5 Types of Cat Viruses Spotting the Symptoms and Getting Treatment

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There are many viruses that can plague your cat's health. However, there are some that have become the most common. It is important to learn what these viruses are and how they can be prevented, diagnosed, and treated if necessary.

Sure, your cat may impress when it comes to catching their favorite toy — an arching leap into a quick capture; but that’s not the only thing they can catch with ease. Unfortunately, with the thousands of cat viruses out there, he or she is liable to catch one.

Fortunately, knowing the symptoms of these five viruses, their causes, and how to best treat them can really make a difference when striving to keep your cat healthy and on their game. Here are 5 common viruses cats can catch.

1. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or FIV is a virus that compromises and weakens a cat’s immune system, in turn putting the cat at risk of catching other potentially fatal infections.

The most common include fever, fatigue, weight loss, and skin and respiratory infections. Vomiting, diarrhea, oral infections, and hair loss could also be signs a cat has contracted FIV.

FIV is typically transmitted from one cat to another through deep bite wounds, via saliva and blood. In rare cases though, it can be transmitted from mother cats to their kittens.

Since FIV is incurable, focus is placed on managing the condition through strengthening the immune system. Routine wellness visits every six months are essential, during which the veterinarian will gauge the strength of the cat’s immune system and possibly recommend antiviral medications, a change in diet, or supplements. You’ll need to be extremely proactive in treating new infections if they arise.

2. Feline Herpes (FVR)

Feline herpes or feline viral rhinopneumonitis (FVR) is a virus most cats come in contact with at some point during their lives. It is also one of the main causes of upper-respiratory infections in cats.

The most common include sneezing, nasal discharge and congestion, watery eyes, fever, and fatigue—all of which can last up to two weeks.

Feline herpes is often transmitted from an infected cat to another via bodily secretions, such as discharge from the eyes, nose, and mouth. Transmission rates are higher among cats who share litter boxes, water and food bowls, toys, and grooming tools. The virus can also be spread from a mother cat to her kitten during pregnancy.

Like FIV, feline herpes is incurable, so focus is placed on managing the condition. Antibiotics or antiviral medications are often prescribed to keep the virus from replicating. Additional medications will be recommended to address the discharge symptoms and limit discomfort. Keep in mind though, stress can trigger a flare up; so you’ll want to reduce any stressors currently present at home.

3.  Feline Leukemia (FeLV)

Feline leukemia is a blood virus that had initially been mistaken for a cancer, since it often attacks the bone marrow allowing cancers to take hold.

The most common include slow consistent weight loss, deterioration of fur, chronic diarrhea, enlarged lymph nodes, and seizures. However, these symptoms may not appear until months or years after initial infection.

Feline leukemia is highly contagious and transmitted from an infected cat to another via bodily secretions, such as saliva, phlegm, urine, and feces. Kittens born to infected mothers are extremely likely to contract the disease, especially during the nursing period.

Since feline leukemia is an incurable, terminal condition, treatment is focused on making the cat as comfortable as possible. Some veterinarians prescribe medications to extend the life of the cat, even though findings on the medications' effectiveness are inconclusive. Available treatments include ImmunoRegulin, Acemannan, Interferon Alpha, Lymphocyte T-Cell Immune Modulator, and Staph Protein A. It is important to find a veterinarian who will discuss in detail the options for treatment.

4. Feline Distemper (FPV)

Feline distemper or Feline Panleukopenia virus (FPV) is a highly contagious virus that targets the cells in the intestinal tract and bone marrow. It is rare that cats contract this virus since they are often vaccinated as kittens to protect against it. But in the unvaccinated cat population it can be very widespread.

The most common include fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue. Since those symptoms are quite common of other ailments, you’ll want to check in with your veterinarian to properly diagnose the condition. Feline distemper can be life-threatening.

Feline distemper is caused by the feline parvovirus. It is transmitted from an infected cat to another through bodily fluids such as blood, urine, feces, or possibly even fleas. The virus can be passed from surface to surface, including toys, bedding, grooming equipment, and feeding bowls.

Once contracted, many cats will not survive feline distemper, even with hospitalization. However, it has been shown that antibiotics can be a lifesaver, combating the virus in the intestines, as well as most secondary infections that often result. Such treatment can prevent the condition from progressing. Luckily, cats who survive feline distemper are then immune to the disease for life.

5. Feline Calicivirus (FCV)

Feline calicivirus is a virus responsible for a number of upper respiratory, oral, and eye infections in cats. At least 40 different strains of the virus have been detected, all varying in severity.

The most common include sneezing, nasal congestion, discharge from the eyes and nose, as well as ulcers on the tongue, gums, lips or nose, and excessive drooling. Fever, fatigue, and enlarged lymph nodes may also be present.

Feline calicivirus is highly contagious and is transmitted from an infected cat to another via bodily secretions, typically saliva, or eye and nose discharge, that hits the air during sneezing fits. It’s also thought to be spread through contact with urine and feces. The virus can live on objects such as a toy, feeding bowl, and bedding for up to a week. Even if a human touches these objects they can spread the virus to a healthy cat.

When treating feline calicivirus, you’re actually treating the symptoms and secondary infections. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatories will likely be prescribed. The vet may also recommend supplements to strengthen the immune system. At home, use of a humidifier can ease congestion and increased fluids can help avoid possible dehydration.

More on Cat Health

All About Cat Examinations - What to Expect at a Vet Visit
What Can Affect a Cat's Lifespan
5 Common Cat Problems and Health Issues

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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