Herpes virus infection in cats: symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention


Eye and respiratory infection very common in cats, herpes virus must be treated. Let’s take stock of the symptoms of this disease caused by the infectious agent FHV-1 or Feline herpes virus type 1 then let’s review its treatment and the means of prevention.

Herpes virus infection: symptoms

The origin of Herpes virus is FHV-1, a virus that is transmitted by direct contact from one cat to another. The contamination is also done during the post-natal period, from mother to her kittens, but never through the placenta. It is by the conjunctival, oral and nasal passages that the infectious agent enters the body of the animal. Usually, incubation lasts between 2 and 10 days.

Symptoms of the disease vary depending on the age of the cat.

The kitten less than 30 days old has a high fever, refuses to feed, is dehydrated and severely depressed. At the ocular level, there is usually a bilateral purulent conjunctivitis, and the cornea may be affected due to the superinfection. Adhesions form during the healing of conjunctivitis and they are one of the frequent sequelae of herpes virus. It should also be noted that very young kittens contaminated with FHV-1 have a heavy cough, a purulent nasal discharge. There are many cases of bronchopneumonia and the mortality rate is then very high At this age.

Respiratory symptoms are, however, milder in kittens aged 1 to 6 months and most of them recover, but almost 8 in 10 remain healthy carriers which can therefore contaminate their congeners.

Finally, at the adult cat, the symptoms of Herpes virus at the respiratory level go almost unnoticed while they are more obvious at the level ocular with red conjunctivae, ulcerations and corneal damage which turns gray on its surface because it is in this part of the eyeball that the virus multiplies.

Herpes virus infection: diagnosis and treatment

The herpes virus diagnosis is enough complex because different viruses can be associated and cause the same type of symptoms. This is the reason why the veterinarian should perform Additional tests, such as serological tests, but it is especially by PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) that it is possible to highlight the offending virus. To do this, the practitioner can for example perform a corneal biopsy, a levy of conjunctival cells or even a levy at the level of tonsils.

The Herpes virus treatment is prescribed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the severity of the symptoms and the age of the animal. It can be based on:

  • Local treatments intended to unclog the nasal cavities, to clean the eyes with eye gel or eye drops, or even tear replacements,
  • Antibiotics,
  • Antivirals,
  • Fluidizers to free the respiratory tract,
  • Inhalations,
  • Rehydration,
  • Supportive nutrition.

The disease can be cured in less than a month in an adult cat who does not present any other health problem. On the other hand, it can lead to animal death already weakened or if the Herpes virus is taken care of too late. Despite the effectiveness of treatment in adult cats, the virus frequently reactivates, causing relapses, sometimes several months after recovery.

Herpes virus infection: prevention

To protect your cat against Herpes virus disease, vaccination is absolutely essential, even if infections and re-infections are still possible. A vaccinated cat will show milder symptoms if it is contaminated. Vaccination must be systematic for a cat newly introduced into a breeding (annual vaccination), a guard cattery or other community. The animal must be systematically quarantined, and we take advantage of this period to carry out screenings and vaccinations.

In parallel, the local have to be disinfected very regularly, just like the equipment, the animal bowls, but also the clothing and footwear of the staff. Everyone in contact with cats should take care of disinfect your hands very frequently. It is also desirable that cats benefit from individual boxes.

Finally, always take the precaution ofisolate a pregnant cat at least 21 days before giving birth, and ensure that from birth the kittens cannot be in contact with other adult cats, especially if the latter are chronic carriers of the virus. And if the mother is herself carrier of the FHV-1 virus, it is essential to carry out early weaning range, namely during the 4th week of life of kittens. This is because they become extremely vulnerable from the 6th week and until the 8th because the level of antibodies they receive via breast milk declines sharply during this time.