Cat flu – signs, treatment and prevention
- Cat flu – signs, treatment and prevention
- Cause and pathogens – triggers for cat flu
- Physical characteristics and clinical signs – recognising cat flu
- Diagnosis – verifying cat flu at the vet’s
- Prognosis – prospects of recovering from cat flu
- Treatment – treating cat flu
- Home remedies for cat flu
- Medication for cat flu
- What to do if your cat has cat flu
- Preventing cat flu
- Cremation plans if cat flu is severe
- Cat flu – key questions and answers
Cat flu sounds quite harmless at first, but there is no comparing it to the common cold in us humans. If cat flu is not treated properly and in time, it can be fatal to your feline friend in severe cases. We have provided explanations below outlining how to recognise the symptoms, treat them correctly and prevent them before they even occur.
How does a cat end up infected with cat flu in the first place? Infected cats transmit the disease directly to other felines through the respiratory tract or their saliva. Cat flu is highly contagious and has a combination of symptoms, and is caused by feline herpes viruses and parasitic bacteria.
In very rare cases, humans can also act as intermediate hosts and transmit the viruses or bacteria to other cats. The viruses and bacteria attack cats’ mucous membranes and respiratory tract. The incubation period is usually between two and six days. Indoor cats are at a lower risk of infection than outdoor cats.
Physical characteristics and symptoms of the disease are:
- A runny nose
- Mucus and pus forming in the cat’s eyes, potentially even causing the eyes to become encrusted
- Mouth ulcers
- The disease is accompanied by severe coughing and sneezing
In more severe cases, other symptoms are present too:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Respiratory distress
- Fever (as an immune response)
Symptoms are not a clinical diagnosis. It is always advisable to consult a vet and get their expert opinion. If visiting the vet is not an option, you can take a swab from the cat’s mucous membranes. The culture can be examined for potential pathogens in the lab.
If your cat is steadily getting worse, examination by a vet is unavoidable. How the disease progresses depends on both how the pathogens attack and the cat’s immune system. Avoiding late complications is of the utmost importance. In a veterinary practice, the triggers of cat flu can be determined using special diagnostic methods.
By listening to the lungs and using the swab sample, vets can determine how the disease will progress and the type of infection. Once the examination is complete, the medication can be administered to cure the cat in question. Antibiotics are used to fight the bacteria. If the cat has difficulty swallowing or is underfed, the vet can provide the cat with intravenous fluids and nutrients.
If left untreated, cat flu can become a chronic condition. In severe cases, the disease can prove fatal to our feline friends. Often, both senior cats and kittens can suffer from a more severe bout of the flu. However, if the disease is recognised and treated in good time, the course is usually harmless and quickly cured. But the best protection comes from vaccination, which can be administered at kitten stage.
What remedies can be used to treat cat flu? Here, the approaches range from prevention and prescription medication to home remedies and alternative therapies. Some remedies are more or less effective depending on the progression or stage of the disease.
If it manifests as a harmless cold, the symptoms of cat flu disappear early. In more severe cases, the treatment can take several days. In any case, it is important to spare the cat any unnecessary suffering. A vet must be consulted if home remedies have no impact.
Generally speaking, simple home remedies can relieve the symptoms and help the recovery process. But home remedies are in no way a substitute for taking your cat to the vet. The following remedies help with the recovery process and relieve the symptoms of cat flu:
- Purée your cat’s favourite food so it can swallow the food
- Heat up your cat’s food to stimulate its appetite
- Avoid food containing carbs; this can irritate your cat’s stomach
- Use a damp, warm cloth to clear your cat’s nose and eyes of mucus and pus
- Regularly disinfect your hands and the areas your cat spends time in
- If your cat is willing to inhale saline solutions, doing so will have a soothing effect
Before we proceed any further, we’d like to point out that you must not administer medication intended for human use. Doing so may cause unpredictable side effects in your cat. The following types of medication are prescribed by vets for treating cat flu:
Antibiotics containing the active ingredient tetracycline are often used to treat a viral infection. The antibiotics fight the bacteria and are administered in the form of eye drops or tablets.
Immunoglobulins (antibodies) are proteins that are administered to fight the virus.
Feline interferon is an immunostimulatory protein that is also administered to fight the virus.
Chloramphenicol is what is known as a ‘broad-spectrum antibiotic’ that is successfully used against cat flu. But chloramphenicol is rarely used nowadays. Intake has certain risks and side effects, especially for young cats.
Fluoroquinolones have a similar success rate to chloramphenicol, but the risks to the cat have to be weighed up.
Your feline friend must remain quarantined indoors while it is suffering from cat flu. In a household with more than one cat, the sick cat must also be isolated from the others.
Avoid stress, since this has a negative effect on your cat. Allow your precious puss to rest and conserve its energy by avoiding vigorous activity and games.
Make sure your cat is eating and drinking enough. Its food portions should be smaller, but you can feed it more often depending on its condition.
Hygiene is important. Even you can be a carrier of the pathogens and infect other cats with cat flu. Wear a surgical mask and gloves if you are in direct contact with your cat, and disinfect your hands afterwards. If you do all these things, it shouldn’t be long until your feline friend is on the road to recovery.
The best way of preventing cat flu is vaccination. Vaccination against cat flu is recommended by vets. A vaccine can be given to kittens in the first few weeks of their life to establish basic immunisation.
Vaccination is considered a core component by the Standing Committee on Immunisation for Veterinary Medicine. The immune response reduces the risk of both infection and contagion, and alleviates any symptoms of illness too.
Households with multiple cats and cat breeders are advised to make sure their feline friends are given a cat flu booster once a year. Households with only one cat can also ensure it is given a booster at intervals of two to three years. But complete protection cannot be guaranteed despite vaccination. In any case, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Expensive treatment costs and severe courses of the disease are preventable.
If your cat is already on the older and weaker side, its recovery from illnesses and ailments will be slower. Every infection and every disease can end up being severe. There’s no point in being worried and fearful, because time spent together is precious.
Unfortunately, cats only are only our companions for a little while on our journey through life. Sooner or later, we have to deal with saying a final farewell to our feline friends. A cremation plan allows you to make all the financial and organisational preparations to say a final farewell to your four-legged friend at an early stage. Spend the time that’s left to you together without a care in the world. And, if the worst does happen, turn to the trusting team at ROSENGARTEN Pet Crematorium without a feeling a single ounce of stress.
We have once again provided questions and answers below, this time dealing with everything you need to know about cat flu.
How is cat flu transmitted?
Cat flu is usually transmitted through direct contact from infected pets. But, in exceptional cases, the pathogens are also transmitted through the mother’s milk, shared feeding bowls or humans as intermediate hosts. As soon as a sick cat sneezes or coughs, healthy cats end up infected with cat flu through flying droplets or secretions.
Can cat flu be transmitted to humans?
Cat flu is transmissible to humans, but you don’t need to worry about the disease. Bordetella bronchiseptica, a pathogenic bacterium, can infect people who share a household with cats. Humans can, in turn, transmit this pathogen to other cats, causing them to become ill with cat flu.
Can cats die from cat flu?
The cat flu mortality rate is very low. But young kittens, sick cats and immunocompromised seniors still fall under the high risk category. If the disease is not treated in time, affected and unvaccinated cats can die if they suffer a severe course of the disease.
Can cat flu be treated at home?
Cat flu cannot be cured without appropriate medication. This is why you must consult a vet as soon as your feline friend shows symptoms of cat flu.
How can you tell if the cat is healthy again?
You will be able to tell your cat is healthy by the fact that it will resume its usual behaviour. Your cat will become active again and stop coughing and sneezing. The symptoms of illness (such as a runny nose or eye discharge) are no longer present.