Sunday, June 16, 2013

Upper Respiratory Infections can be Mistaken for Allergies

by Amanda L Maus DVM
Tucson, AZ

Recognizing signs of an upper respiratory infection (URI) in cats can be confusing because the symptoms can be very similar to signs of allergies in people.  Cats often have a lot of sneezing and runny eyes when suffering from an URI.  Cats are very likely to be exposed to URIs when they are in the outdoors or in animal shelters around other cats.  Kittens can be especially susceptible to these infections due to their immature immune system.

Most of the URIs in cats are caused by two main viruses - Herpes and Calicivirus.  Luckily these viruses are not transmissible to people or dogs.  Like in people, Herpes can be forever, with cats having flare-ups, especially after stressful events. 

With mild cases, the disease will run its course with minimal symptoms over a week or so.  With moderate to severe cases, the cat may have a decreased appetite or fever.  Some cats will have such severe sinus congestion that they may have trouble breathing or sneeze blood.  Other cats may start squinting their eye(s) which indicates pain, as in cases with corneal ulcers. In addition, some cats' eyes may be red or swollen with yellowish green discharge.  Cats with any of these advanced symptoms should be evaluated by a veterinarian.  Prescription antibiotics may be needed if a primary or secondary bacterial infection is suspected.  Eye medication may also be necessary.

After your cat has recovered from the initial infection, watch for signs of recurrence, which helps determine he or she probably has Herpes.  Confirming a Herpes infection can be done with lab testing but may be done indirectly by response to Lysine.  Lysine is a medication readily available in human and veterinary pharmacies.  This medication helps prevent the virus from replicating or reproducing in the cat which allows the flare-up to be resolved quicker. 


1 comment:

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