Upper respiratory tract infections are widely prevalent among cats in spring and summer months. As the name suggests, the infection occurs in the upper respiratory tract, including the nose, throat, and sinus area. These infections are often contagious. A cat may catch the infection when it comes in close contact with an infected cat. It is transmitted from one to another through eye and nasal discharge, and oral secretions. It may also spread through indirect contact. This happens as a result of contact with things contaminated by an infected cat, like bedding, food bowls, cages, clothing, unwashed hands of humans, etc.
There are many different types of virus and bacteria that can cause this infection. Among them, feline calicivirus (FCV) and feline herpesvirus-1 (FHV) mostly attack cats. Besides, feline chlamydia, a bacterial infection, can be responsible for it. These organisms attack cats which have a weakened immune system. For this reason, kittens and elderly cats are at a higher risk of getting these diseases. As it is an easily transmissible disease, cats living in animal shelters, catteries, and rescue homes often suffer from respiratory infections, as these places are overcrowded with cats and may not have proper sanitation. Your pet cat, which stays indoors most of the time, may get this infection if it comes in contact with some outdoor cats. Poor nutrition and preexisting health problems often make pet cats more susceptible to this infection.
Usually, symptoms do not show up as soon as the cat is infected. It will take a couple of days, if not weeks, before the signs and symptoms are observed. A few identifiable symptoms are:
- Repeated sneezing
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Watery nasal discharge
- Breathing problem
- Lack of appetite
- Gagging and drooling
- Eye discharge accompanied by swelling around the eyes.
- Ulcers in and around the mouth.
Upper respiratory tract infections are diagnosed by studying the cat's behavior, symptoms, and its medical history. The main aim of the treatment is to provide relief from the annoying symptoms as early as possible. Nasal decongestants are widely used to provide relief from the congestion. Even though antibiotics are not effective on viruses, your vet may still prescribe them to prevent a secondary bacterial infection. Excessive discharge from the eyes can be controlled with the help of eye ointments. If the infected cat does not respond well to these treatments, and the symptoms turn severe with time, hospitalization may be required.
You can provide a lot of comfort to your sick pet with treatment at home. Keep the cat in a steamy bathroom for 15-20 minutes. This should be repeated 2-3 times a day to clear up the nasal congestion and reduce secretions. Clean up the nose and eyes as and when required. Offer some warm and aromatic foods to the cats when they refuse to eat anything. They may prefer liquid food during this time. Cats tend to get dehydrated in this condition. Give them sufficient amount of fluids to keep their body hydrated.
With proper treatment, upper respiratory tract infections usually subside within 7-10 days. However, individuals with weak immune systems may take longer to recover. Respiratory infection in kittens can be prevented with the help of vaccination. It should be administered when they are 8 -10 weeks old. After 3 - 4 weeks, a booster dose should be given. After that, yearly vaccination is a must as per the guidelines provided by the veterinarian.