Friday, April 11, 2008

what to do about the cat flu

The first thing to do is to take your cats along to the vet for a check up. The vet will also be able to advise you about vaccination programmes, care of your cats etc.

Cat flu (Feline Infectious Respiratory Disease) is a very infectious disease caused by two viruses (feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus) and it has an incubation period of 2 ¿ 10 days.

The severity of the disease varies between individuals but the clinical signs appear to be more severe in very young or old cats and in pure-bred cats, such as Siamese.

Initially, the affected cat sneezes a lot, and has runny eyes and nose. The cat may then go off its food, with a fever and general depression. The eyes and nose can become ulcerated.

The affected cat may salivate excessively, cough and lose its voice. A secondary bacterial infection can result in a very thick nasal and eye discharge.

About 80 per cent of recovered cats are viral carriers of feline herpes virus. Half of these will shed the virus to their environment spontaneously, but it is most likely to happen after stress, such as going into a cattery.

There is a time gap between the stress and the shedding, and usually happens one to two weeks after the stressful incident. The total probable infectious period after stress is about three weeks.

With feline calicivirus, the virus is shed almost continuously and carrier cats are therefore always infectious to other cats. In some cats, this carrier state lasts for their whole life, in others they appear to eliminate the virus spontaneously.

However, the management measures differ according to the circumstances and the best thing to do is to try and get a copy of Feline and Canine Infectious Diseases, by RM Gaskell and M Bennett (ISBN 0-632-03446-7) published by Blackwell Science.

This has an extensive chapter on Feline Infectious Respiratory Disease (pages 3 to 21) that will help you decide what is the best way to look after your cats.

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