January 2009 Issue

Upper Respiratory Disease

What looks like a routine case of the sniffles can turn into something far worse for your cat. Here's how to protect her.

Indications that your cat is experiencing a viral infection of its upper respiratory tract — which includes its nose, sinuses, pharynx and larynx — are similar to those that trouble you when you catch a cold: watery eyes, runny nose, wheezing, sneezing and coughing. Just as you are likely to be completely and permanently rid of your cold within a week or so, a cat, in most instances, will also get over the clinical signs of disease within a few days. In some cases, however, serious complications can occur. About 80 percent of feline upper respiratory infections are caused by either of two viruses: feline herpesvirus (FHV), also known as feline rhinotracheitis virus (FRV); and feline calicivirus (FCV). A third and far less frequent cause of upper respiratory infections in cats is Chlamydophilia felis, a bacterial agent. "All three of these organisms are very specific to cats," says Dr. Richard Goldstein, an associate professor of small animal medicine at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. None of these disease agents, he notes, is transmissible to humans or dogs.

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