Feline ‘Flu’ (continued)

In last week’s column, we dealt with the situation in which feline respiratory distress comes on rapidly and with great severity (acute form). We advised that if the symptoms are pronounced, the cat would very likely die, especially if you waited too long before having professional intervention. Nevertheless, many cats survive the viral onslaught. They recover pretty much totally, but may still have the virus hidden away in their bodies (carrier state). If the cat is placed under stress (e.g. nutritional deficiency, surgery, pregnancy/lactation, other ailments, etc.), then it can again exhibit Feline Flu symptoms. However, the symptoms are then much milder.
The bigger problem, of course, is that in this condition of being a virus carrier, the cat can shed that virus and infect other cats in close proximity. This we have often seen. In fact, even as I write, many vets are being confronted with increase in cases wherein the (young) cats in the household are all showing symptoms of the Feline Viral Respiratory Disease Complex as lately as six months after the first cat in the home had exhibited signs of the ailment. That originally sick cat probably became a virus carrier and a shedder. In such situation, when a household has had a bout with Feline “Flu”, all other healthy cats in the home should be vaccinated.
This brings us to the topic of treatment and prevention.

As always, when we are dealing with a viral disease, our focus must be on supporting the animal’s immune system and reducing or eliminating both the symptoms and the virus itself.
Since dehydration usually accompanies Feline “Flu”, we must ensure that the cat gets lots of liquids – either orally or via drips.
* Because there is often soreness in the throat, which results in pain when eating, only very soft, nutritious (high protein) food should be offered. I advise clients to make tiny fish balls, and show them how to administer the food morsels. One could even use strained baby food, but that is an expensive option.
* Wipe the purulent discharge from the eyes and nostrils with any one of the many available eye lotions used by humans. Do not use any lotion /disinfectant/antiseptic containing Chloroxylenol (e.g. Dettol). These products may be effective for humans as antiseptics, but are contraindicated in cats.
* Use commercial nasal spray decongestants that are available for children. This seems to help immensely for nasal congestion association.
* Vitamin/mineral supplements and antibiotics are critical to controlling the disease. You will recall we advised that secondary bacteria would invade the cat’s weakened and vulnerable respiratory tract. Your vet would prescribe for you the antibiotics that are most efficacious in the circumstances.
We will cover the prevention aspect next week, so tune in again next week, same space, same paper, for another exciting episode in this drama of Feline “Flu”.

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