Help! What Do I Do If My Cat Has Herpes?

Here’s everything you need to know about herpes in cats 😾

cat herpes

While your cat can’t exactly tell you what’s wrong with him, there are several things you can look out for if he has cat herpes.

Officially called feline herpesvirus (FHV), or feline viral rhinotracheitis, herpes in cats causes respiratory disease and is the most common cause of inflammation of the soft tissues around the eyes, otherwise known as conjunctivitis. Highly contagious, the viral infection spreads through contact with bodily fluids of an infected cat.

We spoke with Ashley Callihan, a veterinary nurse with DodoVet, for more insight into cat herpes and how you can help ease your cat’s discomfort if he’s affected.

How do cats get herpes?

As mentioned above, feline herpesvirus spreads through contact with bodily fluids of an infected cat.

“This could be saliva, ocular discharge or nasal discharge,” Callihan told The Dodo. “Transmission can take place through something such as a healthy cat grooming an infected cat, or through fomites. Fomites are inanimate objects that have come into contact with virus particles from an infected cat (think toys, food and water bowls, grooming tools or anything else they might rub their face on).”

Cat parents know cats will rub their faces on just about anything, so this is important to be aware of.

“Unfortunately, the virus can live on these fomites as long as the secretions stay moist on the surface,” Callihan said. “You can use disinfectants to kill the fomites, luckily.”

Cat herpes symptoms

Most cats have likely been exposed to feline herpesvirus at some point in their lives. The virus can lie dormant for years, and symptoms start to show when your cat is stressed, and can remain active for 10–20 days.

There are some common symptoms associated with cat herpes, according to Callihan:

  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Ocular discharge
  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the soft tissues around the eye)
  • Congestion
  • Lethargy

Treatment for cat herpes

Luckily, there are several ways cats with FHV can be treated — eye drops or ointments to help reduce swelling and inflammation, antiviral medications, and even antibiotics to treat any secondary bacterial infections.

“There is an over-the-counter supplement, lysine, that may help reduce the severity and duration of a viral outbreak,” Callihan said. “If your cat is congested, taking them into a steamy bathroom can help to decongest their nasal passageways. If your cat has a more severe case of feline herpesvirus, your veterinarian might recommend hospitalization for a few days to give IV fluids to keep them hydrated.”

If your cat’s exhibiting signs of feline herpesvirus, the sooner you contact your vet, the sooner he’ll be back to his old self again!

Want access to a vet 24/7? With DodoVet, you can connect via video chat, phone or text with an empathetic veterinary expert who can help you be the best pet parent you can be. Say goodbye to Dr. Google and have all your pet parent questions answered anytime, anywhere. Learn more here.

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