Feline herpesvirus

  • In this article we will talk about the treatment of feline herpesvirus.
    Let’s look at antibiotics, eye drops, antivirals, increased humidity, and lysine as a means of treating feline herpes virus.

Cats can catch colds just like people. The vast majority of these upper respiratory infections are viral in nature, with the main culprit being feline herpesvirus . Once exposed to the virus, there is an incubation period of two to five days, after which, cats develop clinical signs. A variety of signs are possible: sneezing is by far the most common and watery eyes , stuffy nose, congested breathing, decreased appetite, and general lethargy are also often present.

Treatment of feline herpesvirus is primarily aimed at controlling symptoms. Adult cats with mild symptoms (a little sneezing, a slight runny nose and eye, lack of lethargy, or loss of appetite) may not require any specific treatment other than tight control. As with humans, most cats with colds recover on their own at home within a week or two.

Treatment of feline herpesvirus

While viral upper respiratory infections often cause conjunctivitis (inflammation of the tissues around the eyes; in humans we often call this ‘pink eye’), feline herpesvirus is known for its ability to cause more serious eye problems , in particular, corneal ulcers. The cornea is full of pain receptors and cats with corneal irritation from herpesvirus are uncomfortable.

To prevent permanent damage to the eyes , corneal ulcers that occur due to the feline herpes virus require treatment, usually with antiviral eye drops . This is labor-intensive, as most antiviral drops need to be administered four to six times a day to be as effective as possible. As you can imagine, cats don’t enjoy this.

When to make antivirals part of feline herpes virus treatment

Although most cats recover from their viral respiratory infection on their own, persistent cases can benefit from antiviral medications . The antiviral drug famciclovir , given twice a day, has been shown to be safe and effective in both adult cats and kittens. When given in the proper dose, therapeutic levels of famciclovir will be achieved in the tears and bloodstream, helping to speed up the resolution of any symptoms affecting the eyes.

Unfortunately, antiviral drugs can be expensive, and getting the right dose with famciclovir tablets can be difficult . Having the compounded drug in a flavored liquid can allow for more accurate dosing; however, famciclovir has a bitter taste that can be difficult to swallow.

Increase humidity to treat feline herpesvirus

Cats with feline herpesvirus infection often have nasal congestion, and increasing humidity is a good tool in treating feline herpesvirus . Take the cat to the bathroom and run the hot water in the shower to make the bathroom very steamy. Let the cat sit in the steam room for 10-15 minutes, twice a day. Most of my clients are happy to do this for their cat, and many find it helpful. Runny nose and eyes, when dry, can irritate the skin under it.

Gently wipe the nasal or eye discharge that accumulates with a damp tissue . Because cats with a runny nose can have an impaired sense of smell, I advise clients to feed their cat very tasty , strong-smelling food. Herpes viruses remain in the body forever, and once symptoms have resolved, cats remain carriers for life. The virus remains dormant in the body, but can periodically reappear when the cat’s immune system is suppressed. During these times, cats can show symptoms again and can be contagious to other cats.

Does lysine work in the treatment of feline herpesvirus?

Many veterinarians have prescribed (and continue to prescribe) the amino acid lysine as an adjunct therapy for the treatment of feline herpes virus, believing that lysine accelerates the resolution of the infection and may help prevent future infections . However, several clinical studies have shown that lysine is not effective for the prevention or treatment of feline herpesvirus infection, and many veterinarians have stopped prescribing it. Personally, I’m on the fence.

Despite the lack of scientific evidence, I have some clients who trust it, and they tell me that the moment they stop giving lysine, the symptoms return. Lysine veterinary products are available in many forms, and the oral gel and chicken liver flavored treats are highly palatable. While it’s certainly not one of my first-line treatments, if a client wants to try lysine, I won’t put them off, especially if the cat enjoys the taste of it.

 

 

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