Feline rhinotracheitis

Feline rhinotracheitis

Rhinotracheitis in kittens is a very common viral disease, especially in younger kittens. It affects the upper respiratory tract and is very contagious , curable if we treat it in time. Otherwise it can be fatal.

If you want to know a little more about this disease, we will show you how it is spread, what are the symptoms of rhinotracheitis and how to cure it.

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Symptoms of rhinotracheitis in cats

The presentation of rhinotracheitis in cats includes mild forms, which occur as a simple cold, and serious, in which the cat can die of starvation and dehydration .

This occurs more frequently in puppies, adult cats from stray colonies, which are not vaccinated and endure worse living conditions, or cats with previous illnesses or the elderly that will have a weakened immune system.

The clinical signs that a cat is suffering from rhinotracheitis are as follows: 

  • Abundant, purulent-looking nasal discharge that, when drying, forms a scab, plugging the nose.
  • Conjunctivitis manifested by intense yellowish discharge from the eye. The eyelids can stick together. It affects both eyes.
  • Difficulty swallowing, due to pain caused by inflammation of the trachea. – Some cats keep their necks stretched out in an attempt to breathe better.
  • Hypersalivation, because the cat cannot swallow well or has mouth lesions.
  • Anorexia, due to pain and loss of smell caused by mucus, the cat cannot eat.
  • Dehydration, because the cat cannot drink either.
  • Sneezing and coughing
  • Fever, although very severe and dehydrated cats may be hypothermic.
  • Wounds in the mouth.
  • Apathy.


What causes rhinotracheitis in kittens?

Rhinotracheitis is a viral disease caused by two types of viruses: herpesvirus and calicivirus . In a cat, both or only one of them can be present.

Herpesvirus usually produces more serious symptoms. Calicivirus causes less runny nose but is responsible for mouth ulcers that can be seen on the tongue, palate, and even the nose. Some strains of calicivirus cause lameness in kittens.

These viruses are transmitted through oral , nasal and eye secretions . The damage they produce in the body is taken advantage of by bacteria, which enter the body and give rise to secondary infections that will require antibiotic treatment.

Treatment for rhinotracheitis

As it is a viral disease, it has no cure, but we can treat its symptoms and strengthen the cat’s immune system so that it can control the virus.

Thus, the first thing is hydration, for which the administration of intravenous serum may be necessary. This implies admission to the veterinary clinic. Analgesia may also be given to relieve pain.

It is very important to clean the secretions that are going to dry around the eyes and nose , to promote the cat’s breathing and, in the case of the eyes, to allow the medication to penetrate well into the eyeball, since it goes away to prescribe antibiotic eye drops and oral antibiotic to combat secondary bacterial infections.

It should be known that, if the eyes are not treated, a corneal ulcer will develop that can lead to having to remove one or both eyes. These assumptions correspond to the most serious presentations of rhinotracheitis, with milder manifestations that do not require admission but do require treatment at home.

It is very important that the cat eats, for which we can use specific foods for convalescence , cans or his favorite food, which we can offer warm to make it more palatable.

Some will have to be helped using a syringe, always from the side so as not to cause choking. Antivirals do not seem to work very well with these viruses.

Avoid contagion. Is it possible?

If we have several cats and one is sick, the ideal would be to keep them separate, since, otherwise, contagion is likely, since it occurs from cat to cat. The feeders and the litter box must be for your exclusive use.

As these viruses can also be transmitted through contact with infected surfaces such as clothing or utensils , in which they survive up to a week, we must wash our hands well after handling the cat or, better, wear disposable gloves and change clothes.

How to prevent rhinotracheitis in cats

Since there is a vaccine against this disease , the best prevention is the implementation of a correct vaccination schedule. Vaccines do not guarantee complete protection but they do help the cat, if infected, to pass the disease in a milder way.

To summarize, vaccines present the virus to the body, trigger the reaction of the immune system and create memory, so that, if contact with the virus occurs naturally, the defenses are already prepared. As these viruses can occur in different strains, the vaccine tries to cover as many of them as possible.

The carriers

Even if a cat overcomes rhinotracheitis, herpesviruses remain in its body for life and can manifest itself again in times of stress , by reducing its defenses. The usual thing is that on these occasions the clinical picture is mild, with slight nasal and / or ocular discharge and sneezing.

Like cats with active disease, carriers shed the virus in their secretions during times of stress, and can infect other cats. Calicivirus, on the other hand, is excreted only for a time after recovery.


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