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C2005-16

Dear Christopher Cat

Both of my part-Siamese kittens, now 10 months old, have had chronic nasal discharge, and one has a runny eye. The veterinarian suggested that a herpes virus might be causing the problem. What can you tell me about this virus?

Christopher Responds

Feline herpesvirus is one of three pathogens that commonly cause upper respiratory infection in cats. The others are calicivirus and Chlamydia psittaci bacteria.

Kittens with upper respiratory infection exhibit the nasal and ocular discharge you’ve observed, as well as sneezing, loss of energy and appetite, and sometimes fever.

With supportive care, improvement usually is seen within a week.

However, as you’ve learned, these germs sometimes cause chronic problems.

For example, my brother Dougie has persistent sinus congestion and is unable to produce tears, probably a result of a severe, untreated herpesvirus infection when he was young.

Calicivirus can produce chronic gingivitis, and Chlamydia can lead to long-term conjunctivitis.

Your cats may be suffering from chronic sequelae of their upper respiratory infections. If so, they require only supportive care.

Alternatively, their immune systems may be suppressed, making it difficult for them to overcome their upper respiratory infections. Ask your veterinarian to test for the feline leukemia and immunodeficiency viruses, the two most common causes of immune suppression in cats.

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