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Pet Care - Upper Feline Respiratory Infections

Upper Feline Respiratory Infections

Upper respiratory infections (“colds”) are most common cat disease. In fact, the feline distemper vaccine protects for the most common and widely recognized forms, although there are new viruses and bacterial infections being evolved constantly. As a cat owner you should be aware of some facts about these infections.

What is an upper respiratory infection?


Commonly abbreviated to URI, upper respiratory infections are often highly contagious diseases spread by airborne viruses. The incubation period is approximately 3 to 7 days from exposure to the first obvious symptoms. Sneezing, eye discharge and nasal discharge characterize a URI. Depending on the virus causing the disease, signs may last from a few days to a couple weeks. Most viral infections causes the same feeling in cats that a cold does to humans-lethargy, lack of appetite, and occasionally a fever. Although a severe infection may develop into pneumonia, this is rarely the case-breeds with short nasal passages like Persians, seem to be the most severely affected. Also as with the common cold, an URI can affect the cat’s resistance, making him more susceptible to other secondary infections. Observe your cat closely to avoid any complications.

How is it cured?

Just as with a common cold, it must run its course. Your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics to prevent secondary infections or to fight a bacterial infection. Wiping any discharge from the nose or eyes will help keep your cat more appealing.

Does URI’s occur only in a boarding situation?


No. Since these viruses can be present anywhere, and can travel for distances through the air, they can affect cat… even one at home on the windowsill. Any cold is more likely to occur when the concentration of cats is greater-such at cat shows, animal shelters, shelters, veterinary offices, and pet shops, as well as in a boarding situation.


Yes, but isn’t my cat more than likely to catch a cold when being boarded? Yes… because in a kennel or cattery the cat encounters two conditions, which do not occur at home: proximity to a number of potentially contagious cats, and the stress and excitement of a less familiar environment, which can lower resistance to disease. (These are the same factors that explain why children are more likely to catch a cold at school than at home.) However, the more often a cat is boarded, the greater the chances of acquiring immunity to disease. Exposure to a virus that cause a minor infection may leave the cat protected for life against that strain of URI.


Are these viruses a constant problem?


No. URL. Like the flu, are seasonal. It also tends to be epidemic. When veterinarians begin seeing cases, they normally come from any kennel or cattery in town, as well as from the pet store’s, shelters and individual owners. Once an outbreak has run its course, another case might not be seen for months.


Why doesn’t the vaccine protect him?


The feline distemper vaccine protects against the most common forms of upper respiratory infections (also called herpes viruses). As with the common cold, there are hundreds of  viruses constantly occur as they themselves adapt to their environment. Vaccinating against every form would be impossible. Your veterinarian can recommend a vaccine program appropriate for your cat.

Can the kennel prevent my cat from being exposed to a URI?


Unfortunately no. No amount of supervision, sanitation, or personalized care can prevent a cat from “catching” an airborne virus. All that a good boarding kennel can do is require immunization records, refuse to board an obviously sick cat, and watch for signs of any illness, the most obvious being sneezing or sniffles. Your kennel will quickly segregate any infected pets, and seek medical attention to help prevent further spread of disease. You have a right for your kennel or cattery to provide the best possible care, just as the kennel has a right to expect you to accept financial responsibility for such care. Your American Boarding Kennel Association member is devoted to your pet’s well being. Look for his membership certificate proudly displayed.

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