiene measures and regularly disinfect furniture and hands. If you notice a change in your cat's health, it is best to consult your family doctor.

Recognize cat cold: 13 possible symptoms of the disease.

While a purely viral infection usually causes mild symptoms at first, the disease in combination with a secondary bacterial infection (i.e. when a bacterial infection is added to the viral infection), on the other hand, is often severe and may even have life-threatening consequences. These 13 symptoms are typical features of feline rhinitis:

mild symptoms:

  1. thin eye and nose discharge
  2. reddened eyes

severe symptoms:

  1. viscous, yellow eye and nose discharge
  2. ulcers in the oral mucosa
  3. breathing difficulties
  4. increased sneezing
  5. cough
  6. conjunctivitis

dangerous symptoms:

  1. Apathy
  2. reluctance to eat
  3. weight loss
  4. fever
  5. inflamed respiratory tract
  6. pneumonia

Is it possible to treat cat cold?

If cat cold is detected early, the veterinarian will generally prescribe anti-inflammatory antibiotics that kill all bacteria. The antibiotic is usually given in tablet form: these are good to feed with some liverwurst and soft treats or to add to meals.

If symptoms are severe, veterinarians usually swab the mucous membranes and prepare bacteriological cultures. This allows them to prescribe a specific antibiotic that is just right.

If bacteria are not the cause of the disease, the responsible viruses are determined via PCR detection. However, the treatment of a viral infection is generally difficult, as no targeted drugs are available to combat the viruses. Therefore, veterinarians usually treat with immunostrengthening preparations to activate the defenses of the cat and strengthen them in the long term.

How can I support my cat?

If your cat suffers from cat cold, you can support its recovery with a few simple steps:

  • Offer her enough to drink and check whether she absorbs liquid.
  • Sick cats often have little appetite and tend to be reluctant to eat. Therefore, it is best to give your cat high-quality food with a lot of nutritional value. In this way, you will strengthen your kitten's immune system, even with low food intake.
  • If your kitty refuses to eat completely, you can gently squirt cat paste or cat cream into her mouth.
  • Clean the eyes and nose regularly with a saline solution or boiled water. In addition, you can sparingly apply petroleum jelly as needed. This will soften incrustations on the nose and make them easier to loosen.

What should I pay attention to in case of an infection?

If you care for your kitten lovingly and attentively, you are already doing her a lot of good. With these 3 rules you offer your velvet paw in addition the necessary rest and protect it as well as its kind comrades:

  1. House arrest: free-rangers become a house cat during the treatment at best.
  2. Quarantine: In a multi-cat household it makes sense to separate the healthy cats from the sick animal - if it is possible - or to limit the contact to the most necessary. In this way, infection is not completely excluded, but the risk is significantly reduced.
  3. Monitoring: In case of sudden changes in behavior, acute shortness of breath, extreme weight loss and dehydration, it is best to drive to the vet immediately.

How dangerous is cat cold?

If cat cold is detected early and treated in time, the four-legged friends usually recover completely from the disease. Especially animals in their "prime" between 2 and 8 years usually recover uncomplicatedly and quickly with appropriate treatment.

However, in kittens and immunocompromised senior cats or if symptoms are left untreated, the disease can develop drastically, possibly leaving consequential damage such as

  • eye damage
  • complete blindness
  • bone loss at the root of the nose
  • chronic rhinitis
  • chronic respiratory diseases

In the worst case, cat flu can even be fatal. As a responsible cat owner, it is better to take your pet to the vet once more than to put up with complications.

How can I prevent cat cold?

Since the cat cold complex is linked to a variety of pathogens, there is no one hundred percent protection. However, vaccination is the best prevention to protect your furry friend from getting sick. The guideline for the vaccination of small animals of the StIKo Vet (Standing Commission on Vaccination in Veterinary Medicine) recommends the regular vaccination against

  • the feline herpes virus,
  • the feline calicivirus and
  • the feline panleukopenia virus.

Basic immunization includes three vaccinations, first at 8 weeks of age and then at 12 and 16 weeks of age. Depending on how the cat is kept and how strong its immune system is, the vaccination is then boostered every year or at least every three years.

There is no general obligation to vaccinate cats, but since the mortality rate due to cat flu is very high, especially in unvaccinated kittens, at least basic vaccination in the first weeks of life is advisable. Outdoor cats should be vaccinated regularly. In this way you prevent infection by strays and at the same time protect other cats from other households.

Conclusion: As you can see, an infection with cat flu can never be ruled out, but it rarely takes a dramatic course. If you act responsibly and have your pelt nose treated early, your velvet paw will quickly be fit again.

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