Feline rhinotracheitis virus

(FHV-1; feline herpesvirus type 1)

FHV - 1 causes acute respiratory illness known as rhinotracheitis (or feline herpesvirus infection). The virus affects domestic and wild cats worldwide.

Rhinotracheitis is characterized by a variety of respiratory symptoms, including sneezing, nasal discharge, rhinitis (inflammation of the nose), and conjunctivitis (inflammation of the membrane lining the eyelid). It also affects the reproductive tract and can cause complications during pregnancy.

Rhinotracheitis is part of the feline upper respiratory infection complex, a group of viral and bacterial infections (e.g., calicivirus, chlamydiosis) that cause sneezing and discharge from the eyes and nose. FHV-1 is one of the most common. Cats often have two or more of these upper respiratory infections at the same time.

Incidence FHV-1 occurs worldwide. Cats of all ages and breeds are susceptible, though it's more common among the following:

kittens, especially kittens born to infected mothers, multicat households, catteries, and pet adoption shelters, especially those with: overcrowding, physical (e.g., temperature) or psychological (e.g., introduction of a new cat) stressors, poor nutrition, poor sanitation, poor ventilation, pregnant cats that are lactating, sick cats (especially sickness associated with a weakened immune system or other respiratory infection), unvaccinated cats.

Transmission FHV-1 is shed through an infected cat's eyes, nose, and mouth. Any contact with these secretions is a potential mode of transmission.

The most common mode of transmission appears to be contact with contaminated objects that an infected cat has touched or sneezed on. These include cages, food and water bowls, litter trays, pet owner's clothing, and the pet owner's hands.

FHV-1 can be transmitted by direct contact with an infected cat's mouth, nose, or eye discharge. Several days of close contact are necessary for infection to occur.

Sneezing and coughing can spread the virus as far as 4 feet.

Many cats that are infected with FHV-1 never completely get rid of the virus. These cats are known as latent carriers. Even though they may not show symptoms, they harbor the virus in their nerve cells. Latent carriers spread the infection and are a major source of new infections.


Feline rhinotracheitis virus

Supplemental Information


The best thing to do for your FHV-infected cat is to provide supportive care.

Minimize stress. Make sure the room is warm, well ventilated, and well lighted. Some veterinarians recommend that cats are kept indoors while they’re sick.

Make sure the cat is eating and drinking enough. Offer foods that smell and taste good to them.

Keep the cat’’s eyes and nose clean and clear of discharge.

Use a humidifier or put the cat in a bathroom while the hot shower is running. This helps break up the mucus in the upper airway.

Anorexic cats Providing adequate nutrition and fluid is essential for the cat’’s health. Several different methods can be used to feed a cat that is not eating.

Some cats can be hand fed their favorite foods. Forced feeding can be stressful for the cat, and may not always provide adequate nutrition.

Cats that are stressed by force feeding or that aren’’t getting nutrition from it, can be fed through a tube (a nasoesophageal or nasogastric tube) that goes into the nasal cavity and extends into the far end of the esophagus, or all the way to the stomach.

For cats that can’’t absorb nutrients through the GI tract, or that are so debilitated that even tube feeding can’’t deliver enough nutrients, liquid nutrition can be administered intravenously.

Medication Depending on the symptoms and the occurrence of secondary infections, there are a number of medications that may be beneficial such as:

Oral antibiotics to prevent or to treat secondary bacterial infections

Decongestants (e.g., nasal drops) to decrease nasal discharge

Interferon to help control chronic infectious nasal discharge in kittens 3 to 8 weeks old

Prognosis Rhinotracheitis is a fairly mild condition, even in its most severe form, as long as the cat receives adequate fluids and nutrition. It often runs its course in 7 to 10 days without medical intervention. The infection usually lasts longer when secondary bacterial infections develop. FHV-1 rarely causes death among young kittens and practically never among older cats. Some cats may develop chronic symptoms; chronic rhinosinusitis (sneezing and nasal discharge) is one of the most common.