Question: My 10-year-old cat, Stella, has developed a nasal discharge and sneezes a lot. Could this be a sign of cat flu and how should this be addressed?
Answer: The most obvious symptoms of cat flu are fever, sticky eyes, corneal ulcers, conjunctivitis, sneezing, clear or thick nasal discharge, ulcerations of the mouth and tongue, joint pain, loss of appetite and dehydration.
Get Stella examined by a vet.
The diagnosis is mainly based on history, physical examination, swabs and symptoms.
The most common causes of cat flu are due to Feline Herpes Virus (FHV), Feline Calicivirus Virus (FCV), Feline Reovirus, Bordetella Bronchiseptica, and feline Chlamydophila (Chlamydophila felis).
FHV and FCV are the most common causes.
FHV, also known as Feline Virus Rhinotracheitis, is more serious.
Transmission of the illness to other cats is mainly through direct contact, or indirectly through contaminated food bowls, bedding, etc.
Wash your hands properly and change your clothes after handling your cat.
A cat displaying symptoms of cat flu should be isolated, with separate food bowls and litter trays.
Most viruses are susceptible to disinfectants but check with your vet as some disinfectants can be an irritant to cats.
Treatment includes antiviral drugs, antibiotic therapy to protect from secondary bacterial infection and supportive care, where your vet will also be able to advise you on the correct course of treatment for your cat.
You may also be advised to increase your cat’s fluid intake to treat dehydration and shown how to clear the discharge from his eyes and nose.
Encouraging your cat to eat and drink is also extremely important.
If he is not showing an interest in his regular food, most vet clinics stock high-calorie products in paste form for sick and recuperating cats.
Regular vaccinations are also important in preventing your pet from falling prey to cat flu.
Dr Hansel Geo is a veterinary consultant and surgeon for the BSPCA. Please send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.