Dear Dr. Schaeberle,
One of my cats has a chronic upper respiratory infection and the antibiotics do not seem to be helping. Why?
Most upper respiratory infections are caused by a herpes or calici virus. Kittens can acquire the virus from their mothers as early as one day old or can become infected from other cats (examples would be, feral cat colonies, barn cats or overpopulated rescue environments). After an acute infection which lasts about 2 to 3 weeks, most cats become carriers for life. In particular younger cats less than one year of age and older cats can have more frequent outbreaks. Because it is a virus, antibiotics work only if the cat has a secondary bacterial infection.
Feline herpes virus infection is similar to humans herpes simplex. We cannot get an infection from cats but just as in humans, cats will carry the virus for life.
Recommended treatment includes tender loving care, decreasing stress in the environment and for recurrent chronic cases, I have found success using human antiviral drugs. These drugs are now found in generic versions and for the most part are a reasonable cost.
It is important that you have all of your cats vaccinated for the virus. At Shiloh Veterinary Hospital, we recently began a 3 year cycle of vaccinations for cats. However, an article from the European Feline Association now recommends yearly vaccinations in stressed cats, cats that go outside and cats that are kenneled. On a side note, in the state of Pennsylvania Rabies vaccinations are required by law for cats too.
In York County, only 3 hospitals are certified by the American Animal Hospital Association: Shiloh Veterinary Hospital in Dover, Shiloh Veterinary Hospital East and Patton Veterinary Hospital in Red Lion. AAHA has approximately 3,000 hospitals that voluntarily participate in the evaluation program. Outside consultants from AAHA perform rigorous inspections to ensure we comply with the 900 different standards for service and facilities.
Learn more at our website, www.myshilohvet.com.
Thomas Schaeberle, V.M.D.